Did your child dislike touching the insides of a pumpkin when carving pumpkins this Halloween season? If so, they may struggle with squishy, wet textures – and playing with water beads can help! Water beads can be found on Amazon or many craft stores.
Safety Note: water beads, although non-toxic, are NOT meant to be consumed as they continue absorbing water as they travel through the intestines. They’re also choking hazards if eaten. This activity is only meant to be done with older toddlers or kids who don’t put toys in their mouths and under very close parental supervision.
When it comes to sensory processing, many people fall under two camps: sensory seekers and sensory avoiders. Sensory seekers like strong sensory inputs – for example, they’ll seek out spicy, sour or heavily flavored foods. Most sensory seekers love water beads, too. Playing with them is almost mesmerizing and can emulate an ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response)-like experience.
(If you are a sensory seeker, search #asmr, #asmrslime, #asmrsand and other ASMR hashtags on Instagram to discover an amazing new world! I apologize in advance – you will be hooked to these videos!)
On the other hand, sensory avoiding children and adults may not love the feeling of water beads on their hands, but playing with this type of medium helps them become more tolerant of wet, squishy foods like peas, berries, grapes, cherry tomatoes and wet pasta.
Start by having your child help pour the dried water “beadlet” into a bowl with amount of water recommended on the instructions. Give them the control to pour the water, then watch as these water beads soak it all up. Be certain to use a large enough container - you will be shocked as to how big these little “beadlets” can grow!
Once they are at full sized, usually in 3-4 hours, ask your child to stir the water beads with a wooden spoon, scooping them with a measuring cups into a large mouthed funnel. Maybe holding the funnel is the most they can do. Sometimes just being in the same room with an activity of this nature is more than a child can tolerate. Adding familiar toys (toy cars and trucks, toy slide, toy shovels, balls, etc.) can encourage play, but never force your child to participate.
Here are some end goals to keep in mind:
Megan and Judy, co-owners of Feeding Littles, bring you helpful info on food, nutrition, picky eating, and feeding young children. Megan McNamee MPH, RDN is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist based in Scottsdale, Arizona. Judy Delaware, OTR/L is an Occupational Therapist specializing in feeding therapy with children 3 and under in Boulder, Colorado. Megan and Judy are both moms of two and love helping families develop a healthy appetite for all foods!