Water Bead Activities for Sensory & Water Play

Best Activities to Use with Water Beads

Over the last few months, there is one material that I have used again and again. That is water beads! It has become my go-to activity for my kids when I need some time to get something done. These beads are simple, easy to use, and endlessly versatile for endless hours of play. Below are our favorite water bead activities.

Water Bead Activity using Alphabet Practice & ABC Bubbles

These Float & Find Alphabet bubbles came from Lakeshore Learning. A few years ago, I bought them, and somehow, they have weathered the use of toddlers all that time.

For this activity, I added fully-sized water beads into one container with all 26 alphabet bubbles. Then in the other bin, I added water to fill it about halfway to the top. I gave my kids scoops, containers, sifters, and tongs for this activity.

My kids then tried moving all the ABCs from one bin to the other. I also would call out letters, and they would try and find them. For sound recognition, I called out a word or said the letter’s sound and had my little ones try and match the sound they heard.

The less extra water that I added the easier it was to hid the ABC bubbles into the water beads.

Materials Needed for ABC Bubble Fun:

Water Bead Activity Learning Capacity

This activity was pure joy for my son! I gave my kids ALL the measuring cups we own in one bin. Then on the other side of the FLISAT IKEA table, I filled the bin with water and full-sized water beads.

We counted how many scoops different sized containers needed to fill up to capacity. The giggling that resulted was infectious. Such a simple activity, and yet they did this for at least one hour without stopping.

Materials Needed for Capacity Activity:

Measurement & Time Practice Activities with Water Beads

When we first got our water beads, we also got magnifying glasses that day from a park, so my kids instantly started observing the dots, and it became a natural progression to want to measure the changing sizes. We did this a few different ways over the weeks. Here are our favorite ways to measure.

  • Time interval check of the size of each beads. Every five minutes for thirty minutes, we took out one water bead and placed it in a line on the counter. My kids used magnifying glasses to observe and a ruler to track the changes. 
  • Using a balance scale, the kids measured how water beads weighed compared to their measuring tools.
  • To measure how many beads fit in each size spoon, my children would pour different beads into each one. They also did this while counting the amount of dots that fit in each scoop. 
  • Try transferring from larger size cups into smaller cups to watch the overflow of capacity. 

Materials for Measuring & Time Activities Include:

Counting With Water Beads

This effortless activity was a hit with my daughter that has fallen in love with counting lately. My kids would reach their hands into the bucket of water beads, and then we would start counting them. Sometimes we would transfer the counted beads into another container or a small bowl. We were also sorting by color at the same time. This play idea helped to count by five practice since our paint tray would only fit five water beads per section.

This rainbow pop it fidget toy was been used for many different sensory activities since we bought it. It fit each water bead perfectly.

Materials for Counting with Water Beads Include:

  • Full sized water beads
  • Cups or containers for counted beads
  • Pop It Fidget Toy

Sorting by Color Using Water Beads

Mini paint trays were used for color sorting and counting play.

We used paint containers and paint trays to sort by color of water beads. Another good sorting tool would be muffin trays.

My kids would scoop up beads and then start sifting colors into their separate containers. This also was my simple way of sorting out the broken beads that didn’t survive the squashing of my toddlers hands. We will try using the larger water beads next to see they withstand all the sweet hands squishing during all our water bead activities.

Size Comparison Activity with Water Beads

This picture was taken after about 30 minutes of watching the beads grow.

We compared different sizes of the water beads as well as different sizes of capacity of containers with this activity.

I would set up this activity with my kids help. I would have two large bins filled half way with water. Then I would let each child scoop 1 tsp of water beads into the two containers. This way they each had an equal amount to observe. My kids would play with the beads as they grew. After about five minutes I would have them take one bead out and we would compare how much the colorful sphere had grown in that time. We continued this progress of size check until they were done playing.

When all the beads were fully sized, then we would scoops the beads in measuring cups and transfer from one container to the next watching the beads overflow or need more to be added to reach capacity of the cup.

Materials Needed for Size Comparison Include;

  • Dry water beads 1 tsp per child
  • Water
  • 1 large container per child
  • Measuring cups and spoons

Foam Paint Water Play with Water Beads

My kids LOVED this activity! They played for hours, went inside for a snack, and went back outside to play more. It took me two minutes to set up and clean up included help from the kids, so it was just as easy. I highly recommend Foam Sensory Paint from Lakeshore Learning. It was a splurge for me when we got it. I debated, didn’t buy it, then my husband threw it in the cart, and I will be buying more soon; it’s that good. I’m not affiliated with Lakeshore, just a massive fan of this product! Initially, the play started with measuring cups and scoops and Monkey Noodles. My kids ended up adding Float & Find Alphabet bubbles also from Lakeshore Learning into the buckets while they played. 

Water Bead Activities for Science Play Ideas

Back in 2020 we started a learning journal, we were great about using it every day. And then well, the world changed and we forgot about the journal until recently.

Now that it is sunny 2021, that journal is finally getting used again! For this activity I had my daughter draw her observations during the time interval activity and I would take notes while she described what she observed. Then we would discuss what she thought would happen when we left the water beads out in the no sun overnight. We tried this experiment a few times in different containers. But, it rained every time we tried this experiment. Drying the beads outside finally worked now that we have had a week without any rain recently.

The kids used the scoops, silicone cups, and measuring cups the most with water play with water beads. Below are some pictures of various materials we use most often. Links for the products are below.

Top rated water beads on Amazon include

Below are affiliated links, I earn from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate.

Other Products We Love For Water Bead Play

Reusing & Clean Up Tips for Water Beads

I use a colander from the kitchen with water and soap to clean our water beads. My kids help me with this task happily. We also do this outside using the same method.

For reusing the water beads, we leave them out for a few days outside in a tray. Once they are small again, we clean them off and play again. Using a smaller strainer helps with finding the broken beads before playing again.

Thank you for visiting Live Learn Literacy! For more resources please see more posts below.

Thank you so much for reading about our water bead sensory play ideas. Since we play with this material daily, l’ll have more activities to try out soon and update the page with all our new favorites!

Here are some of our favorite sensory activities that we use for at home learning and just for fun.

Leave a Reply