Friday, October 7, 2011

Creepy Crawly Water Beads

Water beads (aqua beads) have become quite the sensory rage in the preschool world.  I first came across them last month when I Can Teach My Child posted a Monster Sensory Tub on one of the It's Playtime posts.  Then The Chocolate Muffin Tree has some Water Bead Fun!!!  with some bugs and other creatures.  Water beads looked like some much fun that I had to check them out for myself.  Lucky for me the dollar store carried them so I bought two containers of them the other day.  Since they were clear, I added some purple food coloring to the container, shook it a bit, and let it sit overnight.  My son's anticipation was growing as he watched them sit on the counter until I was ready to set them out.  I dumped them into a large, plastic bowl and added some spiders, snakes and lizards, as well as some containers for "measuring" and left them on the table for him to enjoy.

Michael explored the texture of the beads first, touching and squishing them.  
Michael compared the beads to boba, which is a form of tapioca used in Asian milk tea and other drinks (one of his favorite things to eat/drink).  We then had the discussion that these are NOT edible!  Since he couldn't eat them, he began feeding the beads to the snakes and spiders.  
Michael loves to pretend cook, so I always provide containers with sensory play.  Pouring back and forth into different sized containers is a great pre-math (volume) activity.

For a child that really enjoys sensory play, I highly recommend water beads!  My son played with them for over an hour!  They are squishy, slimy, wet and have many applications.  Michael has already mentioned he's like to toss them into the bath...we may just give that a try.

What you should know:
  • If you color them, they will stain the hands slightly.  It all washed clean in the bath.  
  • Be prepared for them to land on the floor.  They slip right out of little hands.  
  • Pick them up off the floor right away because if stepped on, they squish into the carpet.  
  • They can be squished by little hands and make a mess.  This is an opportunity to talk to your child about how broken things have to go into the trash and if all the balls are broken there won't be any more for play.  Of course, braking some is part of exploring, which normally I don't mind, but all the squished beads were ending up on the floor, which created a bigger mess, so I had to put a stop to the squishing.    
  • The container says if they dry out, simply spray with water, so they should last a while.  
  • My dogs wanted to eat them.  If you have dogs, I'd stick them outside or away from this activity.  
Additional water bead sensory ideas:
  • Blue beads with sea creatures for an underwater theme
  • Black or purple beads with some plastic eyes or wiggle eyes for Halloween
  • Clear beads and Arctic animals for a winter theme
Have you tried water beads?  Share your link in the comment section!  


  1. Awesome! Aren't they just Great? THanks for sharing my post!!!

  2. We just explored some this week, too! My kids spent hours exploring them...When I asked my son his favorite part of the day, he said,"um...sharing eyeballs with my friends."

  3. Have you seen the glow in the dark water beads over at Play At Home Mom?

  4. Thanks for the tip about colouring them. I didn't know that you could do that. We've played with them too and my twin boys (3.y.o.) love using the beads as a battlefield for their action figures. Glow in the dark water beads would be GREAT! Where can I get some??

  5. I couldn't find glow in the dark per say, but I did find this "Water Beads" and Light play at Play at Home Mom.

  6. Great prices @ Dollar Tree:)

  7. Looks very cool... Must try this out with my child....

  8. Most crafts and floral decorations from dollar tree (colored sand and aqua beads) have a "not suitable for children under 5" label on them. Do you use them in your preschool?

  9. I no longer teach preschool but I know my son's school used the water beads. You have to gage your kids. The water beads are probably not a good idea for 2's as they might be a choking hazard, but for 3's and 4's why not? We use shaving cream in school and the label says to keep away from children. Heck most hand soap says to keep away from children. Those labels are there to protect the company who made the products, because unfortunately, there are people out there who are crazy.

  10. I have water beads that my sister brought to me from Florida..sounds like the same thing. You soak in water and they expand. But when you handle mine the sqish to mush.. do your water beads do the same?

    1. No, not from handling. Only from my 4 year old squishing them between his fingers!

  11. We had the clear water beads and they looked really cool when we added a little food colouring to the water! And I want to put some of it on our fish tank, but are water beads safe for fish tanks?

  12. Funny. I just discovered these. My two year old grandson is wild for them. He cries like none other when they are put away. This is a fun activity for the two of us (I would not leave him alone...he's very tempted to eat them). I put down a shower curtain and we play with them, pouring them over his hands, squishing them through his fingers. After an hour or so, he cries like crazy when I put them away. It's his very favorite thing in the whole world, and he hits the door asking for them every time he visits. We also used them in sensory therapy for developmentally disabled adults. They love them as well.

  13. We have been having fun with crystal water beads, and I would have never thought to bring them outside. Good to know they are safe for the garden. I hope you come by and share this tomorrow at The Outdoor Play Party.



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