Children learn through play. As an occupational therapist who works with children and youth, I use games and toys almost every day to help develop important cognitive, visual perceptual, motor, sensory, social, play and leisure skills. While many different types of activities can be used in therapy, this blog focuses on off-the-shelf games and toys that are accessible to most. Whether you are a therapist, parent, teacher, or a game lover like me, I hope you discover something useful while you are here. Learn a different way to play a game you already own or discover a new game for your next family game night. Either way, just go play. It's good for you!

The OT Magazine named The Playful Otter one of the Top 5 Pediatric OT Blogs.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Orbeez Butterfly - Water Beads

Work on fine motor precision, manual dexterity, palmar arch development, sensory awareness, visual discrimination, eye-hand coordination, visual tracking, play exploration and participation 
In the box: Plastic butterfly container, plastic flat container that will hold 38 Orbeez (bottom left image above), 1500 Orbeez (red, green, blue, pink, clear, orange)
Ages 5+
Well these are cool! Who can resist trying water beads? I know I couldn't. The beads start out teeny tiny. Add a few to water and you can actually sit and watch them grow. The instructions say give them three hours to get them to their full size. They turn out about the size of peas and are squishy, soft, and fun to run your fingers through. If you squeeze one, it can be easily smashed, so they are not hollow. And do they bounce! But I have to admit, after the Orbeez were ready for play, I was unsure what to do with them. A search on Pinterest offered a lot of ways to add Orbeez to containers to look at, but not so many games to actually play with them. I did see blue ones used in a sensory bin, with toys (possible water animals) hid in them. This particular kit includes a plastic container in the shape of a butterfly for sorting. But after that is done, then what? There are a lot of different kits with a lot of different containers, but that is all they seem to be. Buying just the package of beads and sorting into your own containers would be just as good in my mind. My initial goal was to use the beads with kids that demonstrated tactile defensiveness. Every one of them loved the beads and it was hard to pull them away from some. Perhaps I need to stay with things that are more sticky, or coat the hand. Anyway, I have kept these beads up to a week in a closed plastic container with water, washing them in a colander between uses. A very few absorbed a little more water and got a little bigger, but it didn't seem to hurt them a bit and they never had a smell and nothing else grew in them. I understand you can dry them out and use them again later. I am on day 4 of drying them and they are about half the size, so I am going to put them outside in the sun and it should help the process along. Not sure how small they will get. UPDATE - They finished drying overnight outside, back down to the original size. Here is an example of their size.

Less than a Tablespoon to start turned into 2 cups of beads. There are 1500 in this kit and there are still lots left (see image below). I couldn't even guess how many, they are too small for me to want to count. LOL.
It appears that most Orbeez are sold as parts of kits, like this one. I've seen the Orbeeze inflatable chair demonstrated and it looks wet and just plain messy. There are many different brands of water beads on Amazon, but Orbeez is the only one I have tried and I don't know anything about any of the other ones. The box says they are non-toxic, but if more than a dozen are swallowed, induce vomiting and seek immediate medical help.
Try this:
  • Use clear containers for sorting so that you can appreciate the different transparent colors. I used clear plastic cups.
  • Put them on the table top one at a time to work on picking up with a simple grasp. They are wet and slippery, so it can take a little work.
  • Line up cups, then bounce a bead once on the table so that it jumps into a cup. They bounce, so it might jump right back out.
  • Cup the hand and drop them in the palm one at a time as you count.
  • Hold a cup or container off the edge of one side of the table and ask the player to roll a bead across the table so it falls into the container.
Any other ideas? I'd love to hear them. If you would like to purchase Orbeez or just want more information, click on the image below. This link is for Orbeez only. I don't see the butterfly kit being sold separately right now.

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