Sensory Play, Fine Motor Skills, Color Recognition
Water Beads Guide - Everything You Need To Know - 7 Days of Play

Water Beads – Everything You Need to Know

water beads large small medium how to make how to store where to buy how to dispose or reuse

Water beads are one of my kids’ favorite sensory play activities. They love how squishy they feel and love to watch them grow.  If you’ve never used water beads before, you may have a lot of questions about them. I’ll answer some frequently asked questions like what are the educational benefits of water beads, how to make them, how to store them, when and where to dispose them, and some important risks and cautions before using.

The Educational Benefits

Water beads can help promote learning and development in many areas such as sensory, fine motor, color recognition, creativity, and more.

Water beads are also a great way to introduce math and science concepts to your little ones. You can use water beads to teach about absorption or promote scientific thinking skills such as observations and predicting.

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What Are Water Beads?

Water beads are water-absorbing polymers. They were initially used by florists in their floral arrangements. Since they hold so much water, they were able to keep plants hydrated while still making them look amazing. It wasn’t until later that educators caught on to their unique sensory and educational uses. Water beads are non-toxic. However, they should not be ingested and can be a choking hazard for small children.

In this video, you will see how fun they are to create and play with!

What Are Water Beads?

Water beads are water-absorbing polymers. They were initially used by florists in their floral arrangements. Since they hold so much water, they were able to keep plants hydrated while still making them look amazing. It wasn’t until later that educators caught on to their unique sensory and educational uses. Water beads are non-toxic. However, they should not be ingested and can be a choking hazard for small children.

In this video, you will see how fun they are to create and play with!

Where Can I Get Water Beads?

Water beads come in many different sizes. I recommend getting them in a multi-size pack of small, medium, and large. This is a great set to experiment with water absorption and enjoying the sensory experience of the varying sizes.These come with the colors all mixed up. No doubt, the large water beads are the most awe-inspiring for kids due to their larger than life size!

Just looking for the jumbo size water beads? They can be bought separately.

If you are creating a color specific sensory bin with water beads, you can also buy a pack that separates the colors. Black and orange, for example, is a fun Halloween themed sensory bin! And you could use blue and white for the ocean!

water beads small medium and large
water beads small medium and large

Where Can I Get Water Beads?

Water beads come in many different sizes. I recommend getting them in a multi-size pack of small, medium, and large. This is a great set to experiment with water absorption and enjoying the sensory experience of the varying sizes.These come with the colors all mixed up. No doubt, the large water beads are the most awe-inspiring for kids due to their larger than life size!

Just looking for the jumbo size water beads? They can be bought separately.

If you are creating a color specific sensory bin with water beads, you can also buy a pack that separates the colors. Black and orange, for example, is a fun Halloween themed sensory bin! And you could use blue and white for the ocean!

water beads large small medium how to make how to store where to buy how to dispose or reuse

How to Prepare Water Beads

When you receive or buy your water beads, they will be dehydrated. They will be very tiny at first. For them to grow, you need to add water. We put ours in a bucket of water. Amount of water and absorption time varies based on the size of the water beads.

Best practice is to just add water to your tub as the water beads continue to absorb the water. Smaller water beads will be ready for play in less than a day. Larger water beads can take up to 36 hours to fully grow.

All activities should be supervised by an adult. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. This post may contain affiliate links.

Cautions

Water beads should not be used by children under 3 years old due to the size being a choking hazard. While water beads are non toxic, they are not safe to eat, especially if the balls are dehydrated. No matter how old your children are, make sure to supervise your child when using water beads in any activity.

Water beads should also not be consumed by animals. Therefore, if there is any concern at all that your child or pet will put these in their mouth, do not use them!

Read on below for a taste-safe alternative that is a better option for young kids and families with pets.

How to Store Them

Full sized water beads can be stored in air tight containers, like a jar with a lid, plastic bag, or container with a snap on top. Rinse them first and then store them without water out of reach from pets and children.

Water beads can be rehydrated when you are ready to play again by just adding water.

How Reuse Water Beads

You can rehydrate and dehydrate the beads. If you want to dehydrate them, you can lay them on a single layer and allow them to dry out. A place with low humidity is best for quick results. Once dehydrated, place them in a sealed container for future use.

Unused, dehydrated water beads can last for years if properly stored. Hydrated water beads can also last for years if properly stored in an airtight environment with low humidity.

When and How to Dispose

The shelf-life of untouched water beads is much longer than those that were played with as the likelihood of mold forming is high. Be sure to properly examine for black spots before reusing water beads. If you see black spots that means that there is mold and the water beads should be immediately discarded.

