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Giant Water Beads – Ultimate Guide To This Amazing Sensory Activity

giant water bead bath

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This article was first published on 8/31/2018 and updated on 2/17/22

This Giant Water Bead Play activity is such a wonderful sensory activity. And the best part? Water beads are so simple to set up as well! Your child is going to love feeling these giant water beads and watching them roll around and play. 

You can also take this time to talk to them and show them all the different color options as well. It’s a fun way to combine learning and fun together to intrigue them and hold their attention. Have you ever played with water beads

These large beads are great for sensory play, are environmentally friendly (they are safe, nontoxic and biodegradable. You can crush them and add them to your soil after you’re done with them)! Plus, so many can fit inside of a bath or kiddie pool, making it fun even for all ages!

Buy Giant Water Beads HERE 

Watch the video in this post to see the beads up close 

giant water beads 

giant water beads

giant water beads

giant water beads

What are water beads?

Water beads are a type of non-toxic, biodegradable, spherical balls made out of sodium polyacrylate. When water beads are in the water, they expand. Water beads are best for children aged 3 years old and up. 

This post on introducing water beads will help you if you’re looking to offer sensory play for toddlers. However, they are inedible and should not be consumed.

You must do everything under adult supervision, and you need to keep an eye on your kids when they play with water beads to prevent potential choking hazards. Water beads make a fascinating sensory exploration for play when supervised!

Why are water beads so popular?

There are a few reasons. For starters, they are very versatile. Kids can use them for sensory play, which helps promote development in several areas such as cognitive skills, fine motor skills, and social-emotional skills. Water beads can also be used for learning activities, like counting or alphabet games. 

Plus, they’re just plain fun! Kids love playing with them because they can squish the beads between their fingers or stretch them out like a string of pasta and then break it into pieces.

If playing with water beads is a new concept in your household, don’t worry! It’s not a hard one to learn. In fact, there are big water beads and small water beads as well, which can really add to the overall sensory experience. 

Buy Giant Water Beads HERE 

How long do water beads last?

This can really vary, but the smaller ones can actually last for a year or more! So one simple purchase can easily bring hours upon hours of fun! 

How do you clean water beads?

This is the other reason that water beads are really great. They’re super simple and easy to clean. All you need is some warm soapy water, and that’s about it. Make certain that you dry them off entirely so that they’re perfectly cleaned and ready to use over and over again.

What are water beads made out of?

They’re actually made of a non-toxic polymer that soaks up water to make them hundreds of times bigger than their original size. 

Do water beads shrink back?

Yes, they do. While these water beads are bigger than normal, once you remove them from the water and let them dry out a bit, you’ll notice that they do shrink down in size. This can help with storage purposes for sure. 

If you like this giant water bead play activity, here are some other sensory activities you might enjoy: 

Here’s a great article on what water beads are and how you can store and play with them again. Yes, they are reusable! Just add more water to hydrate again. Water beads, also known as “orbs,” come in tiny hard balls and can grow more than 100x their size! We are familiar with small water beads but caution they can pose a choking hazard for little ones. Remember to always supervise play. 


giant water beads

giant water bead batg

giant water beads

giant water beads

giant water bead bath

Buy Giant Water Beads HERE 

Giant Water Bead Bath

Most recently we gave giant water beads a new twist by throwing them into the bathtub! This giant water bead bath was so much fun for my now preschooler. There were a lot of additional sensory elements by being in the water directly with the beads:

  • The ability to scoop water and feel the beads all over and not just in his hands
  • The realization that clear beads look invisible when submerged under water! This was a very cool finding for him and he called it “magic.” 
  • It was easy to “grow a lot of water beads” at once right in the bathtub. Please allow 24-48 hours.

Tips for giant water bead bath play:

  • Make sure to PLUG your drain before filling the tub with water. You do not want small beads to accidentally go down the drain and grow and plug your pipes! We bought this easy removable bath plug.
  • We threw in an  entire container of giant water beads (the container said it is 300 beads) 
  • We waited over 24-48 hours. They were really ready closer to 36-48 hours. 
  • Watch over your beads every 6 or so hours and add additional water if needed. It’s hard to tell exactly how much to add. Just make sure it’s filled at least halfway to the tub when the beads are first added. Then watch and add water as needed. 

What do you do with the beads after bath?

You don’t want to keep the beads submerged in the bath, they will continue to break down. When your child is done playing, use a colander to scoop out the beads and place in large bowls. 

