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Those of you who have been following the blog for a long time know that we don't use water beads in our sensory play.  This last week was the first time we had water beads on the blog - when we posted about our Giant Halloween Eyeballs Sensory Play.  If you've ever wondered why we don't use the traditional manufactured water beads in our sensory play, it's mainly because we have a substitute that we like better.   Our "mini water beads" are inexpensive, not chokable (they are small enough to not present a hazard), they take just a few minutes to set up, and they are totally edible.  They are much smaller than manufactured water beads, so we call them mini water beads, but they behave incredibly similarly to the manufactured water beads.  I love that they are such a safe and edible alternative - with both cats and a little one, it's nice to not have to worry about anyone accidentally ingesting something dangerous (I'm a worrier).  :)  Not to mention, our safe edible mini water beads are gorgeous, right?

Homemade Mini Water Beads - a NEW natural, edible alternative to traditional water beads.  These are so small that they do not pose a choking hazard!

To set them up, I soak them in whatever colored water I want the mini water beads to be.  This step takes less than five minutes.


Then I dump them into whatever bin we're using and ooh and aah over the gorgeous colors.  They look a little like tiny gems to me.  They natural stick together a bit, so once we're ready to play, I add a small amount of water.


And then S dives in and mixes them up.  For the record, this is one of my favorite photos ever.  :)

Homemade Mini Water Beads - a NEW natural, edible alternative to traditional water beads.  These are so small that they do not pose a choking hazard!

As the colors mix and swirl, it's quite the show.


S usually plays with these, but we thought we'd set them up on the floor and let X have a go.  This was several months ago - I think he's a little over a year old here.  He loooovved them.


As you can see, they're very small.  But they do have a very similar texture to manufactured water beads, as they are also made of a gel that holds water.


They're really soft and they like to stick together a bit, so they move as a wave when you swish them (I couldn't get any good action shots of that, so you'll just have to trust me on that one).


Now, as I mentioned, this was X's first experience with them.  He naturally wanted to climb right in.  Naturally.


And I'm glad he did because we discovered something we wouldn't have otherwise - our mini water beads stick to clothes.  Like reallllllly stick.  S generally just plays with her hands and arms - and we have no issues.  But hoo boy do these beads stick to clothing.  And towels.  You can pick them off for sure, but it's a pain.  So I would recommend either not letting your kiddos climb in or having them play sans clothing to save yourself a headache. 


They even make pretty art!  It's so fun to swirl and mix them.

This post contains affiliate links for your convenience.

Now to teach you how to make your own!  Again, let me clarify once more that they will stick to clothes and towels; please keep that in mind when deciding where and how to play with them.

1 Tbsp of this Basil Seed
1 and 1/4 cup water
Food Coloring or Liquid Watercolors (use food coloring if you think your child may taste these)

Add the coloring to the water, if desired.  Soak 1 Tablespoon of the basil seeds, stirring occasionally.  Within about 5 minutes, they will have absorbed all the water.  When you are ready to play with them, add a little extra water to your container to allow them to move a bit more fluidly (otherwise they tend to stick to each other and hands).

The Basil Seeds we used are even cheaper if you buy them at an Asian specialty food market.  At our local Asian specialty food market a whole bag (which is SO many Tablespoons of seeds) was a little over a dollar.  I learned about the properties of basil and chia seeds in graduate school (botany is COOL!).  The gel that forms is a way for the seed to gather and store water as it sprouts.  Clever of the seed, right?  These seeds are also used in drinks (think along the lines of bubble tea) in other countries.  In the US they are gaining popularity as a health/energy drink because they are high in nutrients.

Where do you find Basil Seeds:

The best place to find basil seeds is in an Asian or International Specialty Food Store:  Our local Asian Specialty stores all carry bags for $1 and they are in the spices section
Here is a listing on US Amazon
The above links are by no means exhaustive - feel free to Google around yourself.  Any online spice specialty store is likely to carry these!  :)

If you wish to substitute chia seeds for basil seeds, follow the modified recipe below:

1 Tbsp of chia seeds
1 cup of water (with added food coloring if you want)

Allow the mixed seeds to sit overnight (or at least 8 hours) in the colored water in your refrigerator for best results.
There are so many fun ways to play with our safe and edible mini water beads!  I'll be sharing several of them in the next week or two.  Oh, and if you're looking for a larger edible version of water beads, check out Blog Me Mom's Edible "Water" Beads here!

Find out how to make Edible GLOWING Mini Water Beads here!

Find out how we use the ingredient in our Water Beads to make All Natural Edible Slime here!

Click the photo below to buy it on Amazon or click here to read more about our book!

