Solar Week: Colors and Heat

Family Sock Ice Melting

Did you know Sir Isaac Newton and Benjamin Franklin found links between color and heat?  There are many scientific ways you could experiment with colors and the sun’s heat (listed below)…and you can hold a Family Sock Ice Melting Competition in your own backyard.  In the heat of the day, challenge your kids (and husband) to grab two different socks from their neatly organized dressers that they believe will win a heat competition.  You’ve probably learned that black absorbs heat, so be sure to have a black sock in the mix.  We enjoyed watching our kids root for their own socks.  *Note: this was designed as a game and does not account for many different factors…you may or may not get similar results, but it’s a great way to bring the family together for some fun in the sun!

Solar Week Button

Objective: Learn how the sun’s heat affects ice covered in different colors of fabric.


  • a bowl filled with ice cubes of the same shape and size
  • many different colored socks

Competition/Game: From the bowl of ice, work with your kids to fill each sock with the same amount of ice cubes.  We filled each sock with 5 ice cubes.

Filling Ice

Lay the socks out in the sun so that the ice cubes are laying flat against the sock and ground (not stacked inside the sock).  Ask your kids which socks they think will have melted first.  Generally, your kids will choose their own socks.  Have the kids gently feel each sock at 5 minute intervals and ask them what the notice.  They may notice water coming from the sock or even mention smaller ice cubes.

15 min    Losers

At little before 15 minutes my girls discovered the ice had melted in the black, grey, and red socks.  The white “Daddy” socks were the last to have ice cubes melt inside.  We put the socks in order from lightest to darkest afterward and they could see that the darker socks had the ice melt faster than the lighter (white/pink-toned) socks.

Why This Works: Heat from the sun is absorbed by darker colors.  Lighter colors reflect the sun’s light/heat.

Interested in streamlining the experiment?  By using tights to hold the ice, you can speed up this experiment.  Our experiment at the peak of the day lasted approximately 7 minutes and we found that the lighter colored (pink and purple) tights held the ice cubes longer, while the darker tights (red, black, and blue) melted the ice sooner.

Round 3  Losers 2

Expand It: Following are a few other experiments you can try to measure the affect of the sun’s heat on different colors.

  • The Here Comes the Sun experiment from the Utah Education Network uses thermometers placed in pockets of different colored construction paper to measure heat absorption.
  • The Surface Color Experiment from NASA involves painting different colors on coffee cans and discovering how the colors collect/reflect heat.
  • Science Kids uses drinking glasses and colored paper to learn about heat absorption.
  • How Do Colors Absorb Heat Differently is an experiment from  The experiment involves using glass jars covered with construction paper.

Have you tried a solar heat and color experiment with your kids?  Feel free to post it below!  Tomorrow we’ll be experimenting with the movement of the sun (or Earth!) and making a sun lock.  Stay tuned!

Linking to Science Sunday.

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10 thoughts on “Solar Week: Colors and Heat

  1. Love this! What a great resource for teachers and parents. Thanks for posting. So glad I found you through SITS.

    Rina @

  2. Great job Andrea. What a great idea! Socks and ice…genius! (I also appreciate your “note” in italics, that mentioned the many other factors that may influence the results. With older kids they may even lead the discussion that way, and come up with the extraneous variables!) I’m loving your solar lessons! :)

  3. Beautifully organized sock drawer…. Ha ha ha ha ha, right………. I’m lucky if my socks are matched.
    Great experiment, thanks for linking them to Science Sunday!

  4. Pingback: No Doubt Learning – Solar Week! | No Doubt Learning

  5. I LOVE these ideas!!! I’ve made it my goal this summer to spend at least 30 minutes outside WITH my kids this summer and I’ve been looking for ways to utilize our intense summer heat. I’m totally going to this out!

  6. We did this experiment yesterday in 100+ temps. I didn’t worry too much about extraneous variables (I should have) because the white baby sock made the biggest/fastest puddle, not my black sock. But this is what investigation is all about, right? Fun stuff. Thanks for sharing the idea, now if could just find the matching sock the the experimental ones…..

  7. I know, when I began thinking about all the variables, I decided it would be a family game instead of a “scientific” experiment:
    - Ground temperature

    - How long the kids hold the ice before placing in the sock

    - How long the ice has been out of the freezer (length of time in bowl vs. sock)

    - Size of ice

    - Position of ice in the sock

    - Material the socks were made of
    …and more!
    Glad you had fun!

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