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Water beads are just magical to play with! The sensory experience and language they encourage makes them one of the best play experiences around in my opinion. There are many places to buy water beads but the cheapest I have found is on Ebay and Amazon (around 3 packets for between 95p – 99p).  They are non-toxic and completely safe for children to handle.  However, they are most certainly NOT meant for eating! So, if you have a toddler or 2-3 who still puts things in their mouths, then I would wait. An alternative to water beads that are actually edible are Tapioca Pearls.  As long as your child is capable of eating a gummy bear type texture, they would be able to play with the Tapioca pearls.  The draw backs of the pearls though, once they’ve been played with they are sticky and gooey and ready for the bin. Whereas the water beads can be used over and over and last for ages.  They arrive in the form of tiny seeds.  You usually get around three little bags for your 99p and that was enough to make all the water beads we used today.

Water Bead Literacy Play

To get the beads ready for play, I emptied three packets into a lunch box last night and covered them with lots of water as per the instructions.  By this morning they were plump, glistening and irresistible looking. Today I picked up one of J’s Melissa and Doug Alphabet puzzles and emptied the letter into two wooden bowls.

Water Bead Literacy Play 2

Finally, I covered the pieces in water beads. Activity ready!

Water Bead Literacy Play 3

I put the activity on a sheet in the lounge and J set to play!

Water Bead Literacy Play 5

To begin with, J dug his hands into the ‘treasure’ and giggled as he felt the beads surround his hands.  He pulled out the sounds and said them, ‘m is for monkey’,’ ‘g is for grass’ and so on.

Water Bead Literacy Play 6

As J found the treasure, he also described the texture of the beads.  I find it is impossible not to describe the texture as they are just so unusual and lovely.  He used words like, ‘squishy, wet, spongey, bouncy, rubbery, slimy, beautiful, shiny, squidgy’ and so on.

Water Bead Literacy Play 7

J played for a long while before he just couldn’t resist putting the bowl on his lap and really examining and exploring the beads. I PROMISE, if you haven’t experienced these before, you will not be disappointed!

Water Bead Literacy Play 9

After the close inspection, J enjoyed tipping all the beads from one bowl to the other.  Reason for this? They bounce! They bounce like a mini bouncy ball and they roll around the bowls too! Fascinating for little ones to watch.

Water Bead Literacy Play 11

After lots of bouncy watching, J began putting the beads into the holes on the puzzle! He used lots of fine motor control for this as the beads are not easy to manipulate due to their slippery texture!

Water Bead Literacy Play 14

Here is his ‘c’ for carrot formed in beads…

Water Bead Literacy Play 4

Having had lots of sensory play, J ended by putting all the puzzle pieces back in their place.  Again, presenting toys in a new way makes them more enjoyable!

Water Bead Literacy Play 12

Now what happened to the beads he played with today?  Well, they were poured back into the lunch box, covered with more water and they’re plumping up nicely again ready for more play tomorrow! Definite recommendation from us for Water Bead Play!

Safety Note:  When we play with the beads, J knows he must NEVER put them near his mouth.  Having said that, I would still never leave him alone with these beads to play with as you just never know! If you can sit with your child and play with them then all ages will love them! The only part of a baby I’d put near them is feet as there’s no danger of mouth action then!  My recommendation is definitely play with them but stay with

What did J learn?

  • Language and vocabulary related to texture and senses
  • Exploration and discovery
  • Fine motor skills
  • Gross motor control
  • Phonic recognition
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