Water beads first got popular as a kids' toy when I was student teaching. The kids in my class would carry them in little containers, calling them their babies! I didn't even realize till much later that they were meant to be for flower arrangements. These teensy tiny little balls grow through osmosis in just a few hours. If you need some click the picture below for my favorite water beads on Amazon Prime.
I feel really safe with these beads since they've passed kids safety testing. You get 55,000 beads for under $10! This is an affiliate link, so I may receive commission if you purchase.
Making Predictions with water beads:
When you first bring out the water beads, they're unbelievably tiny. We inspected them and made observations: what colors they were, their size, shape, and texture.
Next we put them in a container and added two cups of water (for one tablespoon of waters beads). I asked the girls what they thought might happen and that a guess like this is called a "hypothesis" in science.
Big Sis is familiar had just watched a Doc McStuffins episode about a toy that grows when put in the water, so she predicted it would grow! In just over an hour the tiny balls were looking larger, like splotchy orbs in the water. After naptime, the water beads were about 20 times the size, at least, and ready for some sensory play.
STEM Water Beads in a Funnel Activity:
We ventured outside because these water beads are bouncy and so delightful to Lil Sis that I knew there was a chance of getting them everywhere. Just to be clear, make sure you are okay with these rolling around. If your toddler is prone to putting things in their mouth, this is probably not the best toy for them. Lil Sis (almost 2) is not inclined to put random things in her mouth, but I'm always cautious and watch her with small toys.
I cut a hole in an Amazon box and put the funnel in the top. Under the funnel, I put a taller clear container for the water beads to drop into. I gave each kid a scooper and a straw and asked them what the best way to get the balls into the container would be. Another idea would be to put multiple funnels in one larger box.
With Lil Sis, she was laughably confused about where the "ballies" were going until I turned the box around and she could see them shooting through the funnel and down into the containers. Since some had grown rather large for the funnel opening, I gave the kiddos reusable straws to use for pushing the balls down.
Keeping my almost 2 year old busy is quite a feat and we sat doing this for around 40 min! The box added an element of excitement, more so than just dumping the water beads into the funnel if it had been put into the container. Because you could turn it around and not what was happening inside the box, she kept inspecting it from all angles to make sure the objects went where they were supposed to. Object permanence lesson right here.
Big Sis was really motivated to fill her container to the top. She also loved the force the straw created as it pushed the water beads through.
I love open ended play and exploration, because each time can be different. We will definitely be playing with these again.