Water beads are a new thing for us, and they made their first appearance at our house for the Little People’s birthday party. We had blue, green and clear water beads and added sea creatures and scallop shells (from my friendly local fishmonger), as the party’s theme was Noah’s Ark.
The beads come in little packets and are really tiny. They are made of polymers and are a bit like the filling in disposable nappies – they absorb liquids and expand as they do so. I used three packets for this box, and put them in a washing up bowl full of water. I was a bit concerned at first as, after a couple of hours, the beads had grown but were very uneven in shape – each one looked like a little cluster of frog’s eggs! After a bit longer though, they took on a lovely spherical shape. After 6 hours, I took the beads out of the water and transferred them to a cat litter tray (a clean one!), ready for the party.
They were a big hit at the party, all the children were fascinated, and they each took some packets of water beads home as a party favour.
I stored the beads in a lidded plastic box and they have retained their shape, so this week we got them out to explore again. I put the sea creatures in again but the children were far more interested in exploring the beads, and pouring them from their hands. Onto the floor… I had broken my own golden rule that, as often as possible, young children need chance to explore a new material on it’s own before adding extra paraphenalia! So I gave them some cups and bowls and they had a wonderful time filling and emptying, and playing with the beads. Little Man was desperate to tip them all on the floor, but I managed to persuade him that we didn’t want the cat to get them and, with lots of praise for careful pouring, he soon became really engaged in pouring from one container to another.
We had lots of different language too – lots of filling and emptying words, and Little Man showed me a cup of water beads and said “lots of water beads in there!” That little sentence told me so much – not only that at just 2 years and 1 week old he can put together a 6 word statement, but also that he is starting to use language related to concepts of quantity and positional language!
The water beads are great to play with – lots of the bonuses of playing with water (but with less mess) and a fantastic new sensory experience too. It’s a really good idea to engage different senses like this as it helps to ‘switch on’ different parts of the brain. I’ve got some more ideas for water beads which I’m eager to try out, so watch this space!
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