What are water beads? They are small pellets, made of a super absorbent polymer. After soaking them in water for 6-8 hours, they are about 30x bigger than their original size, and are squishy, wet fun. Although they look like bubbles, they are a solid gel all the way through, and crumble if they are smashed. Eventually the beads release the water again, which is why florists use them for flowers and plants. In fact, polymer is what is used in diapers for absorbency. It is also non-toxic.
Itʼs always fun to try something for the first time, and we were curious how these would work out. Using one full bag of the beads (we got ours from Amazon) seemed like a good way to start, so we enlisted several large bowls to start the experiment. We added a layer of beads and covered them with lots of water.
The one bag made enough beads to use in our 2ʼ x 3ʼ water play sensory bin! When we introduced them to the children, they were an immediate hit. The children enjoyed running their hands through them, collecting different colors and scooping them up in cups and bowls we had added to the mix.
The next question was how to store them, and for how long. After a few different attempts, we ended up keeping them in large plastic storage bins, loosely covered. They lasted for 4-5 days, then started dissolving. We let them dry out and then disposed of them.
We are definitely going to add them to our sensory bin and birthday party activity rotation, and are looking forward to trying some fun activities with them. Two in particular that are simple and fit in well with what we already do are:
- Adding them to shaving cream
- Freezing them
There are also completely natural and edible versions of water beads, created by using different types of seeds or tapioca pearls. They also absorb water, and can be colored with food color for a more homemade version. Here are links toarticles about using them:
- Basil seeds: http://www.funathomewithkids.com/2013/10/safe-edible-nonchokable-mini-water.html
- Tapioca Pearls: We already use these in our sensory play, but they do have a different texture and are a little slimy (not that thatʼs a bad thing, just different). http://www.growingajeweledrose.com/2014/02/edible-waterbeads.html
- Chia seeds: http://filterbutler.com/blog/fun-easy-way-make-healthierwater-beads/