Drain your tube but first make sure to scoop put any broken pieces. 

You can then play with the beads over several days in the bowls or put them back in the bath and repeat. Note they will break down with repeated play and start getting smaller out of water if kept in bowls.

Our giant bead play is still going on a week after! We usually play until we are sick of them and then dispose of them or break them down in the soil (make sure no animals can get to them(, although water beads are safe, nontoxic and biodegradable. 

If you leave them out to dry they will shrink back and you can rehydrate them but to be honest after so much play we just end up tossing them. 

giant water bead play

water bead bath play

water bead bath play

water bead bath play

water bead bath play

How to Grow Small Water Beads

There are a few steps to growing your water beads.

  1. Purchase your water beads online or in a florist’s floral department.
  2. Place approximately 1-2 tablespoons of water beads in a large container.
  3. Fill with water to the top of the container (about 1-2 cups). Just enough is required to cover the bottom of the sensory bin.
  4. Wait for around 6-8 hours for the water beads to absorb all of the water in the container. During this time, the water beads will grow in size.

5 Tips on how to make the best water bead creations:

  1. Before starting, decide on a creation you’d like to make. It can be something simple like a flower or star, or something more complicated like a castle or animal.
  2. Draw out your design beforehand if it helps (especially helpful for bigger projects).
  3. Make sure to use plenty of water beads – the more, the better! This will help ensure that your project doesn’t fall apart as you work on it.
  4. If using other materials and water beads (like pipe cleaners, googly eyes, etc.), make sure they are all waterproof.
  5. Once your project is complete, let it dry completely before playing with it (or storing it away). If you don’t, the water beads will dissolve, and your hard work will be ruined.

The Educational Benefits of Water Beads

There are many educational benefits to using water beads in the classroom.

Sensory Play

Water is a calming and relaxing thing for children to play with. Water beads are great for sensory bins as they can be filled in any container, large or small. Sensory bins allow children to explore their environment through touch, sight, and sound, encouraging discovery and experimentation while helping to develop problem-solving skills.

Math Skills

Water beads are also great for teaching math skills. By counting the water beads, children learn how to group and count objects. They can also learn about size and shape by comparing the different sizes of water beads.

Science Skills

Water beads can be used to teach science skills such as the water cycle. By adding food coloring to the water beads, children can learn about the different colors of water and how they are made.

Cautions of Water Beads

There are a few cautions to be aware of when using water beads. First, water beads can be a choking hazard, so they should not be used with children under the age of three. 

Do not let your child eat water beads or play with water beads unsupervised. 

Buy Giant Water Beads HERE 

10 More Kids Activities With Water Beads

1: Circle Themed Sensory Bin

Create a sensory bin with circle-themed toys and materials, such as ball pit balls, stacking donuts, and stacking cups, to serve as the centerpiece of your circle-themed celebration. If you want the sensory bin to be even more colorful, consider using giant water beads as an accent.

2: Salad Spinner and Giant Water Beads

Make a short science project out of your enormous water beads by putting them in your salad spinner! Keep an eye on the balls as they bounce and rotate. This is best completed with immature beads that are still fragile, so make sure they’re as delicate as possible when you’re done.

3: Squish Water Beads in a Pudding Bin

Combine cornstarch and shaving cream, then add your favorite colored water beads to make a pudding-textured tactile experience. Allow your child to squish the mixture and play with it until it is completely combined! If you don’t want to create a mess on your table or floor, this is an excellent indoor activity that can be performed.

4: Giant Water Beads and Water Table Sensory Play

Outside, add giant water beads to your water table for a fantastic sensory play experience. For example, you may fill your water table with various colored big water beads and then sit back and observe the kids have fun! You may also turn it into a learning game by including some tiny toy animals.

5: Color Sort with Water Beads.

Use scoopers to sort the water beads into colorful bowls based on their color. If you want to pick up and move the water beads around more readily, use tongs, tweezers, or your hands. This is an excellent task for enhancing children’s fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.

6: Giant Water Bead Whisk

Use a whisk to provide excellent fine motor fun, and have your child drive the giant water beads through it for a fun time. Do this activity near the end of their play session instead because the water bead will almost certainly be crushed, especially if it’s the giant size.

7: Giant Water Bead Rescue

Painter’s tape or masking tape will work well for this project. To keep your youngsters from touching the giant water beads and sorting them, make a web on your sensor bin or sensory table for them to avoid. At the same time, they rescue the big water beads.

