The best water beads for sensory play

A close up of a child's hand scooping a handful of water beads from a bowl

by Rosie Floyd |
Published on

Water beads are fast becoming a great tool for children's sensory play. With their bright colours, squishy texture, and bouncy material - what more could your little one want to play with?

What are water beads?

If you're unsure what water beads are, we're here to help. They're essentially water-absorbing polymers. They start out as small pellets but begin to expand when you add water to them.

Traditionally, florists use water beads in arrangements to collect excess moisture while also adding a colourful, decorative element. However, parents soon discovered that they can be used for a lot more than just flower arranging. The video below showcases some things you can do with water beads for sensory play to engage and stimulate your kiddos.

What are the benefits of water bead sensory play?

Water beads are fun for your child to play with, but did you know playing with them will aid your child's development and learning? When you use water beads as part of sensory play, your child will build on their fine motor skills, improve their hand-eye coordination and control, and have more spacial awareness.

As the water beads tend to come in a variety of colours, they are ideal for teaching colour recognition. You can also use them to aid your child with number recognition and counting skills.

If your child has sensory needs, playing with water beads will introduce them to new textures as they experience the beads' soft, squashy, and rubber-like feel.

Are water beads safe for toddlers?

Water beads are usually made from non-toxic materials, however, because of their small size, they can be a choking hazard with the risk of getting stuck in throats, ears and noses. For that reason, most water bead toys have a recommended age of over three years, but you should always supervise your child when playing with water beads at any age, so you can ensure they're playing safely.

Our pick of water beads for sensory play

Best value for money

Your little one will love the bright colours of these water beads. With over 20,000 beads in a jar, they're great value for money.

Pros: You get lots of beads for a small price
Cons: Some customer reviews have stated they received less than 20,000 beads

Review: "My 2-year-old spent ages playing with these. A cheap way to keep children entertained."

Best biodegradable water beads

These water beads are 100 per cent biodegradable, so they're perfect for families trying to be more environmentally conscious. They start at 2-2.5mm in size and expand up to 9-11mm after soaking in water for four to six hours.

Pros: Biodegradable
Cons: Takes a long time to fully expand

Review: "Bought these to use for sensory play for my baby (in containers for safety). I was shocked at how much my 4 year old loves playing with them, even I can't help but run my fingers through the bowl of beads. Only used a tablespoons worth and they are still going strong a month later, 2ith thousands left in the pack. Am getting some for other children we know." [sic]

Best jumbo water beads

Expanding to 40-50mm in size: these jumbo water beads will offer a different sensory experience. The beads have a 'berry' or 'brain' texture within the first 12 hours, and by 36-48 hours, they will feel spongy and smooth.

Pros: Beads have different patterns and textures
Cons: Not as many in a pack compared to smaller water beads

Review: "Brought these for my daughter, and she loves them. They do grow really huge if you keep them in water for a few days."

Sensory experience for kids and adults to enjoy

Kiddies can give their feet a sensory treat with the Orbeez Ultimate Soothing Foot Spa. Turn it on and a waterful of blue, purple and white water beads will cascade over your child's feet for a soothing and relaxing feeling.

Pros: Sensory fun for both kids and adults
Cons: Battery operated, noisy

Review: "6year old daughter received this as a birthday present and she absolutely loves how soothing and relaxing it is. Also helps for sensory stimulation. It’s easy to store the Orbeez away in an airtight container. Perfect for a pamper day too."

Best for on-the-go sensory fun

If you want your child to enjoy the sensory feeling of water beads without the mess - these bean bag toys are ideal. The beads and water are contained inside a perfectly sealed bag so they can be squished, squeezed and twisted to your little one's heart's content.

Pros: Sensory fun without mess, can be played with on-the-go
Cons: Some customers have remarked that they think the price is a little high for what you get

Review: "Bought for my sensory-seeking daughter. She has every fidget toy going and she likes these a lot. Even better with the carry case as it’s big enough to add a few more fidget toys and take to school."

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