What Freezes?

Children will experiment with freezing different liquids.


Lesson Objective

Children will perform an experiment with different liquids to determine what freezes.


What You'll Need

  • Proximity to a freezer or outside if temperatures are expected to fall below 32° F
  • Ice cube trays or muffin pans – 1 per small group
  • Pitchers or small measuring cups for pouring – 1 per small group
  • Variety of liquids to test such as water, juice, milk, oil, soap, gel, salt water, vinegar, syrup, or any other liquids the children would like to test – enough to fill one ice cube/muffin cup for each group
  • Chart paper
  • Marker

What To Do

Note: Have the children work in small groups. This activity will require two days, freezing the liquids overnight to observe the next day.

  1. Display the different liquids and ask the children to describe them (see Guiding Student Inquiry).
  2. Tell the children they will be performing an experiment to see if any of these liquids will freeze.
  3. Assist the children with pouring each liquid into one of the cups in their ice cube trays.
  4. Have the children predict which liquids may freeze and ones that might not; record on the chart.
  5. Find a spot in the freezer or outside where the liquids will not be disturbed and leave them overnight.
  6. The next day, distribute the ice cube trays.
  7. Have the children look at their liquids and identify the ones that froze solid, those that partially froze, and those that remained liquids (see Guiding Student Inquiry).
  8. Compare the results to the children’s predictions.
  9. Discuss the differences in the liquids that froze, partially froze, and remained liquids; what is the same about these liquids (see Did You Know?).

Guiding Student Inquiry

  • Describe the similarities and differences of the liquids.
  • Predict which liquids will freeze and why.
  • Explain what happened to the different liquids.
  • Explain why you think some liquids did not freeze.
  • Explain why you think some liquids only partially froze.

Explore, Extend & Integrate

  • Ask the children where they think they could place the trays where the frozen items would melt quickly.
  • Make frozen juice pops by pouring juice of your choice into ice cube trays. Cover with plastic wrap and push popsicle sticks through to make them stand upright. Freeze and enjoy!

Check for Children’s Understanding

  • Could children describe the similarities and differences in the liquids?
  • Could children explain what happened to the different liquids?
  • Could children explain why they think some liquids did not freeze or only partially froze?


Did You Know?

In many areas the winter temperatures are so cold that many liquids freeze. Lakes, ponds, and puddles freeze, but the ocean does not freeze. The reason for this is that ocean water contains quite a bit of salt. Salt water freezes at a much lower temperature than plain water. The ocean can freeze, but usually only in very cold places near land, such as close to the North and South Poles.

Things can be done to liquids to change them, but not all liquids will respond the same way. Freezing liquids is one way to change them from a liquid to a solid. When liquids begin to freeze, a tiny ice crystal forms first. This ice crystal then grows as other particles in the liquid attach themselves to the ice crystal. Different liquids freeze at different temperatures. Water will freeze faster than liquids with salt or sugar in them. Some liquids freeze faster than others because of viscosity, or thickness of the liquid. Viscosity is the resistance of a liquid to flow. For instance, a cup of honey will take longer to pour than a cup of water because the honey has higher viscosity. Thicker liquids will freeze more slowly and some will not freeze at all.

Vocabulary: Child-Friendly Definitions

  • freeze – to make into ice or become solid from cold temperatures.
  • prediction – saying that something might happen or is expected to happen.
  • liquid – a type of matter that can flow and is neither a solid nor a gas. Water is the most common kind of liquid on Earth.
  • solid – having a firm shape or form that can be measured.
  • partially – not completely; only part of the way complete.
  • viscosity – the quality of a fluid to resist flowing.

Lesson Tips

  • Use a variety of liquids for this experiment. To demonstrate liquids that do not freeze easily, add some rubbing alcohol to the liquid (1 tablespoon per cup). The liquid will not freeze into a solid; instead, it will be a rather slushy consistency.
  • Be certain to caution the children not to taste the liquids or the solids.


  • What is a Liquid? (First Step Nonfiction, States of Matter) by Jennifer Boothroyd
  • Solids, Liquids, and Gases (Rookie Read-About Science) by Ginger Garrett
  • Are You Ready for Winter? (Lightning Bolt Books) by Sheila Anderson
  • Winter’s Tale by Robert Sabuda

Home School Resources

Home educators: use these printable lesson PDFs to teach this lesson to your home schoolers. They're available in English and Spanish.

Home/School Connections

Las Conexiones a la Casa

While we believe that the books and resources recommended may be of value to you, keep in mind that these are suggestions only and you must do your own due diligence to determine whether the materials are appropriate and suitable for your use. PNC has no sponsorship or endorsement agreement with the authors or publishers of the materials listed.

Content Provided By

Common Core State Standards Initiative – These lessons are aligned with the Common Core State Standards ("CCSS"). The CCSS provide a consistent, clear understanding of the concepts and skills children are expected to learn and guide teachers to provide their students with opportunities to gain these important skills and foundational knowledge [1]. Visit the CCSS