Water beads sensory play provides a unique experience for young children. Made from a highly absorbent polymer, water beads are an amazing splash-free water play medium. They offer an interesting texture for children to run their fingers through. They make the perfect no-splash classroom pond for students to explore!
Supplies Needed for Water Beads Sensory Play Pond
- water beads – it took only 12 ounces of water beads (1 jar)
- small wading pool
- 5 gallons of water
- rubber ducks
- fishing rods
- slotted spoons, colanders, and other fun kitchen supplies from the dollar store
One of the most amazing things about water beads is how they absorb water. It only takes twelve ounces of lightweight beads to absorb 5 gallons of water! This small amount fills a wading pool, so it doesn’t break the bank to provide an astounding amount of sensory material.
Here’s the Perfect Circle Time Unit for this Activity!
Pond Life Preschool Unit for Circle Time$10.00
Explore POND LIFE with this complete unit that includes daily lesson plans, activities, and ideas that you need to teach preschool and Pre-K students about the pond. Everything is written out and planned to make your job easier!
- 10 circle time lessons
- 10 math, literacy, & fine motor centers
- Book Recommendations
It also creates a fascinating science lesson!
Begin by showing the students the small jar of water beads. Ask them to hypothesize if this is enough to fill the wading pool. Dump them in and let the students touch the beads.
Just Add Water
Add the water and encourage the students to check periodically. It doesn’t take long for the water beads to start growing!
In just 24 hours, the pool is full of bouncy, squishy water beads and no water to splash!
Next, Add Ducks (And a few other fun things, too)!
By the next morning, the water beads sensory play area is ready for little hands to explore! A few towels around the wading pool can help control some of the mess. While the beads are no longer submerged in water, they are still wet and slippery.
It can be a pond with rubber ducks, fishing poles with magnetic fish, and buckets. Foam lily pads would be a fun addition as well. For even more fun, add slotted spoons, calendars, and small bowls so that students experience dumping and filling with different-sized items. Turn it into an ocean by adding plastic seashells and toy boats. Different colors of water beads are available to make this center fit any theme!
What About the Mess?
The beads bounce and roll around. Yes, the students squish and smash them into pulp. But the fun and learning outweigh the mess, so it’s 100% worth it!
When it is time to dispose of the water beads, there are several different environmentally-friendly ways to clean up. Whatever you do, do NOT flush them down the drain or toilet!
A Note About Using Water Beads Sensory Play
Water beads should only be used with older, mature classes. Students should not have a history of mouthing the sensory materials. Even so, students need to be closely supervised! Do not use these with younger kids or if you have students who put non-food items in their mouths. While the beads are non-toxic, they present problems when ingested or placed in noses or ears.
Calm Down Bottles
There are alternative ways to enjoy water beads with younger children. Calm-Down bottles are beautiful and keep the beads safely contained. The weight and motion of the beads can help a student receive sensory input without the fear of the beads ending up where they shouldn’t. As an additional benefit, the calm down bottles look amazing on a light table! Read more about them here!
Squishy Light Table Bags
Putting the water beads in sturdy zip-top bags is another excellent alternative for younger students. Read more about the process here!
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