Need Space Activity: Water Beads
This is one of those fun space-giving ideas that you may at first find yourself joining in the fun before sneaking off. Yes there is about a 4 hour wait time before this activity is ready, but it’s a hands-off waiting period that doesn’t take YOUR time. If you’re anything like me, you can set this up at night, knowing that at some point the next day you’ll need a breather and this activity will be ready!
Some learned advice before we dive in:
- Probably not ideal without supervision for kids under 18 months, incase they want to eat it.
- These bounce and roll like superballs. Hilarious and a joy for kids, but protect your sanity by picking the right location (outside porch perhaps?). See more in “Setup” below.
- Clean up is harder when they’re crushed. Squeeze a handful and you’ll end up with chunks of “gel”. This was unavoidable with my almost 2 year old who loved the feel of crushing them but don’t worry, they won’t just dissolve or breakdown without help!
- Water (tap is fine!)
- Water beads. These you can find at most craft stores or on Amazon. They are originally used in flower vases for their water retention so you may have luck checking the floral aisle. I bought mine from Amazon and purchased both these clear ones and these rainbow colored ones. How Many? If you just have a small pan only use about a tablespoon of dry beads. In the pictures below I probably used about a 1/3 cup of dry beads.
- Bowl, bucket or trays for holding beads.
- Objects/toys for playing: I used spoons, ladles, cups of various size, eye droppers, plastic cars and figures, strainer, etc. Anything to keep them busy!
- Place water beads in a bowl/bucket and fill with a generous amount of water. Figure about 2 cups of water per 1 teaspoon of dry water beads. If you can plan ahead, do this at night and they’ll be ready by morning. Otherwise the beads will gradually swell over about 4 hours. I had some made the night before, and then added more as they played. The colored ones mentioned above looked lumpy as they swelled up but eventually were perfectly round.
- When the beads are filled with water decide if you want to strain any excess water, or maybe even add more water. I started with all excess water drained, but my kids instead asked for lots of extra water.
- Location: As I mentioned above, water beads can easily bounce and roll away so pick the least stressful place to have them. I had the activity at the dining room table (too cold to be outside) with some ‘stern-mom-tone’ rules on keeping the beads in their trays. My 6 and 4 year old did really well with this set up. My almost 2 year old, ehhh not so much but the payoff of time occupied was well worth the clean up. Plus the fact that he had to sit in a chair kept him and the water beads in one place (for the most part) .
AWESOME! The kids couldn’t wait to play with these! I did have to set some indoor house rules about no throwing or crushing the beads and so I monitored the first bit of their play but after that they played for A SOLID HOUR!! Then they got hungry or whatever and wandered off…..but then later wandered back and the play began again. The activity that keeps on giving!
My biggest surprise came from how much my 23 month old loved these. At first he was a little frustrating with them, crushing or dumping them on the floor, but then he wandered back when his sister’s weren’t around and played with these until his fingered pruned. I’ve never seen anything hold his attention for so long. Usually a quiet kid means bad news in this house, so I kept spying on him to survey the damage, but each time to my delight he was completely engrossed in play (not having to share any toys with his sister’s probably helped to 😉 .
After two days indoors with these, I set them out of reach for a day or two and then added them to a water table outside. The fun and freshness of the activity was renewed with all the in-house rules lifted and I was able to contentedly garden around them unnoticed. If you use these in a water table, keep in mind that when crushed they can clog any water suction/squirting features of the table. Not the biggest deal to fix, but frustrating for the kids who love those features. In case anyone else is like me and agonizes over reviews to compare and contrast 10 different variations of one product…..I have this pirate ship water table from Amazon. The kids love it, but the reviews of a leaky stopper are correct (that slow drip that gets worse when you try and fix it), so for water it’s definitely outside only. Not a deal breaker for me though because it’s a slow drip and I plan to also use it with rice etc indoors in winter.
Hi there! I’m Kaley, prevailing parent and wife, but also just me; stubborn lover of DIY everything, outdoors, and chocolate. Read more about myself and my family under the “Parenting” > “About My Family” tabs.