If you've been in the parenting circuit for a few years, then you're probably familiar with the phenomenon of water beads. The beads, which arrive like a pack of seeds, swell with water and become large, squishy orbs that are irresistible to little hands. Although the beads are beloved by most children, they might be particularly helpful to one group of kids. With this in mind, can water beads help kids with sensory processing disorder?
Before diving deeper into the world of water beads, it's beneficial to look at the basics of sensory processing disorders. For starters, consider everything you have to take in just to get through your day. The temperature of the room, taste of your lunch, and sight of your email inbox all affect you in some way, and this information enters your brain through your senses. Sometimes, however, those signals can get overlooked or misinterpreted in the brain, and this condition is referred to as a sensory processing disorder, according to the STAR Institute for Sensory Processing Disorder. As you might imagine, this disorder can make the learning process challenging for children. For instance, children with a sensory processing disorder may have difficulty participating in play activities, and they may also be oversensitive to certain textures, as explained by WebMD. It's common for these kids to dislike touching mud, sand, glue, or other messy substances.
This is where water beads might come in handy. Sensory integration therapy, which encourages kids to experience and incorporate sensory experiences, is one method of helping children with sensory processing disorders, as explained by the Child Mind Institute. Some children may be encouraged to spin or bounce around in order to become more comfortable with their own methods of absorbing sensory information. In this light, some kids who are over-or under-sensitive to touch might benefit from playing with the squishy, gelatinous water beads. They're fun to touch but not inherently messy, as the beads remain solid and don't stick to your hands.
That said, there have been some safety issues surrounding water beads. As noted by the American Academy of Pediatrics, if children swallow water beads or stick them in an ear, then the beads may keep expanding internally and require surgical removal. If this is a concern, then you may want to closely monitor your kid during water bead play. Durable water beads for kids with special needs have been created, and you can even make edible water beads out of tapioca pearls, as noted by Kids Play Box. (It's the same thing used in bubble tea.) Whatever type of bead you choose, your kid can enjoy hours of safe, squishy, sensory play.