Two Ingredient Tuesday: Tapioca Pearls + Water (= Sensory Play!)

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.

Because I like to drag our 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.

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.

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.

The texture is much gooey-er 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.

Have you ever had boba tea? What did you think? Do you think your kids would enjoy playing with boba balls?

Rachelle blogs at Tinkerlab.

19 Replies to “Two Ingredient Tuesday: Tapioca Pearls + Water (= Sensory Play!)”

    1. Thanks for your comment, Melissa. If you’re a fan of tapioca, then these are right up your alley. If you have a chance, stop back and let us know what your daughter thinks!

  1. What a good idea! We just got into using water beads and it’s always a challenge to keep things like that out of my 18 mo’s mouth. We are definitely going to try these.

    1. I worry about my 16 month old too with small objects too, but my little one might be in trouble if she ate one so I keep a close eye on her with boba too! Stop back and let us know how this went!!

  2. this is so great, rachelle! i personally LOVE boba tea – i so miss NYC’s chinatown! (yes, i need to get up to SF more often.) not sure if my little one would like to drink it, but she’d have fun playing with those pearls!

    1. I love NYC’s Chinatown too! My brother used to live there, and I miss having an excuse to visit. Boba is so easy to find in the SF Bay Area — tons of places in SF and San Jose. Enjoy!

    1. Those cupcakes are great, Stef!! What a creative idea. We’ve never turned our noses up at cupcakes in our house, and I’m so glad to know about your blog. Can’t wait to hear how playing with boba goes for you!

  3. I love this idea! E loves, loves, loves Boba tea although she rejected it at first. She asks for it all the time. Where did you buy these pearls? I haven’t seen the multi-colored ones and I’m sure E would love them. Thanks for the post!

      1. Hi Rachelle,
        I forgot to mention, that when we boil them, we add a lot of brown sugar or a block of wintermelon “tea” that sweetens the boba before they get added to the tea. Makes them much yummier!

  4. So fun! I’ve had the cold tea drink with the pearls in them and the big fat straws (fun!) but wouldn’t have thought to buy the pearls just for my kids to play with. Great idea!

  5. This looks like a neat alternative, but I’d feel like it was a waste having to throw it away so soon. We enjoyed the water beads, and I could put them in the fridge (not sure how long they would last at room temp), but I didn’t like how easily they got squashed and broke. When they would get dropped on the floor, they would split apart in a gel-y mess which just smeared when trying to clean it up.

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