Water sensory play using Boba Pearls (Tapioca balls)

Last week I was having a look around Pinterest for inspiration for activities for the children when  I came across a pin for  “Edible” Water Beads.  In the last year we’ve enjoyed many a sensory play session using Water Beads but I have always been wary of them because of the danger they pose if consumed.  
Don’t get me wrong when used correctly and under supervision they are fantastic and provide hours of sensory fun.  The problem I have is having very young children and the thought that no matter how careful I am to dispose of the water beads after use there is always the chance I’ve missed one and that one could be consumed by a toddler or baby.  I know some of you are thinking it’s such a small chance of this happening and I’m being over cautious and over anxious.  
Anyway when I read the post from Pinterest I decided that this would be worth exploring more and set about looking for some.  Boba Pearls or Tapioca balls are used in Taiwan in a popular drink called Bubble Tea or Boba Milk Tea.  The Boba pearls are little chewy balls that are added to the drink along with milk, tea and fruit.  You can buy Boba Pearls on Amazon and ebay among other places.  I ordered mine from Ebay last Thursday and they arrived this morning.  I paid £2.30 for 250g of mixed Boba Pearls but you can also buy them in single colours for example black, yellow and pink.  You can find out more about them here
When they arrived this morning I decided to cook some up to use after school.  Following the instructions on the packaging I measured ten cups of water to one cup of Boba Pearls.  These measurements used about 3/4 of the pack I had.  
  • Bring the water to a boil in a large saucepan
  • Carefully add the Boba Pearls to the boiled water.
  • Stir carefully
  • Reduce to a medium heat and cover 
  • Leave for 5 minutes to cook gently
  • Drain the water.

Cooked Boba Pearls
As I didn’t intend to use the Boba Pearls until later in the day I left them in the saucepan until I needed them.  They didn’t swell as much as the water beads do but were a good size for little hands.  
While the little ones napped this afternoon I cleaned out the water table and filled it with clean water.  Then when we returned from the school run with the boys we all headed out into the garden to play.  The two girls quickly spotted the water table was out and full and headed over to it.  I let the girls play with the water table as it was for ten minutes or so and then retrieved the saucepan with the Boba Pearls in and added them to the water.  Almost immediately the boys spotted something was going on and couldn’t resist in coming to see.  
We spent a good ten minutes all trying to catch some Boba Pearls and letting them slip through our fingers and trying to squash them.  The felt all slippery and slimy and although they were squashy they held their shape.  
The younger children quickly set about using the sieve and buckets and other items in the water table to play with the Boba Pearls and the water.  They poured them from one container into another, let them fall into the water from a height and giggled at the plopping sound they made.  
The older boys even joined in and although didn’t spend more than five or ten minutes at a time at the water table they couldn’t resist coming back to play with them several times.   I still supervised the play but felt more relaxed than when we’ve used water beads and didn’t have to worry if one of the children decided to eat one of the Boba Pearls!  As with water beads you could add submersible lights and colour the water etc to enhance play but on this occasion we just used various containers to scoop, pour and carry the Boba Pearls.   I think we will try adding some other elements next time but all the children thoroughly enjoyed the play session and I have to admit even I enjoyed handling the Boba Pearls. 
I have read that there are some health concerns connected with Boba Pearls but these would only apply is consumed in large quantities and over several years which does not apply to how we are using them.  I am simply using them as a safer alternative to water beads to provide sensory play opportunities.  

1 thought on “Water sensory play using Boba Pearls (Tapioca balls)

  1. Mummy's Blog says:

    What a fab idea, I’ve never seen these before. I can’t wait until my little one is old enough for things like this x

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