Sensory Play with Tapioca Pearls

One of the more popular activities on my blog is Water Beads, and I'm sharing this project as an EDIBLE water bead alternative. Water Beads are polymer beads that absorb water...not edible!! Boba Balls, on the other hand, are tapioca pearls ("Boba" means "big pearls") made from the starch of the cassava root. When they absorb enough liquid, they have the texture of a soft gummy bear and are entirely edible by children capable of eating gummy snacks.

  1. Ages: 3 - 8

  2. <30 minutes

  3. A little messy


Materials you'll need

Step-by-step tutorial

  • Step 1

    Because I like to drag projects out and milk them for all they're worth, I started by pouring the dry boba balls (found in our local Asian market) into a cake tray and let my kids sort and pour them before adding any water.

    Photo reference of how to complete step 1

  • Step 2

    When this step exhausted itself, I followed the directions on the package and cooked the boba balls right up. Essentially, you boil water, pour in the boba, and cook in boiling water until the balls float. Then you let it sit for a few minutes to absorb more water and get a bit softer. I noticed that the instructions vary by brand, so it's best to follow the directions that come with your boba. Once the boba is ready, it can be added to tea or milk.

    Photo reference of how to complete step 2

  • Step 3

    It's so pretty to look at, and my 3-year old enjoyed mixing it up. But she rejected it as a food product in favor of recognizing it as an art material.

    Photo reference of how to complete step 3

  • Done!

    The texture is much gooier than the Water Beads, and the shelf life seemed almost non-existent. After playing with the Boba for the morning, they were a sticky mess and ready for the trash can. But on a sensory level, my 1-year old especially enjoyed playing with these little tapioca pearls and making them couldn't have been any easier.

    Photo reference of how to complete step 4

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