Water beads

If you are yet to discover these little balls you are in for a treat! I first discovered them on Pinterest (where else?!). Their intended purpose is to keep flowers hydrated I believe, but they can be put to much better use in play. I purchased mine from a famous shopping site on the internet. You can get a small bag for just short of a pound, but it’s definitely worth purchasing a few at once. They are available to buy in multi colour packs, single colours and clear.

To begin with the water beads are tiny and look a little like cake sprinkles. You immerse them in water and they expand over a few hours as they absorb it. If you have patient children – or plan on having a ‘Here’s one I made earlier’ it would be worth letting children see this process. It may also be worth letting them see them dry out again. Questions will naturally occur that promote the science behind these awesome little things.

After a good couple of goes in our ‘on loan’ paddling pool (Thanks Uncle M, love S & B), I decided this would be an ideal place to play with our water beads outside. They are incredibly bouncy and I wanted the girls to be able to play without having to chase them every two minutes. They are also likely to collect dirt from the ground as they are wet to the touch – though I have nothing against a little dirt during outdoor play, I didn’t particularly want in mixed in during this activity.

Encouraging Boo’s love of pouring and scooping I added spoons, scoops and various containers. To develop Squidge’s fine motor skills I included a couple of pairs of tongs.

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Squidge was first to dive into this activity. She and I have played with water beads on several occasions before, so she knew what was in store. Boo observed from the sidelines for a little while before getting in. I’d been reluctant to let her have a go with these up until now, as she still has a tendency to mouth things and water beads are not safe to eat. Both girls spent a good length of time just feeling the water beads, holding a few in their hands, letting them fall, picking them up individually and squeezing them gently.

Both Squidge and Boo were completely immersed in their play from the minute they started. It was hard to capture the delight on Boo’s face as she barely lifted her head. The girls were both playing, but were doing so independent of one another for the majority.

Squidge tested out the scoops and spoons first, scooping and pouring from each item a couple of times before moving on to the next.

She went on to try out the first set of tongs and was so proud of herself when she managed to grip one of the beads. She did return to the tongs later on during her play and used them to transfer a few of the beads. It was time consuming, so I was quite impressed she persevered for so long!

Boo made use of one the scoops in a different way to her sister, she filled it  with the little beads, one by one. Her pincer grip is brilliant (you should see her eat peas – a definite nod to baby led weaning). She then transferred the beads by pouring them from the scoop to a larger pot. This theme continued throughout the rest of her play.

Both Squidge and Boo kept switching utensils to move the beads. The blue scoops (one from a protein shake bag, the other a baby milk scoop) and the silver bowl type scoop (from the children’s utensil set sold at my favourite Scandinavian store) were definite favourites for them both. They happily swapped between themselves, still independent in their play, unconsciously mirroring one another.

Boo then began pouring from one container to another, over and over, losing a couple of beads here and there. She would watch them bounce away, collect them and add them back to her haul. Her concentration level still remaining high.

She stirred her pots a few times, though not always with an appropriately sized spoon. Notice how she uses different hands, and both at one point to gain more control when things didn’t work as expected.

The highlight of Boo’s play for me was when she attempted to fill the smallest blue scoop with an extra water bead than I’d have expected it to hold. I’d have been happy to carry just one bead in such a small scoop, but Boo wasn’t going to be satisfied until she had three in there. In the series of pictures, it looks like quite a straightforward task, but it took Boo at least 5 minutes to get them to balance. They are quite slippery to handle and pop out of little fingers and scoops when squeezed too hard. Several times the top bead fell out, with the second one being dropped a few times whilst trying to retrieve the top one! This didn’t phase Boo. She was determined and patient – traits that I feel are part of her character.

Meanwhile Squidge happily filled and emptied the various containers. She loved shaking the clear egg box and watching the beads bounce around in the tub.

It wasn’t until the very end of this session of play that Squidge and Boo played together. Squidge pouring the beads, making funny noises as they tumbled, Boo trying to catch them as they went.

