Water bead science

water bead science

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.

water bead science
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.
water bead science
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.
water bead science
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.
water bead science
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…
water bead scienceto beautiful wobbly spheres. So pretty and so tactile.
water bead scienceI 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.

water bead science

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?

super sensory footerSuper Sensory Invitations to Play

Ready for a whole year of exploring through the senses? Super Sensory Invitations to Play is a delightful resource that encourages your children to explore the five senses through the year, using a wide variety of sensory materials. It includes 52 invitations to play, linked to the festivals and seasons of the year, and including water, ice, dough, rice, paints, sand, sensory tubs, and more.

They are easy, simple, and fun ideas that you can use right now to give a multi-sensory boost to your play and learning. It comes with a printable recipe book featuring all our favourite recipes for play. Come and see more here.


  1. says

    water beads are on my To Do List w/the Lil Divas – your wonderful photos & playful approach are making me want to run out & buy some today so we can discover the answers first hand to all those questions you left us with! :)

    • Cathy @ NurtureStore says

      Rachel, They are described as a polymer, similar to contact lenses, which are non-toxic but not intended for ingestion.

  2. says

    Good to read that I am not the only one having problems finding things that are mentioned on the american blogs :-) we live in Holland. The water beads were a problem to find here too….in the end I found them in a gardening store..and later in a discount store :-)

  3. says

    we love these too. they are easy to get from wedding suppliers on Ebay! who ever invented these, struck on a winner!!

  4. Jaclyn says

    Our water beads arrived before Christmas and I have been pondering where the best place would be to reduce chaos! I had thought of leaving it until summer and doing it outside, so thanks to your post I have my solution, the paddling pool! great idea, thank you!

  5. says

    I just ordered these still waiting for mine to arrive. I was first introduced to these two years ago when my 5th graders starting bringing them and trading them at school. I got mine from Orientaltrading.com so we’ll see how they work out (not always the best quality but cheap prices).

  6. April says

    We poor these in the bathtub and collect them in cups- great counting exercise. Playing with them in the tub means no slippery, bouncy little balls rolling around. We have the kitty problem too!

  7. says

    I am so with you on enabling children to develop an enquiring mind and not worry abut getting the wrong results. There is so much pressure on that in the classroom and i fear it is all due to lack of time.

    A fabulous experiment and I shall be purchasing some beads!

    Thanks for linking to science sparks Fun Sparks!

  8. Katie johannesen says

    My Kindy kids love them. Have u tried the bigger ones that grow to golf ball size. We buy. Ours through Brisbane company

    • Cathy @ NurtureStore says

      No Katie, I haven’t but I’ll have to track them down – they sound fantastic!

  9. says

    Love the exploring, touching, feeling, observing going on here. Water beads have been on my mind for some time now after seeing them all over the blogosphere. But, I wonder if we’l find them here easily. The hunt begins!
    Beautiful photos. We love photo journaling, too!

  10. says

    I have just ordered some water beads. Can’t wait for them to arrive now.I would love to be a part of Kids Coop and the pinterest board.

  11. says

    Right, glad I saw this because I bought some the other day and didn’t have a clue what to do with them! I’m off to soak them in water before The Boy goes to bed! Then he can squidge them in the morning. Thanks lovely

    • Cathy @ NurtureStore says

      Ooh TheBoyandMe, how exciting! Please report back on what The Boy thinks of them.

  12. Judy says

    My daughter loves these. She originally got them for Christmas in a product called Orbeez Spa (it was a foot bath thing, with these orbs). I eventually found them in the floral supply section of my craft store. I’m in America, so it might be different in other parts of the world, but try a floral supply for these expanding beads.

  13. Inge Reyes says

    We got clear ones from the dollar store…love that they seem to disappear in water because they have the same index of refraction as the water.

  14. Safaia says

    As a sidenote, I’ve found that some fragrence releasers have little gel beads in them. We got some. Now they eventually dry up and end up looking just like those. So I added water to see if they’d come alive again, they did.

    Next I added food coloring cus the blue that they had been originally eventually started to dim and fade away to clear. The food coloring was absorbed ( I now have some really pretty purple ones to match the kitchen lol).

    What I’d like to do next is add some essential oils and see if I can use the old beads but give it a new scent.

    Figured ya might want the idea bout the food coloring and such.

  15. Heidi says

    What website did you order them from?? I love how strong and vibrant your colors are, the ones I have bought have not been that colorful!

  16. kathy deverna says

    I use large, instant tapioca from the Chinese Grocery store…$2.99 per bag. They are somewhat colored, but more color can be added via food coloring or dried Kool-Aide. If someone does eat one, it doesn’t really matter, since they are food-grade.

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