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Water Bead Sensory Play + Funnel: STEM

If you haven't tried water bead sensory play with your preschooler, get ready for your new go-to summer activity.

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 are meant to be for flower arrangements. These teensy tiny little balls grow through osmosis in just a few hours.

These are my favorite water beads on Amazon.

I chose them because they say they've passed kids safety testing, but make sure to always use caution when playing with small objects as they can become choking hazards . You get 55,000 beads for under $8!

*As an Amazon affiliate I may make a small commission based on links in this article, at no additional cost to you.

Making predictions during water bead sensory play:

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). The girls made a "fancy guess" about what might happen and I introduced the word "hypothesis." A hypothesis is a prediction or a fancy guess based on information you already know.

Big Sis had recently 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.

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STEM Water Beads + Funnel Sensory Play

This is a great activity to do outside especially during the summer!

Just to be clear, the beads will be 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. Even still, I'm always cautious and watch her with small toys.

Setting up your water bead sensory play station:

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. Then I asked them how they could get the balls into the container.

Ready to Play!

With Lil Sis, she was laughably confused about where the "ballies" were going until I turned the box around. Then, she could see them shooting through the funnel and down into the containers. Since some water beads 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! If you're looking for more ways to keep a 2 year old engaged in play, check out these 10 ways to play with 1 simple setup.


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.

Lil Sis was always turning the box around to check on the beads and where they had gone. She was definitely working on some object permanence, inspecting the box from different angles and looking for where the sensory beads went!

I love open ended play and exploration, because each time can be different. We will definitely be playing with these again.

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My mission is to bring fun hands-on learning to your home through simple activities and games that capture your child’s interest.

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