This weeks Homemade Monday project is a seaside sensory bin filled with water beads to offer imaginative ocean exploration through sensory play. One of the best things about this sensory play idea is that it’s really easy and super cheap to make. This sensory bin only uses three items, costs under $10 to make and takes less than five minutes to setup… yet provides hours of fun!

Important to know: Water beads were originally designed for floral displays; however, have been used in sensory play because they are non-toxic and environmentally safe! This is an excellent play idea for children who WILL NOT put them in their mouth. My two boys had a blast with this weeks project and I hope yours will too!



  • 1- Plastic Storage Bin
  • 2- Containers of Water Beads/Gems
  • Seaside items/figurines


  1. Pour one container of water beads into bin. The water beads I got were ready to go. I found them at my local craft store in the floral department for 50% and was even able to pair an additional 10% off for teacher/military discount. You can also purchase dehydrated water beads on amazon and save a lot of money; however, keep in mind if you buy the dehydrated beads you will need to soak them in water for up to 8 hours before using them. The soaking process can also be a lot of fun.IMG_3713
  2. Next, add sea creature figurines, sea shells, sharks teeth, etc. I was able to find an inexpensive pack of plastic coral creatures at my local craft store. (Don’t forget to use a coupon, I found a 40% discount in the weekly ads.)IMG_3715
  3. Pour rest of water beads over the figures to hide them. IMG_3716
  4. Enjoy! You can play with the water beads and when done cover with lid and put away until you are ready to play again!


  • Additional sensory ideas: Add glow sticks to the bottom of the bin. Add essential oils (I used lemon because it was a nice light summer scent.)
  • Fine Motor Skills: Water beads are very slippery! Have them practice their fine motor skills by making pinch motion to work their grip to pick them up.  Provide a small spoon for them to scoop with.
  • Math: Add measuring cups and spoons to provide a way for your little one to learn through filling and emptying. Encourage them to count objects (ex: how many fish are there?)
  • Language Development: Encourage your little one to use adjectives to describe what they see and how the textures in the box feel.
  • Literacy: Practice vocabulary, sing songs, use imaginative play (ex: use your imagination tell a story.) You could even hide plastic letters in the box.
  • Science: Through hands on experience they are exploring new materials. Have them hypothesize and experiment. (ex: do water beads bounce, what happens when you squish them.) You can read books about ocean life and even talk about the sea creatures (ex: where they live, what they eat, etc.)


***The Playful Parent was not paid or sponsored to write this article. Homemade Monday articles are created to help families find ways to engage their kids in fun activities that promote learning and healthy development.***