This play lasted us a good 45 minutes outside. Both girls developed their fine motor skills in various ways. They both persevered with a difficult, self chosen task until it was complete. They were both deeply immersed in their play. Not bad for £2 and a bunch of tubs and utensils.

We’ll be playing with water beads again very soon, there are so many different ways to use them. Have you used them before? Have I tempted you to give them a try? Let me know!

Thanks for reading,

Much love, Cat, Squidge and Boo Xxx

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  • Claire (July 27, 2016)

    I bought a set for my daughter. I keep forgetting about them. We did use them once in her water table and she loved them. Looks like your two had great fun.

    • Cat (July 27, 2016)

      Thanks Claire. They were certainly kept busy for a good length of time. If I hadn’t been blogging about it, I could’ve enjoyed a nice quiet brew 😉 xx

  • Cal at Family Makes (July 28, 2016)

    My boys are 8 & 9, and still love playing with water beads on occasion. They love the feel of them, and have often enjoyed having them in the bath too. #SharingtheBlogLove

    • Cat (July 28, 2016)

      We might give that a go! We’ll have to sieve the bits out when Squidge squashes them! Xx

  • Dean of Little Steps (July 28, 2016)

    Oh how lovely! I’m not really surprised that it’s not just T, isn’t it? T loves soaking up her toys in them. And also loves choosing the colour beads the night before and leaving them to “grow”. She loves the anticipation 🙂 #sharingthebloglove

    • Cat (July 28, 2016)

      I’ll have to get some single colours for Squidge to choose from xx

  • Becky (July 28, 2016)

    We love water beads!! We haven’t had them out in awhile, but now I think it’s time! I love all the pictures you shared of the fun! #sharingthebloglove

    • Cat (July 28, 2016)

      Thanks! I hid them away, but was happy to see them again. Even more so outside! Xx

  • Charlie O'Brien @realgirlramblings (July 28, 2016)

    I’m so pleased to find your lovely blog! I’m a first time mum and not naturally creative with stuff, so I struggle for play ideas sometimes – this is going to be my holy grail!! CHarlie@realgirlramblings #sharingthebloglove

    • Cat (July 29, 2016)

      Thank you so much Charlie. Your comment has made my day. You are exactly who I’m writing this blog for 🙂 I’d love to hear if you try any of the activities. Xxx

  • Katy - Hot Pink Wellingtons (July 29, 2016)

    I’ve never heard of these, they look great! I’m not totally sure my son would like them, as he’s often a bit funny about sensory kind of things, but at £2 it sounds worth a go! So pretty, and so many different things to do with them. What a lovely sunny day you had for it too! Thanks so much for joining us again at #SharingtheBlogLove

    • Cat (July 29, 2016)

      If he’s ok with water and cold things, he will like these. They feel clean if than makes any sense. They are a little bit squishy, but crush if squeezed too hard. They are hard not to touch! Xx

  • Karen : TwoTinyHands (July 29, 2016)

    I’ve just ordered some to try out. I saw that there are big ones too which I may be tempted with once I have given these a go. Looks like they are going to be fun! #sharethebloglove

    • Cat (July 29, 2016)

      Let me know how you get on! They are great fun. Just look out for escapee’s… They bounce a lot 😉
      I’ll definitely look out for the larger ones. Would be nice to mix them too. Xx

  • Laura - dear bear and beany (July 30, 2016)

    These look like lots of fun, my girls would love to try these out. I love finding new ways to entertain them, that are cheap, easy to do and above all fun! Thank you for joining us at #SharingtheBlogLove Laura X

    • Cat (July 30, 2016)

      It’s no fun if there’s more effort prepping and clearing up than actual fun in the middle! Hope you enjoy 🙂 Xx

  • Maria (August 6, 2016)

    These look amazing! You have definitely tempted me go get my hands on these. We are very big fans of Gloop but it gets so messy! I want a whole paddling pool full if these little balls of magic. I may enjoy them more than my 2 year old haha #sharethebloglove

    • Cat (August 8, 2016)

      Nothing wrong with that! I think a whole pool full would be amazing! Ha ha, you’d be finding them for the next 10 years! Xx

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