Fine Motor Water Bead Activities

Purple water beads on a table. Text reads water bead activities

We love water bead activities and just like our water bead sensory bin, the activities in this blog post are fun ways to target fine motor skills through play. You’ll also find a list of fun water bead ideas to support sensory play and multisensory learning.

water bead activities

Have you ever experienced the unique fun and sensory experience that water beads provide? From creating colorful creations with your hands to exploring a squishy, mesmerizing texture between your fingers – there are plenty of incredible ways to explore the wonderful world of water beads. Let’s dive right in and explore some of the exciting possibilities of this activity!

What are Water Beads

Have you heard of water beads? Traditionally used as a vase filler, over the years, these expandable beads have been introduced as a sensory play medium.

Water beads, also known as non-edible beads, are composed of a water-absorbing polymer mixture. This polymer is comprised of minute particles that adhere to one another, forming elongated chains, which holds the form of the waterbead.

Dry water beads have the capacity to absorb water, expanding and filling up like a sponge when immersed in water. This is the form that is used in sensory play activities.

Benefits of Waterbead Activities

Water bead activities have become increasingly popular with children and adults alike as these activities offer a host of benefits. Not only are water bead activities fun and engaging, but they also help build physical and mental skills.

One of the best things about waterbead activities is that they help to develop hand-eye coordination. Children can use their hands to manipulate the beads into different shapes and patterns that require a certain amount of skill and concentration. This helps strengthen their motor skills, as well as their ability to think spatially and problem solve.

Waterbead activities also encourage creative thinking. When playing with the beads, children are encouraged to come up with new ways to use the beads and create unique designs. This helps to build their imagination and increase their confidence in their own creative abilities.

Finally, water bead activities are a great way to teach children about the properties of water. By playing with the beads, children learn about the properties of water, such as viscosity and surface tension. In addition, they can explore the different effects that different temperatures and amounts of pressure can have on the beads.

Before we get to our water bead activity below, think of all of the ideas you can do with water beads. These are activities to support several aspects of development:

  • Fine motor skills– pincer grasp, separation of the sides of the hand, thumb opposition
  • Eye-hand coordination
  • Tactile sensory exploration
  • Benefits of playing with a sensory bin: self-confidence, problem solving, creativity, etc.
  • Learning opportunities

Beside the benefits of using this sensory material, water beads should be used with caution. They should only be used under the supervision of an adult and never with children who may put the water beads into their mouth.

Water Bead Activities

There are SO many creative ideas for using waterbeads! Some of our favorite fun ways to use water beads include:

  1. Sensory play: Let your hands sink into a container filled with water beads and enjoy the unique tactile sensation.
  2. Water bead sensory bin: Create a large sensory bin filled with water beads and let children explore and play. After using them, they can be used for other sensory bins like in this purple sensory bin.
  3. Make water bead shapes: Use the beads to form different shapes such as squares, circles, and triangles. Once the shape is complete, ask your children to draw the shape on a piece of paper. This activity is great for developing hand-eye coordination and spatial awareness.
  4. Color mixing: Use water beads of different colors and mix them together to create new color combinations.
  5. Water bead patterns: Give your children a handful of beads in different colors and ask them to arrange them in an interesting pattern. This activity encourages creativity and problem solving.
  6. Sorting and counting: Sort water beads by color, size, or shape. Practice counting and organizing them into different groups. This activity is great for encouraging your children to think critically about the properties of the beads.
  7. Water bead art: Glue water beads onto a canvas or paper to create unique textured art pieces.
  8. Water bead ice: Freeze water beads in ice cube trays to create colorful, sensory ice cubes for water play.
  9. Make a sensory mat- Fill a gallon sized baggie with water beads. Seal the edge and tape. Then tape to the floor or table surface to create a water bead sensory mat.
  10. Water bead balloons: Fill balloons with water beads and then inflate them. Squishing and playing with these squishy balloons is lots of fun.
  11. Water bead sensory bags: Fill resealable plastic bags with water beads and a little bit of water, then seal them tightly. Children can squeeze, squish, and explore the beads through the bag.
  12. Water bead sensory bottles: Fill empty water bottles with water beads and water to create calming sensory bottles. Add glitter or other small objects for added visual interest.
  13. Water bead bath: Add water beads to a bathtub filled with warm water for a unique sensory bath experience.
  14. Fill a clear plastic container to make a water bead sensory box. Seal the edges and shake!
  15. Water bead shooters: Use plastic syringes or turkey basters to shoot water beads across a table or into targets.
  16. Water bead slime: Mix water beads into homemade slime or play dough to create a textured and colorful sensory experience.
  17. Water bead excavation: Freeze water beads in a block of ice and let children excavate them using warm water or tools like spoons and small hammers.
  18. Water bead planters: Fill small pots or vases with water beads and place small plants or flowers in them. The beads will help keep the plants hydrated.
  19. Water bead sensory letters or numbers: Glue water beads onto large foam letters or numbers to create a tactile learning experience.
  20. Water bead stress balls: Fill balloons with water beads and tie them off tightly. Squeeze and squish the stress balls to relieve stress and promote relaxation.
  21. Water bead marbles: Use water beads as a substitute for traditional marbles in games or marble runs.
  22. Water bead sensory jars: Fill clear jars or bottles with water beads of different colors and sizes. Children can shake, tilt, and observe the beads as they move and settle.
  23. Water bead target practice: Set up targets or containers and try to toss or shoot water beads into them, testing your aim and coordination.

