Sensory Play: Safe Water Bead Play for Babies and Toddlers

The new "in thing" these days in sensory bin circles are the very exciting and colorful water beads. They have a fantastic marble-like texture and children are drawn to their loveliness. Water beads were originally meant for flower arrangements and therefore pose a risk when bringing them into a classroom. (With any non-edible product, water beads and the like should only be used in environments where children know not to put these in their mouths). 

Chia Seeds as Water Beads?

That's right!  Because babies and toddlers are still developmentally, regularly putting things in their mouths, I decided to try something similar to the texture and look of water beads but completely safe if ingested. I found Chia Seeds soaked overnight in water were a wonderful alternative. They are much smaller than regular water beads but are a fun sensory experience for older babies and toddlers. 

In Practice

Here I added dinosaurs from the dollar store and colored the chia seeds with non-toxic watercolor (I have a toddler who doesn’t regularly put things in her mouth anymore, so I felt adding a bit of color would be fun). The colors stayed vibrant and we swirled them around using the dinosaurs and her hands. There are so many things you could add to this sensory bin and use it in many different ways. The chia seeds did tend to stick to hands and clothes though, so that was one thing we had to keep in mind for the next time. Overall, a safe alternative to the popular water beads and just as fun to explore!


Chia Seeds can be found at most grocery stores and you only need a couple of tablespoons mixed in water (they should sit out for at least eight hours, to get that “bead” like quality).