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All activities here are activities I feel are safe for my own children.  As your child's parents/guardians, you will need to decide what you feel is safe for your family.  I always encourage contacting your child's pediatrician for guidance if you are not sure about the safety/age appropriateness of an activity. All activities on this blog are intended to be performed with adult supervision.  Appropriate and reasonable caution should be used when activities call for the use of materials that could potentially be harmful, such as scissors, or items that could present a choking risk (small items), or a drowning risk (water activities), and with introducing a new food/ingredient to a child (allergies).  Observe caution and safety at all times.  The author and blog disclaim liability for any damage, mishap, or injury that may occur from engaging in any of these activities on this blog.

Comments

  1. Wow! That looks super fun! I am quite paranoid about the flower water beads too, so I'll have to try this!

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    1. These look awesome cant wait to try them. Do they last for a while? If so how do you store them?

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    2. You can store them for a few days in the refrigerator (sealed) with a small amount of additional water. Like all edible things, they will eventually spoil (or in this case - sprout!)

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    3. Thanks made a batch this morning cant wait to let my little one try them out :)
      I coloured mine with Tumeric instead of food colouring and they came out really well!

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    4. Oh! Totally brilliant idea, Sally! I love it!!!!

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  2. These are sooo colorful and fun!!! But wow! basil seeds? Love that basil seeds turn into a super amazing sensory material.

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  3. If you let them dry on paper, do they create art? Do the seeds brush off and the color stay on the paper?

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    1. Great question, Anna! I have never tried it!!! It might work? If you try it, let us know if it worked!!!

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  4. Do you think this could be done with tapioca pearls too?

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    1. Yes - check the link to Blog Me Mom's post. But remember that tapioca pearls are a choking hazard - which may or may not be a problem depending on the age/habits of your child. :)

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  5. How fun! I would never have thought you could make your own. I have been leary of trying the regular water beads with my toddler who still puts things in her mouth. This would be a great alternative. Now, to find some basil seeds... :)

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    1. Thank you, Jackie!!! Hope you find them easily. There are tons at our Asian Specialty Market!

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  6. This is very creative! In what other types of appplications might this be useful? Could the colored basil/chia/flax seed gel be used in baking? What happened when the beads dried? How will the beads work on paper? And is there a preferred type of paper to use? Thanks in advance!

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    1. Thank you! I am not sure! I think you will have to try some of these things and let us know! :) When they dry, they lose the hydration and shrink down to black seeds once again. :)

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  7. What a great idea!!! At first I thought they were tapioca :) My daughter would love this -- thank you -- "Asia does it again!" :) All your ideas are amazing!

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    1. Thank you, Amy!!!! You are so sweet. :) :) :)

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  8. Thanks for sharing. I look forward to creating this at work.

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  9. AWESOME!!! I cannot wait to try this out at home. :)

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    1. Thanks, Mary Catherine! I hope you guys love it!

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  10. This may be a dumb question--in the link that you posted (which is "unavailable" on Amazon, btw), the seeds look black. Do they open or change color when they expand? Thanks!

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    1. Thanks for the heads-up about the seeds selling out - we must have done that - hahaha! I just switched it to another similarly priced listing. And yes, the seeds soak up the colored water in that first step of the recipe. They form the gelatin around themselves as they soak. You can still see a small black center of the seeds if you look closely in my photos. :)

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  11. Those are sosososososososso cool! I completely love when kids love doing something so much they have to just climb right in.

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    1. Thank you, Jeanette! And totally. S wanted to sit in it too, and got waterbeads all stuck to her buns. X was cracking up so much. It was worth picking off the waterbeads. ;)

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  12. How amazing! I think you might be a genius!

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    1. Thank you, Lorie! Hahaha - I don't know about that one, but thank you!!!!

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  13. This is so cool! I love water beads but they are messy and do pose some environment concerns for me too. I absolutely LOVE this alternative!

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    1. Yay! Me too, Ana! It's awesome to be able to plant them or compost them when we're done playing. :)

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  14. Asia, it's good to know you are a worrier, it just tells us you really love your children! These water beads are some of my favorites as well, they're the funnest.

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  15. This is brilliant! Just one question: Do all basil seeds react this way? I noticed on the recipe it says "this basil seed" and it sends me to amazon to purchase "hairy basil seeds" Lol. I'm a "recipe girl" and must know details;) Thank in advance!

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    1. Oh no worries - yes any basil seed will work, however, if you have children who may sample, just be sure to get food grade (hairy basil seed is the one typically produced for food/teas). :)

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  16. You linked to "hairy basil seed" on Amazon but I'm wondering if any type of basil seed works or does it need to be the "hairy" variety?

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    1. Hi Rachel! Any type of basil seed will work - I linked to hairy basil because that is the food grade type and if littles are going to be sampling, you wouldn't want to use planting grade seeds (does that make sense?). But all basil seeds will do this. :)

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  17. Genius. It's so hard to find fun, different sensory activities for my little guy as he is still eating everything. thanks for this.

