Sensory Play with Tapioca Pearls


Sensory experience with tapioca pearls TinkerLab

Have you ever had Boba Tea or Pearl Tea? You know those chewy, soft balls that sink to the bottom of milky tea that you suck up through a fat milkshake straw? The drink originated in Taiwan as a novelty for children, and has since taken the world by storm with bubble tea houses popping up everywhere. Mmmm.

sensory play with tapioca pearls

Boba isn’t my favorite, actually, but when I spotted a bag of multi-colored dried boba in one of our Asian markets, I saw the opportunity for play and exploration. These are a fun sensory alternative to water beads, which you’ll also want to check out if you’re not familiar. My kids love them!

Keep in mind: Be mindful when introducing small children to tiny objects. Keep an eye on your child and use your best judgement.

sensory play with tapioca pearls



  • tapioca pearls
  • water
  • two bowls
  • Spoon


How to use boba

  1. Start out by setting up two bowls. Pour the dry balls into one bowl and invite your child to scoop them into the other. Keep going until this experience wears thin.
  2. Cook the boba as directed on your package. If your’s doesn’t come with directions, boil the water, pour in the boba, and cook until the balls float. Let the boba sit for a few minutes to absorb more water and get softer.
  3. Once the boba is ready, it can be added to tea or milk or played with.

Unlike water beads, the texture is much gooier and they won’t last for very long. The boba were a sticky mess and ready for the trash can after just a few hours, but my 1-year old enjoyed playing with these, and making them was a breeze.

tapioca balls sensory play

What do you think about tapioca pearls as a food or art material?

For more about using food in preschool sensory experiences, you have to read this article: Should food be used in preschool sensory activities?



  1. This sounds great! I think a trip to the asian market will make a good adventure as well. So many new foods to look at. Thanks!

  2. Great idea. It will be hard to resist eating them while playing myself. Eiya loves mochi, she would love this one. : > Happy New Year. Let me know if you still want to get together. Not sure you got my last email about getting together in November.

  3. Sorry to be off topic Rachelle, but how often do you get lost in blog world? Often i will follow your links and hours later i realize im tired and should be sleeping, but instead i’m reading blog after blog and bookmarking ideas, that i may or may not ever get to. It’s crazy!!

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