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Ice Cube Hockey on Steamy Summer Days

By Marie Faust Evitt

On a warm summer day, it’s fun to imagine you are skating down a hockey rink. It’s easy to do this at school or at home, playing a noncompetitive game my colleague Tim Dobbins invented--ice cube hockey!

The day before you want to play, invite children to make ice pucks and ice cubes. For pucks, pour 1” or 2” of water in snack-size recycled applesauce containers or small yogurt containers. Then invite children to fill ice cube trays. Talk about what they think will happen to the water when they put it in the freezer.

To make a two-lane hockey rink, spread out a large tarp, dividing the tarp in half with a long strip of masking tape. Mark the center line across each half with masking tape and tape large plastic tubs or cardboard box goals on each half of the tarp. Tape down the edges of the tarp. If you don’t have a tarp, you can draw the rink with chalk. Just be aware that ice melts fast on hot cement or asphalt. Make a “Zamboni" machine by wrapping a towel around the brush of a push broom and securing it with rubber bands.

Gather small hockey sticks, plastic golf clubs or child-size brooms, and after your ice is frozen, you are ready to play.

  • Two children play at one time.
  • A child or adult drops an ice puck in front of each child at the end of the tarp opposite one of the goals. The people dropping the pucks move out of the way and the other two children “skate” and move their puck up to the center line. Then they try to make a goal. If they miss, they keep skating and shooting until they make a goal.
  • In this adaptation of ice hockey, children focus on their own shooting, without someone trying to block them.
  • Invite children to observe which pucks are easier to shoot—the bigger pucks they made in applesauce or yogurt containers or the smaller ice cubes. Is it easier to shoot when the pucks and cubes are fresh from the freezer or after they have started melting during play?
  • Children take turns using the “Zamboni" to clear the water on the tarp.

Several variations of ice cube hockey are possible.

  • Add elements of an obstacle course with orange cones or cardboard boxes to skate around.
  • Set a timer for taking turns. Older children may enjoy counting goals. How many goals can a child make in two minutes?
  • Try shooting from different places on the tarp. Can a child make a goal from the starting line?

Math naturally becomes part of the game when we measure the tarp to figure out where the center lines should be, set the timer to take turns playing, count goals or time how long it takes for the pucks to melt. I connect literacy by reading books about ice skating such as Pearl’s New Skates by Holly Keller and Polar Skater by Sally Grindley. And I read nonfiction books such as Water as a Solid by Helen Frost. We play ice cube hockey year round in my California preschool. In winter, we imagine that we’re outdoors in freezing temperatures. In summer, we have the fun of seeing the puck melt as we play. These ideas come from my book, Thinking BIG, Learning BIG: Connecting Science, Math, Literacy and Language in Early Childhood.

Have fun skating through summer!

This post was contributed by Marie Faust Evitt. Marie is the head teacher of a preschool class for four- and five-year-olds. Prior to teaching, Marie was an award-winning newspaper reporter and freelance journalist for more than 20 years. Her articles and essays on education, parenting, and child psychology have been published in Newsweek, Parents, Child, Parenting, Scholastic’s Parent & Child, Scholastic.com, and Family Fun. She posts about her classroom activities at www.thinkingBIGlearningBIG.com and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/thinkingBIGlearningBIG. She lives in Mountain View, California.

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