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    1. Yay! Thank you, Sarah! I'm so glad you like it. I hope your little guy loves it too!!! :) :) :)

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  18. Mine have been soaking for 20mins and don't seem to be growing much and still loads of water left :( hopefully it just needs time

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    1. Barbara - Are you using chia? Those take overnight in the fridge. The basil should be very quick though!!!

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    2. I used basil i think i was expecting to be a little bigger. There was still about half the water left after 24 hrs. How long do they last in fridge?

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    3. Oooh, that is very weird, Barbara! They should have easily soaked up all the water! :( Bummer! What type are they and where did you get them? They should last a few days at least in the refrigerator.

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    4. http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00CSU399O/ref=oh_details_o01_s00_i00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

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    5. Shoot! Those are the right ones! And yours don't look like the soaked ones in the photos? That is so weird! I can't imagine why they wouldn't take up the water and quickly. :(

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  19. Is there are reason other than the choking hazard that you don't use traditional water beads? Are you worried about toxicity?

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    1. Well we do sometimes use regular waterbeads, so I'm not SO worried about toxicity - but I do like the idea of them playing in something edible over something that can be toxic if that makes sense. :)

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    2. Totally understood! I just know you do your research so I wanted to see what you thought about the traditional version. Loooove your site!

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  20. I'm just curious, as I'm raising older gr-kids.
    What are "water beads" please, and where are they purchased?
    Do these water beads come in different sizes & are they also safe IF eaten?
    Thanks so much for your help and have a lovely day!... :)

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    1. Hi 4lala, they come in two sizes, jumbo (the size of a huge gumball) and small (a bit smaller than your average gumball). You can find them at craft stores or online, and no, they are harmful if ingested - they are made from polyacrylate - the stuff that swells with moisture in disposable diapers.

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  21. In taiwan they have boba tea which is a lot like the bubble tea mentioned and is quite delicious.

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    1. Those look amazing! The only concern would be that they are big enough to still present a choking hazard (as I understand it). But they make a great substitute to traditional water beads for kids old enough not to choke on them!

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  22. I looked at your Amazon link and people are commenting that the Dept of Agriculture is seizing them because those seeds aren't supposed to be allowed in the country. Any thoughts on alternatives?

    "1st off it took over 30 days to arrive and when the nice Post Lady had me sign for it she have me a strange look as she handed me the package and turned to leave. Why? Because the USAD had confiscated them and left a little note inside the opened package saying it was unlawful to bring them into the country from Taiwan. Don't buy them!!"

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    1. Oh my gosh - thank you SO MUCH for letting me know! I just assumed that any listing on Amazon.com US would ship to the US - I had no idea that they would have a listing that isn't approved. Boo. I just switched out the link for another listing that has great reviews and seems to have no trouble with being imported. I hope that helps! My only other thought is to ask around at any Asian Specialty Markets, International Spice shops, or to search Google for another provider close to you. The basil seed is used in drinks traditionally, so it is usually with spices... I am so sorry it's caused so much trouble!!!! :/

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  23. Just came across this and I'm so excited. I have been searching for a safe alternative for my teachers to use in their classrooms. This is perfect!! Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Hooray! So glad I could help, Lisa! :) :) :)

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  24. I've just ordered some basil seeds through your Amazon UK link. I'm so excited to try this with my 2.5 year old and 10 month old. Thank you :)

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    1. Awesome! I hope they are a big hit at your house too!! :) :) :)

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  25. I'm from Laos. For our new year in April, we throw water at each other, to wish them luck. Children like to soak chia seeds in color and mix them in the water we used to pour on people. This would drive them mad as the tiny bubble stick to clothes!

    Seeing our post brings back my childhood memories. I hope your children will have a great memory playing with these too.

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    1. Oh my gosh - that is SO COOL! Thank you so much for sharing that story with us!!!! Yes, they do stick to clothes super well, hahahaa, I can see how that would drive people mad! Thank you so much for the great comment!

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  26. My seeds are not soaking up all the water. I bought the seeds posted in the link too :(

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    1. Oh no! Can you email me a photo and I can try to troubleshoot it? My email is funathomewithkids@gmail.com

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  27. I also followed the Amazon link you have posted and I have TONS of water left. The basil seeds just aren't really soaking it up. Did you figure out why from other readers?

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    1. Shooooot. Which link? I'm going to remove it. My only guess is that the seeds from that seller are super old... I can't think of another explanation. :(

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Well, hello there!



Welcome to Fun at Home with Kids! I'm Asia, a teacher (M. Ed) turned SAHM mom to two young kids: X and S. Around here we like to do a little bit of everything - science, art, crafts, sensory play, and small world play. Click here to read more about us!

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