The water beads that I use are from We Learn Multi-sensory Play (you can find them on Facebook!). There are a variety of colours that you can choose from and all of them are non-toxic. I tried making them for the first time and I wanted to document my experience for you. I put three packages of the ‘Birthday Party’ colours and about 15 cups of water into a container I found at the dollar store.
After about 1 hour the beads look like this:
I left them in overnight and strained the water first thing in the morning. One package of beads should hydrate in water for 4-6 hours. I wasn’t sure if I could leave the beads in water overnight, but it turned out great:
In speech-language therapy, so far I have used the water beads primarily with children aged Pre-Kindergarten to Senior Kindergarten. I’m sure I will have uses with it for older children as well.
Many children can benefit from play with water beads even without a speech or language difficulty. Think of it like speech and language enrichment.
A recent study (2018 recent) discovered that children who heard more words and had more conversations with their parents had better language skills ten years later and that conversations had a larger impact on children’s language skills than the number of words parents said to their children.
Water beads are a great conversation starter.
I’ve had children say to me ‘I love this!’ and parents tell me their kids wouldn’t stop talking about the water beads all week.
Here are some uses of water beads for language development. Use sentences like:
- It feels wet
- It feels like water
- It feels soft
- It looks like … (some kids say candy but don’t worry - none have eaten them!)
Talk about what you are doing or what you want to do using action words:
- I’m twirling
- I’m stirring
- I’m mixing
- Hide my hands
- Show my hands
- I’m holding the beads
- I’m scooping the beads
A number of the kids told me they were hiding their hands and thought it was so funny. Sometimes the beads bounce out of the container so we have an opportunity to talk about it ‘bouncing’ and then we ‘catch them’ or ‘pick them up’ (i.e. more ways to have a conversation and practice our language skills).
Here are some uses of water beads for speech development (clarity):
- Sometimes children are practicing particular sounds in sentences, so we may emphasize certain sounds when speaking; for instance, we may practice the ‘m’ sound in the word ‘my’ when we say ‘show MY hands’ (one example).
- I like to hide articulation cards under the beads (usually laminated but I have used the paper. Be aware that they will be wet later). I hide about 5 articulation cards and children find them and practice their word(s). I repeat this over again.
I find that when activities involve new sensory experiences, children are engaged longer, they attend more, and they participate easily.
In the future, I may find soft figurines of a boy and a girl so that I can practice using pronouns (e.g. ‘he/she’ ‘his/her’ etc.) while playing in the water beads.
These are just a few ideas - I will keep using these beads in different ways and I hope you will too!