After ohhing and ahhing and wishing and dreaming every time we read a post from an American blogger, this week we discovered you can get hold of water beads in the UK. An order was placed, the water beads arrived and we were ready to play!
Water beads are a super sensory material and versatile in lots of play but as they were a brand new material to the children (and me) our first playtime was all about exploring and discovering: time for some water bead science.
Water bead science experiment
Our approach to science is the same as all our activities, with a focus on play, creativity and letting the children discover things for themselves. I’m around to provide materials and prompt conversation but I try to let the children ask their own questions and work out their own answers as much as possible. This is quite different to how I remember science being taught at my school, where every experiment was strictly controlled, everyone did exactly the same thing and if you didn’t get exactly the same results at the end then your experiment was wrong. Surely science should be all about trialling, observing and things going wrong leading to new discoveries? That’s the way we roll in our house any way.
With this playful approach to science, here’s what we observed and discovered in our water bead science experiment.
The first thing that the children were surprised about was just how tiny the beads were when they poured out of the envelope. We talked about their shape, size and texture. Documenting science experiments with kids can be done in different way. Sometimes we write notes, sometimes we draw, today we recorded our investigation as a photo journal.
The next step is to add water, which was an opportunity to read the packet instructions, measure out exactly one litre of water and marvel at the enormity of the water in comparison to the tiny beads. A little bit of awe in a science experiment is always good to build up a sense of excitment.
The beads proved irresistible to everyone and we had lots of hand-on investigation.
In the middle of the splashing and pouring we also paused to observe and describe that was happening to the beads. L said: Mummy, they’re growing like Jack and the Beanstalk. B said: No, there’s a special word for it. They’re absorbing.
Using a camera to document your water bead science experiment lets you really get close up to the action and record how the beads slowly change shape – from hard, smooth beads, to bumpy…
to beautiful wobbly spheres. So pretty and so tactile.
I can imagine there will be lots of water bead sensory tubs in our future but today was about introducing the new material. Placing some of them in a storage box inside an empty paddling pool meant the kids could sit around and explore but the water beads were caught before they went skittering off across the room into the paws (and jaws) of our waiting cat.
The children tested out the properties of the water beads and compared them to how they were when they started. Can they roll? Bounce? Squash? Go flat? Go back to the original shape? Stick together? Make a tower?
Why don’t you try your own water bead science experiment and discover the answers for yourself?