Mommy Style Monday: Water Beads

Water beads are a fun, simple and inexpensive activity for younger children and there are so many ways to play with them!
There is something about January that I really dislike.  If my daughter's birthday wasn't during this month, I would be totally fine to just get rid of it all together.  I'm not sure where you live, but here in Utah we tend to get a lot of cold, overcast, snowy, rainy, slushy days in the winter.  My kids live for the outdoors, so wintertime is hard on them (and me).  I am a warm weather, sunshine loving person and can get a little bit of seasonal depression during this time of year.  I've found that staying busy is a big help and trying to rotate through a variety of activities helps my kids from going too stir crazy. *wink*

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Last year, I saw a friend of mine post some pictures on Facebook of her kids playing with water beads.  I'd never heard of them before but they looked awesome and just the thing to keep my kids entertained.  I found some on Amazon for cheap and threw them in with whatever else I happened to already have in my cart.  (Please tell me I'm not the only one who does this!)

When they came in the mail, I was shocked at how small they were!  They are literally these hard, tiny little beads that came in about 12 different colors.

Water beads are a fun, simple and inexpensive activity for younger children and there are so many ways to play with them!

I grabbed some bins I already had from the dollar store that I purchased when I did my post on 3 ways to paint with toddlers and preschoolers (another great way to keep kids entertained!) and grabbed about 15 or so beads from 4 of the bags and put them in one bin and put about the same amount of 4 different colors in the second bin.  I added some warm water to each bin, filling it about halfway and left them to do their thing.

Water beads are a fun, simple and inexpensive activity for younger children and there are so many ways to play with them!

I was totally amazed when I looked at the beads about 10 minutes later and they were already growing.  Rather than feeling hard, they had started to soften a bit around the outside and they looked a little bit blurry.   (No, that's not your vision playing tricks on you.  This picture is what they actually look like.)

Water beads are a fun, simple and inexpensive activity for younger children and there are so many ways to play with them!

10 minutes after that, they were even bigger and looking a little bumpy.  I showed my kids and they were equally impressed.  Both of them wanted to start playing with the beads right away, so I let them for a little bit.

Water beads are a fun, simple and inexpensive activity for younger children and there are so many ways to play with them!

Since I wasn't sure how long it would take for the beads to grow to their full size, I left them in the bins overnight.  The next morning, the water was halfway gone and the beads were each about 1/2" in diameter.

To set up for our activity, I got some extra bath towels and folded them in half, draping some off the edge of the table.  Then I put the bins of beads in front of my kids and let them go to town!  I gave them some measuring cups and bowls to play with as well.  They loved it!  They measured and poured and bounced the beads for a good 45 minutes.  Their clothes got a little wet but the towels did soak up most of the water.  And I have to admit that I had fun putting my hands in the bins and rolling the beads around.  They are so soft and slippery and squishy!

Water beads are a fun, simple and inexpensive activity for younger children and there are so many ways to play with them!

Water beads are a fun, simple and inexpensive activity for younger children and there are so many ways to play with them!

Water beads are a fun, simple and inexpensive activity for younger children and there are so many ways to play with them!

Water beads are a fun, simple and inexpensive activity for younger children and there are so many ways to play with them!

If you happen to have a light table, these beads would be a lot of fun to play with in a clear container on top of one.  If you don't have one, you can make your own.  (Check out this tutorial from The Artful Parent.  The same post has tons of ways you can play with water beads!)

A word of caution for those of you with small children: watch them carefully and if they are prone to putting things in their mouths, this might not be the right activity for them.  We got these about a year ago when my kids were 4 and 2 and now they are almost 5 and 3.  You know your kids best.

One of the great things about water beads is that you can keep using them.  We had ours out for about a week and I just added a little bit of water to keep them plump.  After that long, the kids lost interest and the bins were just taking up space on my counter.  When you're done with them, grab a towel and pour the beads onto it.  The towels will slowly start to soak up the water from the beads and after a couple days they will have shrunk down and dried out.  As they dry out and become smaller, I like to separate them into piles by color.  (I am a little OCD and just putting all the beads together in one bag would drive me nuts!)  I kept the original bags they came in and just put them back in there when I was confident they were completely dry.

If you're looking for more fun indoor ideas for your kids, check out the links below for more ideas from some super creative moms!

 Kiana  |  Glitter & Donuts
Madeline  |  CaseyLand
Britt  |  My Little Sunshines
Rachel  |  Tutus and Heels
Noelia  |  You Can Call Me Noe
Michelle  |  The Mumsy Blog
Kahana  |  A Beautiful Life
Monica  |  It's All About

26 comments

  1. These look like so much fun! I think my 3.5 yr old would love them!

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    1. They are a blast to play with! I haven't met a kid yet who doesn't like them.

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  2. Okay so I have a cup full of these things my kid brought home from somewhere and I wondered if I could dry them out and save them for another time. Thanks for the tip, I'm going to do that today!

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    1. Oh good! I'm glad I was able to help. ;)

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  3. I've totally watched youtube videos with Eli where kids are playing with these. I should try them out, i bet he'd love them.

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    1. Most definitely! They aren't very expensive and I love that you can reuse them.

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  4. I have never heard of these!! My baby is only about 18 months, but I will keep this in mind for next winter! These are so cool!

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    1. Yeah, 18 months is probably a little young but by next year, I'm sure your baby would be ready for them.

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  5. We have tried these!! Mav didnt quite get it yet and tried to eat them! hahah So much fun!

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    1. Haha! Yeah, my son tried to eat some the other day and he's almost 3. But then again, they do look like candy so I kind of can't blame him. ;)

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  6. Oh my gosh. That is such a fun idea! My son might be too little for them now but I can't wait to try it out when he is older!

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    1. They are so fun! I can't help but play with them myself, haha.

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  7. Those look so much fun! I had never heard of them before. I really think my girls would LOVE that!

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    1. They are a blast! There are a lot of different activities you can do with them besides just playing in a bin. I included a link above to a lady who lists a ton of neat activities.

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  8. Replies
    1. Haha, thanks Monica! If only I'd been the one to create them. Then I'd be rolling in the dough. ;)

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  9. These are cool! I can't believe how large they got! My almost 4 year old would love it, but with a 9 month old in the house...I think I'll wait a bit.

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    1. These would be a great activity to do with your 4 year old while the baby is napping. When we aren't using them, we just store them in a place where the kids can't reach.

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  10. What?! That is crazy. I've seen these before but would never have imagined that they were reusable and would shrink back.

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    1. Isn't that awesome?! They are inexpensive and fun and reusable, which makes it a win in my book. ;)

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  11. WOW!! They seriously grew haha. My kids would LOVE playing with them.

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    1. I know! The first time I did it, my eyes got so big when I checked on them after letting them sit overnight. It was crazy! I bet your boys would love this activity.

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  12. Replies
    1. They are so fun! Although you'll probably want to hold off until your baby is a little bigger, otherwise she might try to eat them. ;)

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