How to Create Arctic Adventure Tubs With Your Kids

Do your kids like playing in the winter snow and ice?

Do they like polar bears and other cold-weather critters?

Ever wonder what it’s like way up north in the Arctic?

Take them on an arctic adventure that’s as close as your own kitchen!

In this article I’ll show you how to make your own simulated arctic environment from stuff you already have at home.

Discover how to make your own simulated arctic adventure tub from stuff you already have at home.

Why an Arctic Landscape?

If you’re looking for an activity that costs nothing, requires less than five minutes of hands-on prep time and makes use of all reusable materials, then you’ll love to make an arctic landscape with your kids.

It’s easy to create an open-ended scene that inspires creative sensory play. In the spirit of the cardboard box, this activity is super-simple and guaranteed to be a hit.

The Arctic is cool—downright cold, actually! It’s the great unknown, a mysterious faraway place. It’s a vast expanse of wind-swept ice and frigid water, just waiting for adventure. It’s a blank slate demanding your child delve deep into his or her imagination.

Most toys today are single-purpose. They’re designed for one kind of play, one story line that is already dictated to your child before you get it out of the box. This simple, homemade toy won’t impose those kinds of limits on your child.

Simply prepare the arctic landscape, give your kids a few figurines of animals or people and let their imaginations run wild as you listen to their excited chatter!

homemade arctic landscape

A homemade arctic landscape provides hours of fun.

Most importantly, your child will be actively involved in all steps of creating the arctic landscape. The easy-to-follow steps encourage autonomy in even the youngest child. The child can gather the materials, plan the setup and work on his or her gross motor skills while pouring water.

Kids can decide which elements (animals, rocks, colors) they want to include and change them up to start the play all over again. The creative process starts with making the arctic landscape and continues throughout your and your child’s play.

When your kids return from their escape to a winter wonderland, you can learn more about the Great White North together. Check out the resource list below.

You Will Need

  • A large plastic container
  • A small plastic container
  • Something heavy to weigh down the smaller container (rocks, marbles, etc.)
  • Dishtowel
  • Plastic figurines of arctic animals and people
  • Anything else that sparks your child’s imagination: pebbles, food dye, etc.
  • Freezer with space enough to fit the large container

Preparation Time

5 minutes + ~4 hours (for the water to freeze)

Activity Time

30 minutes to an hour


At home

Let’s get started on your arctic adventure:

#1: Create Your Landscape

Yep, I’m confident that the entire creation of your arctic landscape can be explained under one heading.

First, gather your materials. Make sure your larger container will fit in the freezer.


Simple, reusable materials you can easily find at home.

Put the smaller container inside the larger one. You can place it on the side or in the middle, depending on where you want your “water hole” to be.

easy to follow steps

Kids love the easy-to-follow steps that make this project their own.

Fill the small container with rocks or something heavy to weigh it down and keep it in place.

use heavy container

Use anything heavy to keep your smaller container in place.

Fill the larger container with water to about ½ inch (1 cm) from the lip of the smaller container. You don’t want water to go inside the smaller container. At this point, your child can add food coloring to your water for a creative twist.

pouring water

Kids love to pour water and asking them to fill to a certain line is a great test of their motor skills!

Last step: Place it in the freezer. Now you have to wait (about 3-4 hours, depending on the size of your container) for the water to freeze.

The great thing is, once you’ve taken the time to freeze your arctic landscape, you can put it back in the freezer after play and pull it out anytime to use again and again.

#2: Put on the Finishing Touches

Once the water has completely frozen, pull your container out of the freezer and set it on a table with a dishtowel underneath.

pull small container out

Pull the smaller container out and there’s your water hole!

Carefully pull the smaller container out of the ice.

fill water hole

Simply fill the water hole with cold water.

This will leave a hole that you can fill with cold water.

#3: Play

Have your child gather some of his or her favorite plastic animals and people.

arctic play

It’s amazing some of the things my kids have come up with.

Typical arctic animals (polar bear, penguin, seal) come to mind, but there’s no reason to stop there.

#4: Read More About the Arctic

When your play is winding down—or, as is often the case with my own kids, the landscape becomes a swimming pool—help him or her to dry the plastic animals and, if you have the room, put the arctic landscape back into the freezer for another day. (Be sure to put the weighted bowl back in).

This is a great time to bring out a book or check out a website that will get your child thinking even more about winter, snow and ice. Here are some reading suggestions:

All of these are great conversation starters!

