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Sensory Play with Water Beads

Sensory play with water beads.

Recently a friend introduced me to the wonder of water beads. I had never heard of these before. They are itty-bitty beads that you put in water and they grow and grow and grow. And then they grow some more.Sensory play with water beads


There are used by florists in vases and flower arrangements, but they are picking up in popularity for sensory play. After my friend gave us some, I did a little sleuthing and found you can buy them in bulk on Amazon. Once I had them at home,  I pulled out our Step2 Water Works Table and poured about a quarter of the bag in and added water. Sensory play with water beads.

This water-table-turned-sensory-table has offered hours of fun for my children. They have added LEGO, plastic animals and kitchen toys. Jubilee likes to sit on a chair and soak her feet in the beads. I love to sink my hands and in and squish them around.water-beads-in-water-table


I took these pictures about 24 hours after I added the water. I figured the beads were up to full size. My children kept adding more water and the beads kept growing, so the table is now even more full of beads than this. The table has been filled with water beads for six days now, and they have held up to heavy-duty play by half a dozen children. This is such a great activity for the cold, winter months.

Now here is the crazy thing…you can buy 2 ounces of rainbow Jelly BeadZ for $7.95 on Amazon. Or you can buy a full pound of Water Beads for $9.75! So there’s my little money-saving tip for the day.

Do you have any great ideas for sensory play?

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  1. Mary-Lynn Snyder

    I was wondering what you do with little ones and Legos? We have recently started playing with them but are having a hard time with the 18 month old not putting them in his mouth. Any suggestions?

  2. Liz

    So you convinced me to throw a LEGO party with a newborn and little time to prep….water beads in the water table may be next. we own the same water table. It’s very lonely on the deck. I was thinking of putting something sensory in it but Eli knocks it over on purpose with the water outside…not a fan of the beads all over the floor. DONT PUT DOWN THE DRAIN!!! Olivia has these girls across the street who will randomly sneak her handful of these beads from their house…often…so bizarre…I think they get them from their Montessori school .I digress….Have you seen the lights people use with these? All sorts of crazy. Some do this glowing thing with the inside of a hilighter and a light….

    We have done sensory play. My kids all like a huge bowl of dried beans and noodles(I’m not brave enough for rice yet). I added small mason jars and funnels…mixing spoons…they added all sorts of stuff. I was lazy at first and just would add a different kind of dried beans or pasta every week or so and you would have thought it was the best thing

    This spring I saved 3 cartons from eggs. Bought plastic eggs on clearance, a bag of cotton balls,the paper basket filler, 2 bags of colored pom poms,tiny tongs from dollar store. mini mason jars. Threw it in a plastic bin with a lid. In the end cost less than $10 easy.

    It’s so fun to just see what each kid does. They say not to really say much just let them explore. One would put things in the eggs and then put them in the cartons. Another liked to sort the colors of pom poms and put them in mason jars and pretend it was jam. another got out muffin tins…they used those for the beans/noodles too.I could go on and on.

    I meant to do a Fall one. With popcorn kernels and such as the base. I am sure you #sensorybins. That’s always fun! People have ALOT of time!

  3. Siobhan

    We use these at my work for a sensory field trip class. You can throw some hand sanitizer in them to clean them up a bit if that’s a concern. You can also store them in airtight bags/Tupperware to keep them from drying out, or you can let them dry out and re-soak them at a later time. We usually end up soaking them for a complete day before using them. They can sort of end up losing structural integrity with too much water.

  4. lapadee

    Good morning! I just wanted to chime in that I made a small packet of these once – about TWO YEARS AGO – in a jar with a lid, and we still have them!!! They never die. I can’t throw them away because I too love to just run my hands through them, so soothing. But I’m not sure what else to do with them. Your post has inspired me to try! Have fun!

  5. Erin

    They also make a great science lesson on light refraction. If you put some in a jug of water and completely cover they you basically can’t see them. My science runs out before I can explain why though. Amazing that I remembered the term light refraction. We used them for a science party a few years back. You can also put them on potplants as a slow release watering option.

  6. catherine

    If you want coloureed beads without the cost, do the first hour or so of soaking in seperate containers with food colouring and water. Then rinse the beads off and put in your water tray with extra plain water.
    Works beautifully and the kids get the visual side as well.

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