Saturday, April 13, 2013

Sensory Play - Water Beads

With two boys at home, we always have our hands full trying to keep them occupied. We try and make the boys' at-home time as an enriching and fun as possible. And, thanks to PINTEREST, I have found some insanely awesome activities to do. Most of these activities are low to no-cost, too! Best of all, more often than not, I have the items/products already at home. 

So, what is sensory play? explained it well, so I'm just going to tell you what they said:

Sensory play includes any activity that stimulates your young child’s senses: touch, smell, taste, sight and hearing. Sensory activities and sensory tables facilitate exploration and naturally encourage children to use scientific processes while they play, create, investigate and explore. Spending time stimulating their senses helps children develop cognitively, linguistically, socially and emotionally, physically and creatively.  

Pretty important stuff to work on, yeah? Well, play is a child's job and we take that pretty serious in this part of the woods!

I'm no expert in the child development sphere, but I AM an expert at being my boys' mommy and can bring the fun to the yard like no one's business. So, please don't get discouraged by the fancy name. Sensory Play can really be anything you want it to be and anyone can do it. We try to incorporate sensory activities throughout our day, in various ways and try to encourage our kids to do so in an independent and explorative manner. You can also participate and engage with your child in fun and meaningful ways through these activities. 

So, with that, I'd like to share with you a series of posts dedicated to, yes, sensory play!

One of our favorite (and EASY) sensory activities is Water Beads

I buy my water beads at Walmart, in the floral section. I have also found them at JoAnn's Fabrics. I normally get a couple of different colors. Most of time, I like to mix the colors for an activity, but some times I will use it in a color specific themed activity. The ones I find at Walmart are non-toxic and biodegradable. When they are NOT hydrated, they are tiny, tiny, TINY. So, fair warning to keep them out of reach of your little ones. They are about the size of sesame seeds (i.e. a bitch to clean up if they get spilled on your carpet).

I really do prefer the multi-color packs from JoAnn's Fabrics. They are really pretty and the colors don't bleed together. But, JoAnn's Fabrics is not the closest to my house, but ol' one stop supershop Walmart is. So, most of the time, out of convenience, that's what I buy. The ones from Walmart tend to all turn a shade of reddish-pink over the week. They don't seem to stain anything, and they do their job! But, one great thing about the Walmart ones are that they seem more DURABLE and less squishable or mashable (sorry for using such scientific terms, haha!).


The way that I hydrate and use Water Beads is by putting them in a plastic shoe box. I pour in the equivalent to about half of a packet of water beads, add water and wait for them to hydrate. I normally add more water as it is absorbed, until they fully hydrate. When not in use, I store them in the fridge.

The way we most often use the Water Beads is to put them in an under the bed plastic storage box. I place the box on the floor, on top of a beach towel or small rug (mainly to keep the plastic bin from sliding everywhere). I put all sorts of different cups, spoons, scoops and tongs for their use. That's about it. I try and provide very little prompting, but I DO provide a lot of commentary about what I see and encourage them to explore. 

Brady transferring beads to a cup with a scoop (Target $1 Spot)

I notice that Brady really loves the way the cold beads feel. He usually starts by submerging his arms up to his elbows. Some times, he even begins by putting his feet in! He likes to scoop and drop them one by one back into the bin! If we are working on a particularly frustrating activity for Brady, I will let him start with the water beads first. This usually calms him enough to sit through and attempt a frustrating task. A lot of the time, we also use it as a reward for working so hard! He loves it so much that he will work for the Water Bead time!

Filling up a bowl (Target $1 Spot) with his hands

I notice that Wes is a little more apprehensive about Water Beads at first. He usually picks up a couple. He really likes to scoop and transfer the beads. Wes is not a HUGE fan of messy play but we are taking baby steps to get him really into it. Normally, for him, we put a bunch of small construction vehicles in the bin. Because he loves tractors and dump trucks, this usually prompts him to start with something familiar - scooping and dumping with the vehicles. By the end of the activity, Wes is playing with the beads and it's hard to tear him away.

Both boys have a blast with this activity. It's a go to activity when I'm wracking my brain on how to keep them busy. 

All of the "tools" can be found at places like Dollar Tree or Target  for about $1!

One caution - if you have little ones that like to put things in their mouth still, keep a watchful eye on them. Water Beads are about the size of a marble and while they are mushy, they can still pose a choking hazard. Plus, who wants their kids pooping water beads?

I normally replace the beads once a week, simply because their little slimy hands are all up in the bins and I CANNOT imagine what is growing in those bins at the end of the week! Rather than throwing the beads in the trash, I usually place them in my potted plants. They help keep the plants nice and moist and add a pop of color! After all, water beads are originally intended for plants!

I hope you give Water Beads a try! I think they are a fun activity that you can easily incorporate into your day! 

What are some of your go-to activities? 

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