Remember to always supervise children during water bead play and ensure they do not put them in their mouths, as they can be a choking hazard.

I’ve seen Water Bead play all over Pinterest and the web. We had to try them! They are the beads you see in vases with flower arrangements and you can find them in the floral aisle of Walmart. I’ve even heard that  Dollar Tree carries them. They are non-toxic and stay squishy long enough for fun sensory play once they are hydrated when out in the open air. If covered with a lid, they won’t dehydrate and will stay hydrated for much longer.

how to hydrate water beads

Hydrating water beads is easy to do (and fun for little hands). It’s a great motor skills activity in and of itself.
1. Pour the packet of water beads into a large container. Select a container that has a lid so you can keep your water beads hydrated for some time.
2. Add water…This is a great activity for little ones to work on scooping and pouring as a gross motor and coordination activity.

3. Allow the water beads to sit in the water for a few hours. You will see them start to expand as they soak up the water. 

4. Drain the water beads into a colander to remove the excess water. Or, if there is just a small amount of water still in the container, you can keep the water in the bin for added sensory input.

5. Now it’s time to play!


Drain the water in a colander and PLAY!

We left them over night but they hydrate in about 6 hours.
We LOOOOOVED playing with these things! We had them sitting in this bin on the counter the other day and every time she caught a glimpse, she got all excited and wanted to play.
Use a flashlight and make them shine.
Dinosaurs MAY have been caught stomping, kicking, eating, and fighting the water beads…
So squishy on bare toes! Our neighbor came over with her little guy to get in on the fun.

This was so fun and water beads are so cool to play with. The imagination really emerged  when dinosaurs came onto the table. We have the water beads in a bin with a lid now. What to do with them next….hmmmm… 🙂

Working on fine motor skills, visual perception, visual motor skills, sensory tolerance, handwriting, or scissor skills? Our Fine Motor Kits cover all of these areas and more.

Check out the seasonal Fine Motor Kits that kids love:

Or, grab one of our themed Fine Motor Kits to target skills with fun themes:

Want access to all of these kits…and more being added each month? Join The OT Toolbox Member’s Club!

Growing Memories

The Dirt will wash away, but the Memories will last!
We spend a TON of time outside.  Lately, we’ve been playing a lot in our “mud pit” as Little Guy calls this part of our yard. We pull out the shovels, construction vehicles, and add in all kinds of extra things. 
It is so fun to see them explore and learn through sensory play. Kids learn not only about their senses, but learn about their world, all through sensory exploration. Getting messy adds great tactile integration.
We started with a little section of the yard with hard dirt and rocks and added some left over potting soil from planting earlier this year. The big kids took turns scooping dirt and adding acorns.

 Nothing says “summer” like bare toes in the dirt…
…School may be back in session, but we are still enjoying summer while this warm weather lasts 🙂

A little pattern learning with rocks and acorns…
My poor parsley plant needs a little love! It didn’t work out indoors, so it can’t hurt to try outside. We watered it and got some great mud to scoop…more sensory processing!

Playing on hands and knees with an extended wrist and tripod grasp to move those little rocks and trucks. All are important precursors to handwriting.
Little Guy said “Mom, this is my favorite thing ever to do”! How cool is it to hear that from such a simple play activity?!!?
An 11 month old can explore seashells. As always, keep close supervision to be sure none go in the mouth. Baby Girl played for a looong time with the seashells!

 We finished with some sorting play with the big kids. Baby Girl loves putting things into containers and taking them back out. This is such a great tool for language learning! 

Sorting, Patterns, Exploring, Language, Fine Motor work, Pre-Handwriting, Planting, Sensory Exploration…so many cool accomplishments today!
Go outside and play in the dirt!

Pizza Dip

Delicious Pizza Dip
I made this dip for a Labor Day party and it was AMAZING!  I will be adding this to my recipe book and making it again. It smells like someone just baked a pizza in the kitchen…it is hot and bubbly and tastes like a warm gooey pizza.  You gotta try this!  Scoop it up with some bruchetta bread or crackers.
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup mozzarella, shredded/grated
1/4 cup parmigiano reggiano (parmesan), grated
1 cup tomato sauce
1/2 cup mozzarella, shredded/grated
1/4 cup parmigiano reggiano cheese shredded/grated
2 ounces pepperoni, chopped slices
2 tablespoons chopped green pepper
2 tablespoons black olives, sliced
1/2 tsp italian seasonings
  1. Mix the cream cheese, sour cream mayonnaise, mozzarella and parmigiano reggiano and spread it across the bottom of a pie plate.
  2. Spread the pizza sauce on top and sprinkle on the cheese, pepperoni, green pepper and olives.
  3. Bake in a preheated 350F oven until the sides are bubbling and the cheese cheese has melted and turned golden brown on top, about 20 minutes. 
~Posted by Leanne