8: Make a Water Bead Rainbow

Fill six glasses with various quantities of water to create a rainbow-like spectrum (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo violet). Once they’ve been set up, pour them out in the form of a rainbow.

9: Balance Water Beads on Cups

For a fine motor exercise, have your child balance the enormous water beads on top of stacking cups for a tiny motor activity to develop fine motor skills. If you’re using stackable cups, you may also have your kid color sort the beads on them if they’re in distinct hues.

10: Giant Water Bead Poke

Your kids may poke the giant water beads with toothpicks to make holes in them for motor activity. If you want it to be even more entertaining, add some tiny toy animals and use the toothpicks as a fishing pole to catch them. Hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills are greatly enhanced by this game.

What are alternatives to water beads for kids?

A few alternatives to water beads can provide just as much fun for kids. One is kinetic sand, made of tiny grains that stick together when wet. This type of sand is perfect for making Sand Castles and other structures since it won’t crumble as normal sand does.

Another popular option is foam balls. These colorful spheres are soft and squishy, making them perfect for indoor or outdoor playtime. Plus, they’re easy to clean up – simply rinse them off with water when you’re done!

Finally, some parents may prefer traditional pool toys instead of giant water beads. Popular options include diving rings, floating animals, and inflatable rafts and boats. No matter what alternative you choose, your kids are sure to have a blast playing with these fun toys!


How big can a water bead get?

The water beads can grow very large. When it’s been placed underwater, it will expand over 200 times its size. This makes for an exhilarating show for any kid watching them grow!

First, their size is tiny, less than a penny size ball to giant 1.5-2″ balls! First, place them in a large tub or bathtub as they will absorb a LOT of water. Then, follow the manufacturer’s instructions to properly hydrate. 

They will first look funky and sort of like they are growing “brains” as they take in water, but closer to the 36-48-hour mark, they will smooth out and turn shiny and translucent and so jiggly and fun to play with. 

How much water do giant water beads need?

We have found that these absorb a lot of water so the safest bet is to “grow them” in your bathtub first. Give them at least half a tub full of water and keep watching over several hours and add more water as needed until they grow full size. Make sure to plug your drain first as you don’t want any small beads (at their initial size) to go down and clog your pipes. 

First, their size is tiny, less than a penny size ball to giant 1.5-2″ balls! After you place them in a large tub or bathtub they will absorb a LOT of water. Then, follow the manufacturer’s instructions to properly hydrate. 

They will first look funky and sort of like they are growing “brains” as they take in water, but closer to the 36-48-hour mark, they will smooth out and turn shiny and translucent and so jiggly and fun to play with. 

Are giant water beads safe for kids to eat?

No, the Giant Water Beads should not be eaten as they are not digestible. However, suppose someone accidentally gets into their mouth. In that case, there’s no need to panic – they will simply pass through your child’s system.

Giant Water Bead Todder Play 

Although the standard manufacturer recommendation is to play with water beads at ages 3+ I personally have tried Giant Water Beads when my kids were toddlers for initial sensory play. I used only the giant ones as my child wasn’t able to grasp them (hence not able to place in the mouth).  For an easy sensory play setup, try putting the toddler in a laundry basket with the water beads inside or in a shallow tub (always supervised, of course). 

Since my child at the time did not have the grasping strength to pick up the balls, I did not feel a choking hazard presented. As with all kid’s activities, I was there to 100% supervise. However, if you have very mouthy toddlers, you can make sensory bags to make them safer. Place the giant water beads in zipper bags and seal shut to secure them with duct tape. And of course, as with any play with young ones, always supervise and never leave your child alone. My kids loved playing with the multi-colored beads. 

Remember this was my own personal choice to experiment at a younger age. Water beads are generally recommended for ages over 3 to prevent choking hazards. You should especially watch out for the smaller beads. But again always supervise play. 


Water beads are a great toy for kids of all ages. They have the added bonus of sensory, color learning and fine motor play. They are also a calming and gentle play activity. 

They are also relatively cheap and easy to clean them up even when they break. You can also recycle them by drying them and hydrating them back to their full size. 

We hope our list has given you some ideas on how water beads can be used for fun playtime with your kids!

Buy Giant Water Beads HERE 


Agnes Hsu is a mom of three and has been inspiring parents and kids to get creative with easy activities and family friendly recipes for over 10 years. She shares her love for creative play and kids food to her 2MM+ followers online. Agnes' commitment to playful learning and kindness has not only raised funds for charity but also earned features in prestigious nationwide publications.