homemade light table and the wonder of water beads

homemade light table, water beadsFor quite some time now, I have seen posts about the wonder of water beads.

But I couldn’t find the beads, or I’d forget about them. And then I’d see them at the craft store, forget my coupon, and then they’d fall out of my brain once again.

This spring, Cora talked about several of her buddies using water beads, so I felt it was high time we invited the wonderful water beads into our home.  And I’m so glad we did.

Water beads, water gems, floral gems, polymer water gems, liquid water gems–call them what you want. They’re awesome.

You can find them just about anywhere, and I strongly suggest that if your kids are old enough and they won’t pop them in their mouths like Cheerios, that you grab them asap.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Homemade Light Table and Wonderful Water Beads: I knew that many of the times I’d seen those fabulous light tables, they looked way fancier than what we had under our roof.

I figured that we had more than enough in our house that we could use–so after Cora and I picked up the Water Gems at our local craft store, we got home and went to work frantically trying to find something we could use.

homemade light table, water beads

 water beads–serious sensory wonder

We found a few things around the house to make it work:

  • a blue bin from Ikea
  • all of our flashlights
  •  and a glass baker.

homemade light table, water beads

We found Water Beads at our local craft store. . .

homemade light table, water beads

. . . we loaded a blue bin with flashlights.

homemade light table, water beads

And then we loaded the Water Beads onto the glass baker.

homemade light table, water beads

Our initial Light Table was. . . lopsided.

homemade light table, water beads

We added some Water Beads to the glass baker, and we went into the bathroom.  We turned off the lights, and let the water table GLOW!  I expected it to be perfect, wonderful–amazing!

. . . But it really wasn’t.

The flashlights kept wiggling and never really shot light in the right spots, so we turned the light back on and thought hard.

What could we put inside the bin to make a really bright light?  A Light Brite!

We scrambled upstairs to Maddy’s room, grabbed the Light Brite and made sure it was charged and ready to go. We have the flatscreen Light Brite, and it worked great!

Back into the bathroom–the only really dark space in our home at 2:30 in the afternoon–and we just sat and played.

Cora and her buddy pushed and sifted and transferred and scooped.  And then they scooped and transferred and sifted and pushed some more.

I was amazed at how long the girls played–just feeling the cool beads in the quiet, dark room.

When Maddy and Owen got home from school, it was the very first thing they did–found the Light Table.  And they, too, played and pushed and transferred and scooped.  And then they scooped and transferred and pushed and played some more.

homemade light table, water beads

Cora and her buddy loved the Water Beads. . .

homemade light table, water beads

. . . but I think Maddy loved the beads even more.

homemade light table, water beads

Maddy played with the beads all afternoon.


homemade light table, water beads

And Owen loved them too.

What I realized that the Light Table didn’t really even matter.  Even though it was totally cool and I was so proud that we whipped it up out of nowhere, the kids didn’t really care that much about it.

The kids loved the sensation of the Water Beads. They loved their coolness and their calming, squishy feeling.

They loved that they slipped out of their fingers and bounced on the floor when they fell.  They loved that they never played with anything quite like them before.

Maddy loved them. Owen loved them. Cora loved them.  And I loved them. It reminded me of Play-Doh in that when we pull out the good ole Play-Doh and supplies, my kids drop everything and play.  From the time they were little until now–when they’re 8, 6, and 5 years old, they really love to play freely with cool supplies.

I want to always remember that.

So the Water Gems have since been put back in their containers, filled with water and are waiting–patiently–for the next time we bring them out.   I think that will be very soon, sans the nifty light table.  I’m learning. . .




  1. Sarah says

    Wow! I’ve never seen those. Thanks for sharing! Looks like a great way to begin our summer fun next week.

    • amy says

      Oooh, my friend–I know you’re sensitive to certain things, so beware that these are really different! Not at all like gum chewing. . . :)

  2. christine says

    so funny, i’ve heard these are fun for sensory play, but hesitated getting them because putting a light table together seemed above my capabilities. so good to know its not necessary. What about the beads breaking and making a goopy mess?!?

    • amy says

      Christine! You and I were in the same exact boat! They actually do break but they’ll break in parts–and then it’s really easy to pull them out of the mix. They’re a solid, so nothing squirts out. . . if that makes sense. But if one drops and ends up on the carpet, it may dry and then shrink.


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