Exploring water beads with kids is one of the best summer activities for preschoolers! Place beads in the water table or a plastic bin and watch them grow. Once the beads are fully grown, you might be surprised by the creative ways your students engage with them!
Ever since I heard of using water beads in a sensory table, I’ve been dying to
play with them introduce them to the kiddos. A couple of weeks ago, I taught a week of summer camp at my preschool. What a perfect time to experiment with the water beads! Engineer was in my camp class, and he adored playing with them. So much so that he’s been asking for them at home. I wonder if my son realizes he’s enabling my need to play with new things?
Water Bead Play Materials
For this activity, all you really need are water beads, water, and a container to play with them in. Here are the specifics (I may get commissions for purchases made through links in this post):
You can find packs of water beads in the floral sections of craft stores, Wal-Mart, etc. The pack I bought described the water beads as “non-toxic polymers that hold 100 times their weight in water”. It should be noted that they’re meant to be used in flower arrangements, not play/education.* Of course, part of playing and learning is about examining all sorts of materials! I set some basic guidelines about playing with them — the biggest being “don’t eat the water beads!”
*Please note that since the original post, water beads have been specifically produced and marketed for children’s play under close adult supervision. There is a version of them linked above.
Water Bead Play
Engineer and I cleaned out the water table, added fresh water, and dumped a package of water beads in about 8:30am. Snoopy and Little Hurricane arrived about 9:00am and immediately went to check it out. They played out there for about an hour (when we had to rush to swim lessons because I wasn’t paying attention to the time). So the kiddos had to wait until after lunch to get their hands on the water beads again.
By that time, about 3 1/2 hours had elapsed and they saw a big change in the water beads! Another hour was spent with the water beads, and I had a blast watching, listening, and playing. Engineer and Snoopy spent most of the time collecting the water beads in various containers. They especially liked using the colander and cups with holes — to watch the water dribble out while the beads remained. Little Hurricane spent some time squishing the water beads in his hand. From the funny little grunts he made, it was hard work! Once he saw the big boys collecting the water beads, he decided to join in.
I heard so many great observations during this time:
- “They’re as big as marbles!”
- “This one’s bigger than the others!”
- “Watch it bounce! Watch!”
- “They’re purple, and they’re making the water purple!”
- “Hey, it rolls down the slide!”
- “Oooh, they feel all mushy!”
- “This one is small, and this one is medium, and this one is is big! I think the small one was on the floor too long.”
Being who I am, I enjoyed asking them questions about why they thought the water beads roll, why one is bigger than another, etc! Engineer has already asked if he can play with the water beads all weekend, so I’m going to come up with some other ways to experiment with them!
Have you played with water beads yet? What did you and your kiddos think of them?
Done-for-You Preschool Resources
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