How to Play and Learn with Water Beads

I have read lots of other people’s posts about water bead play, so I thought it was about time we tried. I bought some water beads off the internet, very cheap. I soaked them in bowls for a few hours and over night, then they turned into slippery squishy marbles! Here’s how we played with them…

Playing with Water Beads to Learn Name Recognition

I gave my children a bowl of water beads each, with the letters of their name in it. I used magnetic letters from the fridge. I asked them to find the letters to spell out their name in the right order.

They were very excited, feeling through the slippery wet water beads, looking for the letters of their name. They picked out their letters and laid them on the table in the right order.

Next they wanted to swap bowls to see if they could spell out each others names. My 4 year olds needed a little help with this, but were really proud of their achievement once they had managed the names.

Water beads name recognition

Using Water Beads to Help Practice Fine Motor Skills

I gave my children an ice-cube tray for them to fill with water beads. This meant they had to pick each water bead up carefully, one at a time to place in each cube of the tray. As the beads are quite slippery, this was a great way for them to practice some fine motor skills.

Water Beads Alphabet Game

I put all the water beads in one big tub and placed it on the floor. I added lots of magnetic fridge letters into the tub and mixed them up.

Water beads alphabet game

The aim of the game is to collect the most letters. I called out a letter and the first person to recognise, find and pick up the letter amongst the water beads gets to keep it. The next letter is called, then when all the letters have been found, count up to see who has the most letters.

My children became very excited with this game, you can’t beat a bit of a competition for increasing their learning sometimes. They all squealed with delight every time they found a letter! I was surprised how my 4-year-old girls managed to find so many letters correctly, I thought my 6-year-old would steal all the letters, but it was actually quite evenly matched!

This game was very much enjoyed and I thought it was fantastic as it involved lots of fun, sensory learning, alphabet learning, listening and competition (as you need to learn how to lose sometimes as well as win).

Water Bead Sensory Fun

Water beads are fantastic for good sensory learning and fun. They are very different to feel and hold. The children tried to bury their hands. They loved feeling them, playing with them and swishing them about. They decided to take their socks off and stand in them, feel with their feet.

I asked them to describe what they felt like. It made them think about the texture, the feel, wet or dry, soft or hard, squishy, slippery or rough? They used their language to try to describe their experience.

Experimenting with Water Beads

Water beads lend themselves very well to basic science. The beads start off as tiny hard balls, then when you soak them for a few hours (or over night), they absorb the water and become big colourful slippery, squishy marbles and the surrounding water is gone. It is fascinating to watch and the children loved seeing them expand. Every time BB walked past the bowl he wanted to see and touch them.

Additionally, my children were generally very fascinated by these water beads, they kept squashing them to see them burst open to observe the gel like consistency inside. They also experimented by bouncing them on the floor. If you throw them gently they bounce around like a bouncy ball, but if you through them too hard, they just splat on the floor! Of course, children LOVE things that go SPLAT!!

Colour Sorting Water Beads

Another good activity with water beads is colour sorting. Give children several bowls for them to, colour match into. This could take a while, but has potential to keep a toddler entertained for some time whilst learning their colours and practicing their fine motor skills.

Sorting water beads

I must admit, when I first got these water beads, I thought how on earth are we going to play with these? But I was very pleasantly surprised. I mixed in the letters etc, but all the other learning, fun and games, were initiated by my children, they instinctively know how to play, learn, explore and have fun.

I would recommend having a go with water beads as there is so much learning, experimentation, exploration, sensory play and fun to be had with them, without any mess!

How do you play with water beads?


6 thoughts on “How to Play and Learn with Water Beads”

  1. Looks like you really had fun with these! I remember having water beads in bowls for wedding decoration but I’ve never played with them. This may be a purchase for me in the future

  2. Water beads are fab aren’t they So great for sensory play with little ones and you have come up with some fab creative ways for older kids to have a lot of fun with them, and learn a lot too!

  3. These are great ideas, been looking into water beads recently and have yet to use them, so you have given me some great ideas to try out. Thanks for the great ideas.

  4. Great ideas! We’ve played with these water beads at a couple of toddler groups but not at home, think we’ll have to get some one day as they are so fun 🙂

  5. Belle had water beads in a foot-spa she had for her birthday. They made such a mess of the carpet that I’m a bit reluctant to try them again!

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