Amber’s Guide to Orbeez: the water beads about to take over your life

Orbeez : they’re tiny, super-absorbent balls, and, if you have a young child, they’re probably about to take over your life and your home: assuming they haven’t already, that is. 

This is what Orbeez look like in the tub – by which I mean “the tub they came in”, not the bathtub: that bit comes later…

Orbeez before being soaked in waterSo far, so totally innocuous, right? Just wait, though, people: just wait…

Here, meanwhile, is what they look like after a nice, overnight soak in some warm water:

Orbeez after being soaked in waterAt this point, if you’ve yet to be inducted into the wonderful world of Orbeez, you’re probably still a little bit like, “Ohhhh-kaaaaay. What am I supposed to be looking at, here? And why do I care?”

Well, by way of explanation, here’s a short video Terry made of the very first time Max encountered Orbeez:

Now, Max has seen a LOT of toys in his time, but I can honestly say I’ve never seen anything interest him quite so much – or for quite so long – as these little water beads. He was, quite frankly, obsessed with them – and he still is, really: any time we get them out, his reaction is pretty much the same as the one above, even though he’s played with them more times than I can count at this point. Oh, and every other child who’s come to the house since these arrived has been similarly fascinated with them: I mean, I kind of get it, because they do feel quite nice to touch – a bit like a stress toy, really – but, yes, I was totally unprepared for just how much he’d love them. (Or, indeed, for just how much time I’d spend picking them off the floor: because I may not be able to count the hours of enjoyment Max has had out of these things, but I definitely know it’s fewer than the number of hours I’ve spent cleaning them up afterwards…)

Anyway! When I posted this video on my Facebook page, I had quite a few questions from people wondering what the hell these things were, so here’s my quick guide to Orbeez, for anyone who fancies trying some for themselves…

What are Orbeez?

Also known as water beads, they’re little round ‘seeds’ which grow bigger when immersed in water. And that’s literally IT, really: who woulda thought they’d be so exciting to little people, huh?

What do you do with them? 

Whatever you want, really: you can run them through your fingers, put them in your bath , use them as decorations, plant them in the ground (Plants will suck the moisture out of them, so they’re a good way to keep your house plants hydrated, apparently…). I found the act of squeezing them – and just running my hands through them – weirdly addictive, so I think they’d work well as a stress toy or similar, but some people use them as foot spas,  and, I have to say, I don’t hate that idea, either…

Mostly, though, you just clean them up once your child has thrown them across the room for the eleventy-first time: that’s pretty obvious, though, isn’t it?

Are they toxic?

No, they’re completely non-toxic, and will apparently just, er, pass through the system if swallowed. I don’t recommend putting that to the test, though, so, for the avoidance of doubt and internet judging, let the record show that we only ever allow Max to play with them under strict supervision, so there’s no chance of one getting swallowed.

Are they environmentally friendly? 

I was a bit worried about this, because, let’s face it, they don’t exactly LOOK environmentally friendly, but, yes, they’re 100% biodegradable.

How do you get rid of them? 

Well, if you’re US, you DON’T get rid of them, basically: you just put them into a couple of large containers and keep them in your bathroom, where you can continually trip over them, and your child can constantly keep rediscovering them, and begging to be allowed to play with them again. So that’ll be fun.

If you DO want to get rid of them, however, the good news is that you can simply leave them in the sun, which will shrink them back to their original size, allowing you to re-use them any time you wish. Alternatively, another easy way to get rid of them is to mix them with soil, either in the garden, or in your houseplants: as I mentioned above, the plants will absorb the moisture from the beads as they break down, so they can continue being of use long after they’ve …. stopped being of much use. 

As for us, meanwhile, we might have started out with the small bowl of Orbeez you see the video above, but it would be fair to say that we got just a little bit carried away after that, and, by “we” it would definitely be fair to say, “IT WAS TERRY. IT WAS AAAAALLLL TERRY.” 

Finally, if you’d like to see more from Max and his Orbeez, please feel free to subscribe to his channel!


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  • I bought a bag of those beads years ago to put in vases with flowers. But to be honest, I used them once or twice, then let them dry and stuffed them into a random draw (probably to be rediscov red shortly when I’m packing up for our move). But using them to entertain a toddler does actually sound like a great idea. Might have to give that a try with my nephew, who is roughly them same age as Max. I mean just seeing the joy in Max’s face when playing with them makes me smile. Oh and i adore his Scottish accent 😉

    February 5, 2020
  • Becky


    Practical question – how did you get them all out of the bath? Did they just drain away down the plug (I know you mentioned that they were biodegradable so this would be fine, but I would worry about a major blockage!)

    February 5, 2020
  • Erin


    I’m a grown up and I want these lol. I love that they’re biodegradable too!

    February 10, 2020
  • Anonymous


    Thank you for telling us about this, now we can flush them down the school toilets. I can’t wait to see how bad the flooding will be!!!!

    November 4, 2020