I have been wanting to try water beads for quite a while now, but was too concerned about Bean putting them in her mouth. I have seen that other people use tapioca pearls as an edible alternative, but they are still a choking hazard. Then I saw basil seeds suggested as an alternative on Fun at home with kids and decided to try it out. The idea is that you soak them in coloured water for 5 minutes, at the end of which you have tiny brightly coloured balls. However, after soaking my basil seeds, they did not look anything like they were supposed to, they were very faintly coloured, with black blobs in the middle: they looked exactly like frog spawn, certainly not beautiful vibrant jewel-like balls as in her example. Basically, the colour didn’t really take, I don’t know if I didn’t use enough, or if the quality wasn’t good enough (I used gel food colouring). For a minute I was disappointed, but then I realised I could work with that. Instead of doing a random activity, I rushed off to find a frog life cycle book, read it with the kids (ok, not true, to my shame, I didn’t have one, we had to watch it on youtube) and then pulled out the tray of “frogspawn”. The activity was a bit slow to start, neither of them wanted to get stuck in at first, but after a few minutes they started loving it. As we haven’t played with water beads, I can’t compare the two, but these are remarkably sticky. They clump together and stick to skin, clothes or whatever, they are quite snotlike. If you do this activity, be warned, they are impossible to remove without washing, they stick to everything. We had them all over our clothes, hair, skin, when we walked inside they got on the carpet and curtains. I expect I’ll be finding them for weeks to come.
We enjoyed mark making in them, sticking them to our arms, drawing with them, flicking them around, dropping big blobs of them. I did of course make it clear to them that this wasn’t really frogspawn and that you wouldn’t play with frogspawn. Jumbles was fascinated with what they were and how I’d made them, so next time I’ll get him involved in soaking them, and I think there will be a next time, it was messy and fun, best done outdoors. I think potentially these would make a great ingredient in some sort of gunk tank, Jumbles is very into the Cbeebies show “Swashbuckle” at the moment and likes the pirates going into the Ship’s mess, I might try to create our own ship’s mess using some of these seeds.
Update: I have now played with water beads (I know, you’re thinking “that was quick, she hadn’t yesterday”, I scheduled this post a week ago, then spent this week running crafts and messy play for the 5-7 year olds group at our church’s summer club, one of which was water beads) anyway, I would say basil seeds are a totally different experience, as pretty if you have better dyes, but water beads bounce and roll, whereas the seeds mainly gloop together and stick to things.
Youtube video of “The Teeny Weeny Tadpole” being read
Borrow “The Teeny Weeny Tadpole”
Buy “The Teeny Weeny Tadpole”
How the mini water bead activity was meant to work if you want to not have it look like frog spawn
Buy basil seeds online (you can also buy them at Asian supermarkets very cheaply)