Let’s try to make snow

Science with a twist

Make “snowflakes” with paper or marshmallows, then try to make real snow from ice.

Discussion point: Remembering how powerful and amazing God is helps keep us humble.

In this activity, you’ll give your children a chance to try to make snow, in order to help them understand human inadequacy when compared with God’s sovereignty. You will need these supplies:

ice cubes
zipper lock bags
small plastic bowls
plastic plates or cutting boards
large and small towels or cloths
a rolling pin or crushing tool
plastic rules or similar “scrapers”
a close-up image of a snowflake
a few large marshmallows

  • Start by covering your kitchen table with absorbent towels. Initially, give each of your children a small bowl of water and ask them if they can make snow. They may tell you they could if the water was frozen. In this case, provide ice cubes for them to work with as well. Invite them to crush or shave the ice to make snow using the cutting board, rolling pin and scraping tool.
  • No matter what they try to do with their water or ice, there is no way your children will be able to make true snowflakes. You may need to explain that although finely crushed ice has many snow-like qualities, it is not real snow. The ice crystals in crushed ice are not uniformly formed like snow crystals are.
  • Now show your children a close-up photograph of a snowflake. Have your children help you build a model of a similar snowflake using the marshmallows and the toothpicks. Make your snowflake by using a large marshmallow as the centre and poking six toothpicks into it, evenly spaced. Then put a mini-marshmallow on the end of each toothpick (like a six-pointed star). Now make a crushed ice crystal by randomly sticking toothpicks and marshmallows together (in an non-uniform design).

Option 1: If it is wintertime and you have access to snow falling outdoors, continue this activity by catching some snowflakes on your mittens or on black paper so you can observe the uniformity of their shapes and compare them to crushed ice.

Option 2: Visit science websites or seek out DVDs on the science of snow formation. Alternatively, simply view close-up photographs of snowflakes. An excellent children’s book on this topic is The Story of Snow: The Science of Winter’s Wonder by Mark Cassino and Jon Nelson. Chronicle Books, 2009.

Option 3: Cut your own paper snowflakes. Search online for simple instructions.

  • After your interactive snowflake activities, stimulate discussion by asking the following questions:
Questions for discussion
  • Were you able to make snow?
  • Why not?
  • How are ice chunks different from snowflakes?
  • Who is the only one who can make real snowflakes?
  • Have you ever heard of a snow-making machine or skied on man-made snow?
  • Do you think skiers prefer man-made or God-made snow?
Key concepts

Only God can make snow and the original design for the snowflake is His! Crushed or shaved ice may look and feel like snow, but it does not feel like real snow does. You cannot make a snowball out of crushed ice. It will make an ice ball, but not a true snowball because the ice doesn’t have the same air spaces between the crystals that snow has. Another great example of this are the snow-making machines on ski hills. Any skier will tell you that man-made snow just isn’t the same as the snow God makes!

As people, we tend to become proud of our accomplishments and abilities. In Jeremiah, wisdom, strength and wealth are listed as things we should not boast about. 1 Corinthians 1:25 says, “For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.” One of the best ways to stay humble is to remain focused on God’s greatness. He is so much wiser than us and so much stronger, and everything in the whole wide world is His! God is pleased when we fear (or respect) Him greatly (Psalm 147:10-11). When we recognize the magnitude of God’s holiness, power and love, and realize how imperfect, weak and unloving we are in comparison, it helps us to stay humble.

Relevant Scripture

Psalm 147:1, 4-6, 16-18 “Praise the Lord. How good it is to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting to praise Him! …He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name. Great is our Lord and mighty in power; His understanding has no limit. The Lord sustains the humble but casts the wicked to the ground. …He spreads the snow like wool and scatters the frost like ashes. He hurls down His hail like pebbles. Who can withstand His icy blast? He sends His word and melts them; He stirs up His breezes, and the waters flow.”

Psalm 148:4-13 “Praise Him, you highest heavens and you waters above the skies. Let them praise the name of the Lord, for He commanded and they were created. He set them in place for ever and ever. He gave a decree that will never pass away. Praise the Lord from the earth, you great sea creatures and all ocean depths, lightning and hail, snow and clouds, stormy winds that do His bidding, you mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars, wild animals and all cattle, small creatures and flying birds, kings of the earth and all nations, you princes and all rulers on earth, young men and maidens, old men and children. Let them praise the name of the Lord, for His name alone is exalted; His splendor is above the earth and the heavens.”

Jeremiah 9:23-24 “This is what the Lord says: ‘Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,’ declares the Lord.”