Talk about aquatic life versus land animals in the arctic, or how animals closer to your home survive the winter.

Talk about how people who live in far northern regions live, work and play in their unique environment.

Watch the aurora borealis or Northern Lights.

The Northern Lights (aurora borealis) occur near the north and south poles.

Enjoy your virtual visit to the Arctic. I’m sure your kids will want to play there again soon!

Some Final Thoughts

We love to make up stories, and setting the scene for our characters fuels our imagination. Little plastic animals and figurines are great for that, because they can switch roles at every playtime. When it comes to letting our kids explore their own creativity, the simpler, the better.

It’s hard for us to imagine life in the Arctic. But this simple activity will get you and your kids thinking and talking about life up north.

What do you think? I’ve shared a couple of my kids’ clever ideas, but there are so many ways to use the arctic landscape! Share what you’ve come up with below! Please leave a comment or picture of your family’s arctic adventure.

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About the Author, Amanda Shaw

Amanda Shaw is mom to three spirited children and doubles as director of content marketing at WebrunnerMG. On any given day, she dons a tutu or a hard hat. Other posts by »


  1. Leigh says:

    What a great idea! I can’t wait to try this with my own kids and with my preschool class. I love how simple the activity is; but also love all the enrichment ideas that follow- I think it will allow my kids from the youngest (almost 2) to the oldest (7) to all enjoy it. This is the best type of activity.

  2. Amanda Shaw says:

    Thanks, Leigh! The Polar Vortex really makes this activity even more relevant, doesn’t it? :)

  3. Stacey says:

    A little too cold here in Canada to want to play in ice this week but I think this would be a GREAT summer activity! Very imaginative idea and lots of fun!

  4. Andrea says:

    Fantastic idea, and I have everything to pull it off!!! I will definitely try this with my own kids:)

  5. Janice says:

    Stacey – I love the idea of doing this in the summer! It would definitely get conversations going when it’s 95+ here in STL.

  6. I love this idea! For step #1 we don’t even have to put the container with the water in the freezer. We have freezing temperatures for free in our backyard in Maine!!

  7. Amanda Shaw says:

    Absolutely—although it melts a little faster in the summer! On the kitchen table, you’re good. And you can always warm those little hands afterwards with a hot chocolate. :)

  8. Amanda Shaw says:

    Thanks, Andrea! Let me know how it goes.

  9. Amanda Shaw says:

    We’ll need ocean adventure tubs in the summer!

  10. Amanda Shaw says:

    Haha! Very resourceful of you, Linda. :)

  11. Thanks, Amanda! So simple, yet so fun! I like the reading list you included as a way to extend the activity and learning.

  12. Amanda Shaw says:

    Thanks, Jennifer! Those are great books. I hope readers check them out!

  13. Mayali says:

    A simple way to make my kids think I’m Super FunMom! I’m looking forward to trying this out and seeing what kind of adventure they embark on… :)

  14. Melissa says:

    Great idea Amanda! Olivia and I will have to try this. I will pass this on to friends:)

  15. Amanda Shaw says:

    It really is all about the simple—that’s my mantra. Enjoy!

  16. Amanda Shaw says:

    Thanks, Melissa!

  17. Gregory Grigoriou says:

    This is great. Barbie makes a waterpark themed set that goes great with this. My daughter adds soap and gives all the animals a bath.

  18. Amanda Shaw says:

    Adding soap is a great idea!

  19. Crystal Foth says:

    Such a cute idea!! Especially for little ones.

  20. I did it a bit different. Weighed down a bowl with marbles that floated in the water. Added blue juice, threw the thing in the freezer and the kids loved it. Thanks for the inspiration!

  21. Greg – my kids asked if Barbie could go in this, I told them this is more for animals

  22. Amanda Shaw says:

    Thanks, Crystal—you’re right, which makes it a great activity to do together for families with kids in a few different age groups.

  23. Amanda Shaw says:

    Love it! Thanks for posting a picture. Your daughter is adorable!

  24. Gregory Grigoriou says:

    This is the barbie set i was talkin about! its a pretty cute fit for this.$_57.JPG

  25. Thanks, there are actually 4 pics

  26. Amanda Shaw says:

    Got it! Just saw how to click through.

  27. […] better than it would solely adults. It evolved into a parenting book with open-ended, hands-on sensory activities for children, called I Love Dirt: 52 Activities to Connect You and Your Kids to the Wonders of […]

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