Love the texture of water beads, but worried that your little one will try to put them in their mouth? These homemade water beads are fully edible and great for toddlers and younger kids! Making your own taste-safe water beads at home is the perfect way to ensure that your child’s sensory play is both fun and safe!
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If you have more than one child, you know how complicated it can be to find activities that are entertaining for older children and safe for younger ones.
Our one-year-old wants to do everything her older sisters do—but because things have a tendency to end up in her mouth, we have to be careful about what we let her play with. That’s why we love making our own taste-safe sensory materials at home!
Asking for slime? No problem! All I need to do is whip up a batch of Psyllium Husk Slime for our one-year-old to play with it.
Asking for play dough? We always have a batch of Homemade Chocolate Play Dough lying around somewhere! (And it’s at least 100 times better than anything you can buy at the store.)
So when our three- and four-year-old started playing with water beads, we had to find a way to include their little sister. And these edible water beads were the perfect way to do it!
How to Make Edible Water Beads
Here’s what you’ll need to whip up a batch of taste-safe water beads at home using tapioca pearls:
- Large tapioca pearls (the kind you’d use for bubble tea—we bought ours at a local Asian market)
- Food colouring (liquid or gel)
1. Boil Water
Start by filling a small saucepan with water and bringing it to a boil.
Make sure you use enough water to cover the tapioca pearls completely under an inch or two of liquid—if there isn’t enough water, the tapioca pearls will turn into a sticky, pudding-like blob and you’ll have to throw everything out and start over.
2. Cook Tapioca Pearls
Once the water starts boiling, add some tapioca pearls and let them cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until their outer shell becomes soft and translucent. We used regular tapioca pearls, but if ever you find quick-cook ones, you may be able to take them out earlier.
As far as quantities go, we usually use about one quarter to half of a 400-gram bag, depending on how many kids will be playing with the beads. (Our older kids sometimes like to play with the edible beads as well, so we usually make extra.)
3. Rinse Tapioca Pearls
After 10-15 minutes, pour the water beads into a sieve and run some cold water over them to cool them down.
4. Add Food Colouring
Divide the water beads into as many small containers as the colours you wish to add—we used seven different colours and kept one batch white.
Then, squirt some food colouring into each bowl and stir the tapioca pearls with a small spoon until they’re completely covered.
If needed (especially if you’re using gel colouring), add a small quantity of water to prevent the beads from sticking and make them easier to stir—but make sure you don’t add too much or you’ll end up diluting the colouring!
5. Let Sit
Let the water beads sit for 15-30 minutes, until the colours have been fully absorbed. Use this opportunity to read a book, play a game, clean up the kitchen or do whatever else it is that you need to get done!
6. Rinse Water Beads
Once the colours have been fully absorbed, use the sieve to rinse each batch of water beads under cold water in order to get rid of the excess food colouring. Just to be sure, I even soaked each batch of water beads for a few minutes before rinsing them a second time.
Once you’ve removed the excess food colouring, the water beads are ready to use. Place them all in a big container with some water at the bottom (to prevent the water beads from getting sticky) and let your kids enjoy themselves!
As you can see below, the colours look super bright after the water beads are done soaking! But no matter how many times you rinse them, some of the colour will still bleed out a little during play—and that’s OK.
I even tried rinsing all of them under water together, and no matter how many times I did, the colours eventually got a little muddier during play. So don’t drive yourself too crazy!
And anyway, this activity is really only meant to last one or two days at most (see below for instructions on storing them overnight).
Additional Tips & Information
What Do Edible Water Beads Feel Like?
They’re actually quite squishy and surprisingly similar in texture to regular water beads—though thankfully they aren’t quite as bouncy when they’re dropped on the floor, which makes them easier to clean up!
They do get sticky when they dry out, so make sure you keep some water in the container that your children are using to play with them!
What Do Edible Water Beads Taste Like?
Tapioca pearl water beads are fully edible, but they’re not very tasty, so I supposed they could be considered more “taste-safe” than edible. Mostly they just taste like little balls of starch (though my four-year-old swears that red food colouring tastes like strawberries!).
Are Edible Water Beads A Choking Hazard?
Because we used regular tapioca pearls rather than quick-cooking ones, only the outer layer of our water beads was soft while the centre remained crunchy.
Neither this nor the bland taste deterred our kids from eating them, because they love being able to eat the activities we’re doing. (Hello, Rainbow Marshmallow Slime!)
If you’re worried about the crunchy centre, simply cook the water beads longer, making sure to replenish the water in the saucepan so that the tapioca pearls are completely covered the whole time.
Alternatively, buy quick-cooking tapioca pearls instead. We don’t use them because we’ve had a really hard time finding them, but you may have better luck in your area.
Do keep in mind, though, that even if they’re completely cooked through, tapioca pearls do remain small and round. So be sure to supervise your children while they play, and don’t give these water beads to children who are too young to eat small, round foods such as blueberries (especially if they don’t have any teeth).
Can These Beads Be Saved for Another Day?
These edible water are so cool, and our kids ask for them quite often. So naturally, I’ve tried storing them in the fridge to see how long they would keep.
The answer to this question is that it varies. Depending on how long your kids play with them and what state the water beads are in after play time is over, you may be able to save them until the next day—but not for much longer.
If your kids finish playing with these water beads and they’re looking sticky and gross, just toss them in the compost.
If they’re in decent shape, rinse them with water and place them in a container in the fridge overnight. Make sure you cover them with water to prevent them from drying out.
The colours will become a little muddy overnight and there’s not really much you can do about it—but the texture should remain unchanged and you should be able to take them out to play again the next day.
I really wouldn’t recommend keeping them for any longer than that, though. They are, after all, made of food… and food does spoil when it’s left out and manipulated for extended periods of time.
But storing them in water in the fridge does at least mean that you’ll get a bit of extra mileage out of them!
Related Taste-Safe Sensory Activities
Looking for more taste-safe activities to try at home with your kids? Check out these articles:
- Edible Rainbow Marshmallow Slime
- Edible Glow-in-the-Dark Marshmallow Slime
- Taste-Safe Coloured Moon Sand
- Chocolate Play Dough
- Stovetop Psyllium Husk Slime
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