I’m always on the lookout for fun, educational, at home activities to do on rainy days. I’ve seen a few parenting blogs about water bead activities. They look great for fine motor skills and as a sensory activity. You do need to keep a close eye on your kids for choking hazards when participating in this kid of activity. That is the last thing any parent would want if your kids are one and three, like mine.
Water beads are dry gel beads of different colours that absorb water and become a great sensory activity for kids. It’s very simple. You add the beads into a cup of water. Then leave them soaking for 6 hours. After the timer is up it’s time to play.
I was so happy when I found an alternative for water beads made from Chia seeds and a bit of food colouring. You can also use basil seeds instead if you have them handy. All natural, healthy, cheap and most importantly for me, they are not a choking hazard. So last week when we were all struck down by a feverish plague, I decided it was the perfect time to try them out to distract the kids.
We started with 6 bowls of filtered water (about a cup of water in each) and added 5-10 drops of food colouring per bowl to get a nice deep colour. Then we poured 2 tablespoons of chia seeds in them for about 6 hours to let them absorb. All the prep work was easy for a pre-schooler to set up, so it was a great activity to practice listening and following instructions. However distracting a 3 year old from colourful bowls for 6 hours is hard. Next time I think I will leave them overnight, to avoid having to repeat “they’re not ready yet” 282 times throughout the day.
After 6 hours all the water was soaked up and the seeds had a very interesting texture. Each held their colour well too. I think I actually prefer these smaller seeds to traditional water beads because they give you the option of mixing colours more easily. Unlike larger water seeds that can get a bit more goopy, but what little kid doesn’t like playing with colourful goop?
We laid out a few trays and I let the kids get dirty and play around. My big kid and I had discussions about water absorption, seeds, plants growing, and colour mixing, all while the little one happily cooed and giggled messily away.
We began making water bead rainbows, and then went on to mix every colour combination we could think of. The seeds held their colour quite well, and somehow none of it (to my knowledge at least) was eaten (though if it was it would have been a nice vitamin boost).
Although this was a great activity that the kids thoroughly enjoyed, it did get a bit messy. Next time we experiment with water beads I think I will plop my kids and the beads all together in the tub for a nice quick and easy clean up.
If you come across a day when you can’t go outside, try it! I’ve also seen a few posts with moms using non-toxic highlighter ink to make glow in the dark water beads. This is definitely on my list of future kid experiments.