Sensory and Exploration Fun: Water Beads!

So … in the blogging world of preschool, home school, and public school there are these marvelous little things called “water beads.”  They are non toxic and meant to be used in flower arrangements.  But, lo and behold, they make fabulous fun for children.  (and mamas… and probably daddies and grandparents too.)  You can get them relatively cheap, these are like the ones we use:

I wasn’t sure what or how to do them… So I sorta winged it.  The water beads start out like this:

Ours came in a plastic bag.  That little bag, which you can only partially see, can take an entire gallon of water!  I used maybe a fourth a gallon of water on ours, and you will see how big they became…
I started out by letting her touch the hard plastic beads.  We talked about what they felt like, and compared them to other things in the kitchen.

Then we added water!  I asked her what she thought would happen if we added water.  She said “oh, I don’t know?”  So, of course, we added water to see what would happen!

After we added the water, we let them sit a while.  The above picture was probably after a few hours…

At this point I let her touch them and see if they seemed different.  Of course they were, they were no longer tiny and hard, they were bigger and squishier!

Not so sure…

“OK, I’m getting the hang of it, these aren’t so bad!”

At this stage, the beads were not yet expanded all the way, so they felt like they had little edges all over them, like a squishy golf ball.

Later that afternoon:

Here’s where the real fun begins!  This is after 4-5 hours.  The beads have absorbed most of the water, but are still slippery to the touch.  When I asked if we should check on our beads, she said “oh yes!”  First, I asked what they felt like now, were they bigger or smaller than before, etc.  Then I asked her where all the water went … she replied “Oh!  It’s in the beads!!!  The water is in the beads!”  She was SO excited.

I gave her some measuring/prep bowls, a strainer and let her go to town.

She seriously had so much fun!  Here she was lining them up.

oooh- big mess!

She decided she needed to put her feet in, “Can I put my feet in?  Oooh, what does it feel like?”  —yes>

Later that afternoon, Piglet needed to take a dive in the water beads.

Then, by her suggestion, we needed to add water!

Have to try a piece of ice


oooh, let’s put our feet in the water beads with the ice!

Scooping, pouring, do it again!

I’m not kidding when I say she did this for hours. These are a great learning tool, and of course it’s just fun for kids.

Just FYI: these cannot go down the drain or in the washing machine!  They can hold SO much water and will clog your drains.**
To dry them out, spread them out on a cookie sheet (or something similar) where they have plenty of room for the moisture to evaporate.  Then put them in a bag to reuse them!  The instructions that came with ours say they can be reused for up to two years.

JTom is building Lexie a light table soon (hopefully by Easter)- Woo hoo!  And these are going to be SO much fun on it!


  1. Meghan says:

    Angela, thank you for visiting! I hope to do more creative activities with the water beads.

    Jennifer- thanks for the invite! I joined your party. =)

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