Last week we discovered water beads for sensory play with the kids, when we needed a little end of school holidays activity treat, and what a revelation!
I first saw them on a wonderful instagram feed called Where Learning Meets Play, a teacher and mum of 6 in Australia who have quickly become one of my favourite ever insta-inspirations 💛
Water beads are amazing, squishy little bouncy marble type things that expand in water. They are designed for floristry arrangements as they are great at regulating water, but they're also super fun for kids.
So after a little research I bought a tub of rainbow coloured water beads for our three kids to have a go with. They were super cheap - about £6 for a tub full of about 40,000 tiny seed like pellets. Not knowing quite what to expect when they arrived, we were fascinated!
To expand the water beads all you need to do is soak them in water.
We used a big stack-a-tub and filled it half way with water. Then dropped probably around a couple of thousand of the seeds in. Water beads take about 6-24 hours to soak in the water and fully expand.
After maybe 2 hours they looked like this...
And after 24 hours they looked a lot more like this...
When fully expanded the water beads felt lovely. Squishy, slippery, and really calming to run your fingers through - we were all quite taken with that feeling. They aren't at all sticky, which I didn't expect - but watch out they do bounce - and they bounce far!
From the moment we put the seeds into the water the kids were in love! They wanted to watch them grow, to touch them, and to play with them. Such a great activity for all three - a 9 year old, 7 year old, and 2 year old 💛
Martha (age 2) in particular loved them.
She played a few different games with them including...
- Hide the toys.
This was super cute! She threw a few water safe toys into the tub and then tried to find them. The toys sank quickly and weren't as easy to find as you'd think! But she played this over and over again. A definite hit! At one point we definitely lost a tiny badger toy in there for about 2 hours!
- Scooping the beads.
She spent ages shopping the beads, with a little metal spoon from our play kitchen, into a plastic cup. Then tipping them out and starting all over again. Perfect for her motor skills :)
- Bounce the beads.
Remember how I said they were super bouncy? They went EVERYWHERE!
Once the beads are expanded you can get several days play out of them. If you leave them out to dry they will dehydrate and shrink back down to seed size.
We haven't tried this yet as we're still having too much fun!
And the best bit - because we were a little concerned too - they're absolutely fine for the environment. The polymer that water beads are made of is the same as the tiny pellets in potting soil to help regulate water uptake for plants. So when you're completely finished playing you can crush up the beads and add them to the soil in your garden. A massive win!
Don't put them down the drain though as they might block the pipes.
I highly, highly recommend giving water beads a go with your kids. Or just for you - they're totally therapeutic :)
Have fun 💛
Feel free to ask any questions if you have any 💛
P.S. It's worth bearing in mind that although water beads are non-toxic and perfectly safe for children to play with, they can be a choking hazard for little ones who might be tempted to pop a few in their mouth - so please do be careful.
✂️ For more brilliant craft ideas for toddlers and children head to our Reuse & Recycle page.
✂️ Or have a browse of our Pinterest boards for even more craft and play ideas.