Sizing Up Water Beads

Water beads…perfect for sensory play and SO MUCH MORE!  You’ve probably seen children gleefully running their hands through them in classroom water tables (I know I love to). Consider this though, using water beads as a tabletop activity for exploring absorption, making predictions, and testing and retesting hypotheses. A few simple and inexpesive supplies is all you need!


What You’ll Need:

1. Water Beads | I love Marvelbeads from Amazon. (They’re non-toxic.)

2. 3 ml Pipettes | I always have a big bag of these in the house.  Great for science experiments and art projects! I order my Pipettes from Amazon.

3. Water

4. Teaspoon

5. Containers | A variety of sizes for transferring water and beads will come in handy.

6. Journal |  The journal pictured is from Riffle Paper Co. 

What To Do:

Of course, these are just suggestions.  There are a million different directions you can go with water beads!  I like to set all of my supplies out on my children’s tabletop (imagine a little white wooden table with two white wooden chairs).  We talk about all of the different supplies, what they might be, and what they could be used for.  Together we come up with a plan of action (some guidance might be needed here).  I love to watch my children’s eyes light up when something unexpected happens.  “Where did the water go?”…a perfect segue into absorption! From here, I let my children lead the way.  They decided how much water to add and whether or not we should size up to a bigger container. I help my children record their thinking (in our case, drawing and scribing) and talk to them about making, testing, and changing predictions.  Once the beads have reached a considerable size, and focus is starting to wear off, I introduce mini dump trucks and diggers into the equation…let the free-for-all begin…


1 Tsp of dry Marvelbeads will eventually fill a large pasta bowl! Unless you’re filling a water table, your bag of water beads will last for months!

Keep those dry beads contained.  If you try putting them on a flat surface (you know, for a photo) they’ll start rolling all over the place.

The absorption process is nice and slow, so there’s lots of time for children to make observations, change their predictions, search for larger containers, and record their discoveries.

A Note on Journals:

Don’t overlook journaling! It’s a wonderful way for children to plan and reflect on their learning and play.  Younger children can journal by drawing pictures and asking adults/older children to scribe for them.  Older children will enjoy looking though their journal and reflecting on all they’ve explored.  When possible, give children the opportunity to choose their own notebook.  I know I’m more inclined to record my thoughts in a journal I’ve picked out myself!




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