Water beads are biodegradable. When you are done with them, you can toss them outside or add them to your potted plants – this is a great way to hydrate your garden! Water beads are safe for the environment, but if you have any concern that wildlife or pets will try to eat them, you can simply toss them in your garbage can.

Cautions

Water beads should not be used by children under 3 years old due to the size being a choking hazard. While water beads are non toxic, they are not safe to eat, especially if the balls are dehydrated. No matter how old your children are, make sure to supervise your child when using water beads in any activity.

Water beads should also not be consumed by animals. Therefore, if there is any concern at all that your child or pet will put these in their mouth, do not use them!

Read on below for a taste-safe alternative that is a better option for young kids and families with pets.

How to Store Them

Full sized water beads can be stored in air tight containers, like a jar with a lid, plastic bag, or container with a snap on top. Rinse them first and then store them without water out of reach from pets and children.

Water beads can be rehydrated when you are ready to play again by just adding water.

How Reuse Water Beads

You can rehydrate and dehydrate the beads. If you want to dehydrate them, you can lay them on a single layer and allow them to dry out. A place with low humidity is best for quick results. Once dehydrated, place them in a sealed container for future use.

Unused, dehydrated water beads can last for years if properly stored. Hydrated water beads can also last for years if properly stored in an airtight environment with low humidity.

When and How to Dispose

The shelf-life of untouched water beads is much longer than those that were played with as the likelihood of mold forming is high. Be sure to properly examine for black spots before reusing water beads. If you see black spots that means that there is mold and the water beads should be immediately discarded.

Water beads are biodegradable. When you are done with them, you can toss them outside or add them to your potted plants – this is a great way to hydrate your garden! Water beads are safe for the environment, but if you have any concern that wildlife or pets will try to eat them, you can simply toss them in your garbage can.

water beads large small medium how to make how to store where to buy how to dispose or reuse

What to do When Kids Crush Them Intentionally

What is one of the most common reactions when playing with water beads? To crush them! Sometimes water beads can be crushed, or sometimes they simply might break unintentionally.

One way to encourage kids to not crush all the water beads intentionally, is to create a bowl on the side for the broken ones. It will allow them to get the urge out to crush while discouraging them from crushing all of the beads. They’ll still get the sensory benefit of crushing a few already broken ones, but it won’t ruin the activity!

Some water beads are more breakable than others. For example, the large ones are the most fragile and may break even if a child isn’t being rough with them. The smallest ones are the strongest and the least easy to break.

Taste Safe Alternative to Water Beads

The sensory experience of playing with water beads is amazing, but it is not for everyone. The safety concerns mentioned above due to consumption and choking hazards can be a reason to look for alternative options.

Tapioca balls are great alternatives that are taste-safe. While these are also edible, if you are using them in a sensory bin, I would not encourage your child to eat them as this is the best kind of practice to teach them not to eat sensory bases in the future.

This taste-safe alternative is ideal for young children who like to put everything in their mouths. It can also be a great alternative for families who have pets and are concerned that they may tried to eat the water beads.

taste safe water beads

Keep in mind, tapioca balls are small and could pose as a choking hazard. Use your best judgment and always supervise.

taste safe water beads

Taste Safe Alternative to Water Beads

The sensory experience of playing with water beads is amazing, but it is not for everyone. The safety concerns mentioned above due to consumption and choking hazards can be a reason to look for alternative options.

Tapioca balls are great alternatives that are taste-safe. While these are also edible, if you are using them in a sensory bin, I would not encourage your child to eat them as this is the best kind of practice to teach them not to eat sensory bases in the future.

This taste-safe alternative is ideal for young children who like to put everything in their mouths. It can also be a great alternative for families who have pets and are concerned that they may tried to eat the water beads.

Keep in mind, tapioca balls are small and could pose as a choking hazard. Use your best judgment and always supervise.

 

Other Sensory Bases to Explore!

There are so many sensory bases worth exploring. Here are just a few of our favorites!

The Ultimate Slime and Putty Kit

This kit includes 8 fascinating varieties of slime and putty, including premade putty, magnetic slime, glow in the dark putty, and so much more.

Sensory Sand

Sensory sand is moldable! This bulk pack comes with enough to fill an entire bin for lasting fun! Bonus points for including a storage bin!

Modelling Dough

This modelling dough compound NEVER dries out! It is a fun texture – it is stretchy like play dough, moldable like kinetic sand, and odorless.

Premium Play Dough

This play dough is the cream of the crop! It is ridiculously silky and smooth, lasts for 6 months, and is scented!

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