Water Beads and Glow Sticks

I had some clear water beads chilling in the fridge, and since we’re in the midst of a heat wave this Summer, I thought now might be a good time to let the kiddos play with them. Note — Water beads are designed for use in floral arrangements, and not as toys. They are non-toxic and environmentally safe, but be sure to explain to your kids that water beads should not be put their mouths or eaten. If your kids are old enough to know not to put water beads in their mouths, they might enjoy this too!

I emptied 2 small canisters of water beads into a clear 9″ x 13″ baking dish, then added several glow sticks too. The girls thought the refractive index of the water beads was almost magical!! When the light from a glow stick hit a water bead at a certain angle, the entire water bead would LIGHT up! They explored this concept for several hours!!

Another simple experiment to try with clear water beads is to remove the glow sticks, and submerge just the clear water beads in plain water. Since the water beads have almost the same refractive index as plain water, they are virtually invisible until they break the surface of the water. Like magic!

You can find clear water beads at dollar stores, Wal-marts, or craft stores — usually in the floral section. For more information on water beads, check out my friend Deborah’s post over at Teach Preschool. And for another simple experiment exploring the refractive properties of water, you can try making your own rainbow!

Have fun!!


  1. Dear Valerie,

    Wow, groooooooooovy. 😉


  2. =( I have checked at Walmart for months now with no luck. I’ve GOT to remember to get some through Amazon next time I have free supersaver shipping! hehe

  3. It’s so shiny! I saw water beads once at the dollar store, and of course didn’t think to grab them. I do have a small set of them I’m gonna use someday…… In theory.

  4. Love the glow stick idea combined with the water beads! We had a lot of fun playing with water beads in our Ocean Sensory Bin…take a peek here- http://raisingcreativeandcuriouskids.blogspot.com/2012/06/ocean-sensory-bin.html

    My little guy is only 2.5, so I need to watch him as he plays. He love them.

    Creative and Curious Kids!

  5. We absolutely ADORE water beads in our household! I’m always sure to keep at least a few packs of them in stock 🙂
    This looks like fun, I better go grab some glow sticks!

  6. This is one of the best ideas ever I saw on water beads. Makes me want to buy them again!

  7. Carey McMaster says

    Water beads can be found on-line at http://www.waterbeads.ca