A lot of you have had your kids play with water beads and so I thought I'd give it a try. I'd bought Clear Water Pearls and so when I saw this post at Train Up a Child and Growing a Jeweled Rose about using the glow water (that we also used to make glow in the dark Oobleck) I was super excited!
I explain how I made my DIY light box later in this post. The key to making the beads glow is emptying the ink from a highlighter into water, then soaking them as the directions say. The texture of the beads themselves is wonderful--an amazing sensory experience, no matter your age. We first played with the beads in several shaped glass containers, and different amounts of beads.
Left alone in the closet (that's where we had the lightbox and black light set up) Caleb had a whole storyline...something about a war, with good guys and bad guys...ya know, the usual little boy story! Then we also played with the beads by themselves on top of the lightbox. I couldn't resist the suggestion of spelling out his name. They rolled around a bit but we were able to get it to work.
I really wanted my 15 month-old to be able to enjoy this experience too, but as soon as I set him loose, he had a bead in his mouth. So, to solve this problem, I put the beads into a zip-lock bag! Go-ahead and say it...Genius! The texture is missing from the experience, but it is still really cool to look at, and the beads still respond to a baby's touch. And yes, that's my baby sitting on top of the lightbox!
Warning: Just as if you were playing with non-washable markers, the highlighter ink stains your skin. What's cool is that you don't see it, UNTIL you put your hands near the black light! We scrubbed and scrubbed and our fingernails and cuticles were stained for several days. You can make all sorts of parallels to real life here. I'll let you think of your own!
Making a DIY Light Box
Now, a bit about my light box. I don't have a lot of space to store a light box, so it has to double for storage. So a rubbermaid plastic container works great. I store the materials we use in our light box inside the tub when not in use! The plan is to flip the tub over on its lid, place the light inside the box, and use the bottom of the tub as the lightbox surface. My goal was to paint the inside edges of the tub with a reflective silver color, so I wouldn't lose light out the sides. To do this I used a clear plastic primer, and then a silver reflective paint especially designed for plastic. Not sure I needed both, but I've used the primer for other projects.
I taped newspaper on the inside of the tub bottom, and then sprayed the edges following the manufacture's directions. After the paint was dry, you can see the result--silver edges to the tub and a clear bottom. I might still go back and paint the bottom with the primer to help diffuse the light a bit. Right now, I tape parchment paper along the bottom to help reduce the glare of the lights.
Set up is a breeze. I place the light (in this case a 18 inch Black Light) on top of the lid (set upside down), turn it on, and then set the tub on top. Then enjoy your glow-in-the-dark water beads!
We use our Transparent Color Paddles and Clear Colored Magna-Tiles on the light box and its always a good time! How do you use your light box?