Water Beads for Sensory Play - Greater Austin Moms

Water Beads are excellent for sensory play and a favorite for beating boredom in our house. Sensory play is exactly what it sounds like- play that engages the senses- and has numerous developmental and calming benefits. We’ve found playing with water beads to be a very calming sensory activity and I even find myself submerging a hand in them as I walk by when we’ve made a batch- which I’ll show you is SO easy!  

They start off as the tiniest little hard beads. The amount in my hand is much more than you would ever use at once. 

Just one teaspoon! 

Then add 3 cups of water. You’ll want to use a large container or bowl. My big kids normally mix these up themselves in large plastic containers with lids. 

So far we’ve made about 10 batches from this small bag and we’ve had countless hours of fun. 

The water beads take between 6-10 hours to fully expand. This is after approximately an hour. My kids love checking on them regularly to see the progress. 

Ready for play! Below are some ideas for how you can begin using water beads for sensory play at your house: 

  1. Sort by color using muffin tins 
  2. Fill a toddler water play table with them. Use shovels, cups, funnels and other kitchen utensils to manipulate the water beads. 
  3. Hide small toys and have your child submerge their hands to find them. Tell them how many they need to find to tie in numbers! 
  4. Use them in a calming jar/bottle (a few water beads in a solution of water and oil). Shake the jar and watch the beads, along with glitter, sequins and other objects of your choice spin around and settle at the bottom. 
  5. Fill a balloon with 1/3 c of water and an 1/4 tsp of water beads. Tie it off and watch it expand! Enjoy squishing the ballon like a stress ball later. 
  6. Put already expanded water beads into a balloon, using a funnel, and then blow it up. Your kids will enjoy the sound it makes when they shake it up! TeachingMama says it sounds like popcorn! 
  7. Add KidSafe essential oils to engage the sense of smell 
  8. “Marble” Painting- Line a cookie sheet with paper, add a few squirts of washable paint, then roll your water beads all over the page to create an original work of art! 
  9. When your children have spent a few days or a week playing with the same batch (you can add water when they begin to dry out, but drain surplus water when they stop expanding)- let them smash the water beads using forks, potato mashers, plastic knives or play dough toys. My daughter did this yesterday and said she was “making pies.” 
  10. Make an obstacle course for your beads using paper towel rolls, funnels, blocks, hot wheels tracks and any other household objects and toys your kids get creative with! I find its better when I try not to guide this creative play. 



I only have experience with this brand- MarvelBeads from Amazon, but you can get creative with boba tea pearls and some natural food coloring and have a very similar experience without fretting about your littles ingesting a water bead! Be aware that these are a choking hazard for littles, so make sure your children never play with them unattended. 


Post a comment to tell me about your fun with water beads! Subscribe to get summer fun ideas delivered to your inbox in our monthly newsletter. 

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. I earn from qualifying purchases. Rest assured, your price remains the same. Thanks for supporting South Austin Moms! 

Join The Greater Austin Moms Community

Stay up-to-date with what is happening in-and-around Greater Austin, TX with local events, community highlights, and exclusive deals.