We are huge fans of water beads* (this link for US Readers) in our home, so I thought I’d share with you some of the ways these cheap and fun beads can be used with your toddler and baby.
If you don’t know what they are, they are little crystals – about the size of a pin head, dry – that absorb up to 400 times their weight in water and expand to make beautiful, fun (and bouncy!) water beads. While they’re actually meant for floral displays and so on, they’re brilliant for use with little ones.
In preparation you’ll need to soak them in water for around 24 hours, but they start expanding the moment they touch water and I often just leave them over night. If you leave them out of water they shrink back down, so we always have some in a bowl and from time to time I just top them up with a bit of water. 10g of crytals makes about a litre of beads, so these really go a long way, especially if you have a few in different colours.
Another good thing is that they’re great for outdoor use as they are biodegradable, but also, they are non-toxic, so while not meant for eating, the odd bit of swallowed one isn’t going to hurt your child any more than anything else they swallow. Always use water beads with parental supervision though.
This was a super fun summer activity, but really, can be done in the bath and become a super fun any time activity. All you need are your water beads, paint, paper and a box. Mix the beads up in paint, then drop them onto the paper in the box. Roll, shake and otherwise manoeuvre the box around for fun patterns. We did these on card stock and have been using the decorated paper for cards and gift wrapping, and it always gets comments and compliments.
- Food Colouring Colour Mixing
A similar activity, but using food colouring. I dropped a few drops of food colouring in various places around the bath, then dropped the beads in. Ameli is in her swimming costume here, so as far as she’s concerned it was an excellent playtime. When done, I fill the bath with water, she has a bath, and the bath comes clean. Getting the beads up is fun too – or at least challenging!
Depending on the age of the child, they may or may not fall for this as an activity, but you can put out different cups or containers – one for each colour, and get them to seperate the beads by colour. Alternatively, they tend to enjoy just pouring them from bowl to bowl!
This particular game Ameli discovered all on her own, and spent ages doing. She took a Lego baseboard and put a waterbead on each hole. It kept her really engrossed, filling up the baseboard, and is excellent fine motor practice.
Water beads aren’t limited to toddlers. My six month old loves them too! She loves squishing them around in her hands, running her fingers through them, and throwing them around the room – which is less fun for me, but she loves it. It’s perfectly sensory – but do keep an eye on babies with water beads as they shouldn’t really be eaten.
These make fantastic bouncy balls and they’re not going to break any windows or mirrors! Children have fun chasing these all over the house.
During play, water beads are likely to break, and be squished and whatnot. Rather than discarding them directly, there’s one more thing you can do with them – freeze them in ice cube trays. They’re brilliant for adding to a sensory bath, or just for a fun bath time activity. In the freezing and defrosting process they do pretty much crumble, so while you can use new beads, it’s ideal for broken ones. It’s great fun watching the ice dissolve and squashing the remains into little pieces. While you probably don’t want them going down your drain, at least the broken up pieces shouldn’t clog up your pipes.
What else do you do, or should we be doing, with water beads?
*If you buy waterbeads through these links it won’t cost you any extra, but I’ll earn 5% of the cost in affiliate fees. These fees help pay for my web hosting and other blog-related costs, and are highly appreciated!