DIY: Edible Alternative to Water Beads!
This has been a post I have been wanting to share for SO long, that I’m thrilled to finally be sharing it!
If your children are anything like mine, they are OBSESSED with Orbeez, otherwise known generically as water beads.
You know, those little gel beads that swell significantly when left in water and become irresistible to swish around with your hands and squish between your fingers? Yeah, those.
They have become a HUGE sensory staple to a lot of people, placed in sensory bins with cups and scoops or in different containers to have a mess-free exploration.
As much as I like water beads, I’ve only ever used them with Kindergarteners because of the hazard of them being swallowed; if a child were to swallow a few water beads and they expanded (since they do in water), it has the risk of blocking the digestive path and causing some serious issues. Not only that, but there is also the obvious risk of choking on the round, squishy beads.
The thought of the risk can be scary, even if your child isn’t normally orally-fixated. I would never expect my six-year old to try and eat a water bead, but I would be much more cautious (read: paranoid) that my two-year old would try and put one in his mouth. Now, we also have an infant in the house who will be crawling soon enough, and that’s one extra thing I would rather not worry about if possible!
Now, what if I told you there is a SIMPLE way to have a TASTE-SAFE option that feels JUST like water beads, but can give you the peace of mind that they are made to be EDIBLE?!
Would you believe it just takes one ingredient?
...And it’s TAPIOCA PEARLS!
Just like my Edible Sand post, this will be one of those posts that makes you think “why didn’t I think of that?!”
Tapioca pearls are well known for being used for making puddings and pies, as well as being used in bubble tea! GENIUS!
They are a great alternative to use for many reasons:
- They are naturally gluten-free
- Most you will find are one all-natural ingredient (tapioca root!)
- They are easily customizable to fit an aesthetic or theme (like I did with my Canada Day theme)
- You can easily find them most at Asian food markets or even online
Here is how you can make your own Edible Water Beads step-by-step in a quick and easy way (while also learning from my mistakes!)
- Large Tapioca Pearls (get the quick-cook kind!)
- Food Colouring (optional)
- Sensory Bin or similar
Now let’s get it started:
1. If your pearls come with instructions on them, just follow those! Easy peasy. Otherwise, keep following these basic guidelines.
2. Fill a large pot with water and bring the water to a boil. As a good reference, think about 4 cups of water to every 1 cup of pearls.
3. Add the tapioca pearls and stir.
4. Turn the heat down to medium heat and cook for 5-8 minutes. (*Do not overcook, as they will get super sticky and you will lose the texture that matches water beads)
5. Once cooked, drain the tapioca pearls into a strainer and run them under cold water for several minutes, gently stirring the pearls around.
6. Either leave the pearls be, or divide them into containers and add the food colouring of your choice and stir! (In ours, we did half plain and half red). Let the food colouring sit for 10-15 minutes, then rinse for as long as needed to have the water run clear.
7. Add to a sensory bin (or whatever container you have will work) and ENJOY!
NOW WATCH YOUR CHILD(REN) PLAY IN DELIGHT!
This is our Canada Day themed sensory bin with edible water beads
They will love moving the Edible Water Beads around with their hands; counting, sorting, dumping, picking up and dropping back into the sensory bin. You’ll easily be able to add all sorts of tools and items to expand their play with the beads too: spoons and scoops, bowls and plates, colanders, funnels, animal figurines, and so much more!
There is SO much learning and development that can come out of using Edible Water beads:
- Fine motor skills
- Colour and number sense
- Scientific and mathematic concepts
- Safe oral exploration
Now, let me make sure you don’t make the same mistakes that I made… trust me, and LEARN FROM ME because that’s what I’m here for: to keep things as simple and sweet as I can for you!
1. Learn from my biggest mistake and get the QUICK COOK large tapioca pearls. This way, the pearls will be cooked in as little as 5 minutes. Let’s just say I bought these ones online and I did not realize that they were just regular tapioca pearls. I had to do several rounds of boiling and cooling until they were done enough to be able to use them (the photo to the right is after one round: hardly cooked and sticky). They still worked well, but they took at least 1.5 HOURS to cook, versus the 5-10 minutes in total to do the quick cook… trust me. QUICK COOK.
2. Make sure you truly rinse the pearls in cold water for several minutes. Think it’s been long enough? Add an extra minute or two. I got too excited at first and stopped the water after only a few minutes. I walked away and did something for my child (you know, as
parents do), and came back to the pearls still in the colander and they were SO STICKY. I freaked! “Did I
just waste 1.5 hours for nothing?!” Thankfully I calmed down and just rinsed them more and they were great!
3. You could basically call this one 2B to go with the above advice, but don’t worry as much as I did about the stickiness… this is the nature of using a food product as a sensory item. All you need to do is ADD WATER. Getting a little sticky before colouring? Add water. During play? Add water. Before storing? You guessed it, add water.
4. Naturally, these pearls will not last as long as regular water beads. For edible purposes, they are of course best for same-day play. They will last about 3 days until they get too gross and sticky, but I don’t suggest keeping them very long. When storing them, keep them in an airtight container at room temperature. DON’T put them in the fridge as they will get crunchy and sticky. (I didn’t know that was possible, but it is).