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Cool down with ice play on a hot day

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Let's face it, summer is here. Yesterday Portland had a heat wave with record temperatures in the high 90's, and preschool teachers were scrambling to come up with things to do to beat the heat.

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At A Sunny Place Learning Center, paying attention to future weather is part of our routine. It helps plan accordingly for activities and field trips so everyone has an enjoyable time. On the morning Andy Carson of Fox12 said we were going to hit 97, I jumped into action.

First, I found every plastic container with a lid that I could and filled them 3/4 of the way full of water. Then the fun began. I dug through all of my supplies for things to put in the water and freeze. I added glitter, beads, confetti, light brights, small toys, and even water beads that I'd been growing for the past two days, so they were nice and huge.

Every container was a little bit different, and they weren't all the same size. This time, I didn't just freeze the water beads alone, which is fun, but I added them to tubs of water so they would be completely encased and excavatable.

Into the freezer they went without a word to any of my preschoolers about what they were for.

Yesterday after breakfast, I sneaked the frozen containers outside and placed them all about the lawn up-side-down so they would release the ice by the time my assistant could get their shoes on. It was already starting to get hot when we went out, and I just sat back and watched all those little imaginations go wild.

First they just explored each one. Then they began to see who could hold a piece of ice the longest. Next, they slid them across the grass to see how far they would slide. A few of the ice blocks went down the actual slide. After that, they started building with them. Soon, the ice was melted enough for them to start excavating what was inside of the cubes. By the time we were ready to come in for lunch, the ice blocks even became ice pancakes being cooked up in the playhouse kitchen. Some of the round ones became steering wheels. As they melted, holes began to form in them and more exploration took place. Needless to say, not one of them complained about the heat.

You don't have to go out and buy a fancy water table or slip and slide to beat the heat. In a play-based preschool program, those activities are too adult-led and forced. All you need is water, a freezer, and stuff to freeze into it. They'll do the rest.

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