Water beads are a popular form of sensory play for toddlers and kids in preschool and kindergarten, but they can be just as fun and beneficial for older kids as well. Playing with water beads can be extremely relaxing and therapeutic, and there is something about them that keep kids occupied for hours. From sensory bins, to stress balls, to DIY foot spas and more, these water bead activities for kids are easy to setup and combine sensory play with fine motor development in such a fun way!
What Are Water Beads?
Water beads are small polymer pellets that grow when they are placed in water. They are slimy and squishy, making them a popular form of sensory play for kids. Playing with water beads can be extremely calming, and some people use them to create relaxing at-home spas.
Water beads are non-toxic and biodegradable, but they are inedible. They should never be placed in the mouth or ingested as they can be a choking hazard and can potentially harm the digestive tract. Children should never play with water beads unless they are being unsupervised.
If your child accidentally swallows water beads, be sure to seek medical attention immediately.
How & When to Dispose of Water Beads
While unused water beads can last for quite some time in their original packaging, they can attract mold once you’ve hydrated them and your children have played with them. If you see black spots on your water beads, it’s time to toss them away.
When it comes to disposing of your water beads, be careful not to pour them down the drain, and never flush them down the toilet. This can cause a back-up in your plumbing system, and it can also be dangerous to wildlife if water beads are pushed out into the environment via your sewer system.
The easiest way to dispose of old water beads is to toss them into the garbage, however you can add them to plants and vases as well. Potting soil contains the same polymer used to make water beads, making them plant-safe, and you can add them to a vase with freshly cut flowers to make a colorful floral arrangement!
9 Water Bead Activities for Kids
1. SENSORY BIN
One of the easiest water bead activities for kids is to fill a sensory bin with water, add your water beads, and let your kids dig their hands in and play. Water beads are slimy and squishy, and it can be extremely relaxing to run your hands through a tub of water filled with them. This sensory play table is a great option as it’s the perfect height for younger kids, and it comes with a lid so you can safely store material to use another day (just be sure to check for signs of mold!). If you don’t have room for a sensory table, any big bin like this one will do!
You can upgrade your child’s sensory bin experience by giving them cups, scoops, tongs, tweezers, and anything else they can use to move and manipulate their water beads. Amazon has a great all-in-one water bead option, which includes an inflatable sensory bin, water beads, and tons of accessories your children will enjoy playing with!
If you’re looking for water bead activities for kids that help develop fine motor skills, sorting is a great idea to try. These fine motor scoopers and tweezers are the perfect accessory for the job, and your little one can practice color recognition and/or counting as they separate water beads into different colors.
3. ADD SHAVING CREAM
If you’re not opposed to water bead activities for kids that are a tad messy, this is a fun option. Grab a large baking sheet, spray a decent amount of shaving cream, and let your kids add water beads for the ultimate sensory experience! You can make this more of a fine motor/educational activity by asking your child to pick individual beads up with their thumb and index finger and arrange them into shapes/letters.
4. DIY STRESS BALL
If you’re looking for water bead activities for kids who a little older, making stress balls is sure to be a hit. Start by adding hydrated water beads to a water bottle. Next, blow up a balloon and, while holding it closed so the air doesn’t escape, pull the neck of the balloon overtop of the water bottle. Pour the water beads into the balloon and remove the balloon from the water bottle, allowing the air to escape. Tie a knot around the neck of the balloon and viola! You have your very own DIY stress ball, which is super fun for kids to play with.
5. FROZEN WATER BEADS
After your child has finished playing with their water beads, remove the water from the bin, pour the water beads into a Ziplock bag, and pop them in the freezer overnight. Frozen water beads offer a slightly different sensory experience as kids scoop, tweeze, and sort them. It’s also really fun to try and smash frozen water beads, but beware that they tend to break down once they are defrosted, so you’ll want to toss them in the garbage once your child is finished playing with them.
6. WATER BEAD SLIME
If your kids like slime, I Can Teach My Child has a super easy and fun water bead slime recipe you can make with only THREE ingredients!
7. LED LIGHT PLAY
A flat light panel offers a great way to bring your favourite water bead activities for kids to life. Add your water beads to a clear bin and place it on top of your light panel, and then add other toys into the bin so your child can create their own world of make believe. For example, you can use all blue water beads to create an ‘ocean’ and then add miniature fish, sharks, etc.
8. DIY FOOT SPA
My daughter was gifted an Orbeez Foot Spa a couple of years ago, and it was such a hit. You can make your own with water beads and a regular foot spa, or you can simply use a large bowl and water beads for a DIY at-home spa experience the whole family will love!
9. FLORAL ARRANGEMENTS
Water beads were originally designed for use in floral arrangements as they help control water absorption while adding a little colorful flare. If you’re looking for water bead activities for kids who are older, try your hand at making homemade centerpieces together! You can use real or fake flowers, and give them as gifts to family and friends.
Whether you’re looking for boredom busters for your kids to enjoy at home, or need sensory activities for the classroom, I hope this collection of water bead activities for kids inspires you!