Learning Through Play: Changing Shape

Before I became a primary school teacher, I trained as a nursery nurse and studied the importance of play as a part of a child's development. Learning through play is a subject close to my heart, and it's what the Foundation Phase (nursery and reception) teaching is all about nowadays. In my school, we embrace it up to the end of infants. I'm used to it, I love it, I provide The Boy with loads of opportunities for it, and yet I always forget to blog about it.

Which is daft.

However, last week on one of my favourite sites ever, I came across this little gem and immediately purchased the necessary equipment to make it happen. And then I sat and pondered exactly what to do with these tiny little beads that were not much bigger than hundreds and thousands. Luckily Cathy at The Nurture Store is a kindly soul who was more than happy to bounce ideas back and for' with me.

Changing Shape with Water Beads

Water beads are strange little entities. Incredibly popular with florists for vase displays, they start out life as very small pellets. 'Soak each 5 gram portion in 1 litre of water and within 24 hours they will have absorbed the water and swollen in size.' In reality, they were full size within 10 hours and we only needed half the water.

We had great fun swirling and squidging them, watching them expand and change shape.

The next day we came back to them when they'd fully absorbed the water. I drained off the excess water and gave the tray full to The Boy to play with, along with some coloured bowls, spoons of different sizes and funnels. I left him to it for a little while, sitting back and noting what he was doing, only contributing when asked something. I wanted to see what he did, his thoughts and observations.

He realised straight away that they'd absorbed the water, and he loved the change in texture and size. He poured, stirred, squidged, bounced (rubbery now!) and had great fun pouring and playing. (Scientific development: changing shape)

After a while he asked what the bowls were for. I asked him what colours they were and if he noticed anything that was the same. He pointed out the colours of the beads, and started to try and pick them up with his fingers to put into the bowls. Thing is about these water beads? They're slippery little blighters and they kept popping out of his fingers. I asked if there was anything that he could use to help him get them out, and he chose to use the spoons. (This helps mathematical development: sorting into colours is a pre-maths skill. Also develops fine motor skills: hand-eye co-ordination and control)

The funnels were the best part of the exploring session. £1 for 2 from Ikea and he loved pouring them in and seeing them cascade out the bottom. One clear bead got stuck and he and Mr. TheBoyandMe decided to use it as a looking glass. They noticed fairly quickly that the image was upside down. Cute alert: The Boy tried to turn it around to make it go the right way up! (Scientific development: physical processes)

Water beads = great fun!

Our next step is to take a bowl of these, lay them out on a tray lined with kitchen towel and put them in the airing cupboard. We're going to try and get them to shrink back to their original size!

I'm linking this up to Science Sparks


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  1. says

    We have these, I love them. I have had some in a glass for 1 1/2 weeks now and they have hardly shrunk at all. Lots of fun and great learning tool x


  1. […] of water beads yet? Where have you been? By playing with water beads, TheBoyandMe learn about changing shapes, and practice hand eye co-ordination too. Most importantly, it looks like great fun […]

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