Glowing Water Beads Experiment for Kids

Glowing-WatBeads Experiment For Kids

If I am not wrong all the kids out there are much familiar with the water beads. How about glowing water beads!? I think they are not familiar with the glowing water beads. In fact, kids will be wondered knowing that water beads can glow. You all might have caught the topic which we are going to experiment. Good 🙂

Glowing-WatBeads Experiment  For Kids

Suitable For
Glowing water beads experiment is as simple as playing with regular water beads. Also gives so much fun for all ages of children including adults. This glowing chemistry experiment can be so much fun. It can be used for imaginative and sensory play. This is the perfect sensory activity for  3-4 year olds and 5-6 year olds. 

After our successful glow in the dark ice cubes activity, we were left with 2 more cans of tonic water. I thought why not expand the glow science activity to water beads. 

I am excited to show and couldn’t wait to see my girl’s reaction to a glowing pool of water beads. Are you feeling the same!? Then why not follow our post to know the complete procedure in order to give your kids a cool learning experience with glowing water beads activity.

Glowing Water Beads Experiment

Water beads (main ingredient of today’s activity) are the water filled marbles or round shaped squishy or bouncy ball like materials. They are tiny water absorbing polymers sometimes called as crystal soil or water balls. We love playing with water beads in a variety of ways. If you are not aware of water beads, just go to any store and get it. They are most commonly used for keeping plants hydrated as they are filled with water. Here is the one simple glowing science activity that keeps your kids busy in the vacation and also perfect for making a cool impression this Halloween. Are you ready to blow the kids mind with this amazing sensory material, glowing water beads!? Let us get into the topic…

Things required to glow water beads

We require a very few ingredients as usual to make this super simple and fun glow in the dark experiment. What is that magical ingredient for today’s activity!? Do you think ‘Tonic Water’!? Yes, as you all expected tonic water is the magic ingredient that makes water beads glow.

I have left over tonic water when we used for our glowing ice cubes activity. So I thought why not try few more activities to amaze our kids. Then I decided to glow water beads in the dark using the same concept. And I can’t tell you how much my kids loved it to watch glowing water beads. Super cool, right!? All you need is:

  • Tonic water (Be sure tonic water bottle is labelled with quinine. It does not matter if it is listed with very less quantity of quinine)
  • Water beads (Buy non-toxic and fertilizer free water balls)
  • Glass cups
  • Black light
  • Dark room (sounds funny right!! I know this is not an ingredient but this counts under things we need to perform the activity)

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Things We Need for glowing beads

Here I would like to share few moments happened with my little ones. My girls always love to stare at these super cool flashlights. Actually, we have fixed one room with black lights that we often use. If you do not have black light fixtures, do buy a UV light torch which is easily available in the stores. Even UV light torches do work greatly.

How to glow water beads

1) Take three neat and clear glass cups and arrange them in a row. My younger one raised a thoughtful question i.e. why glass cups and why not other any other cups? The answer is: as the glass cups are transparent, there is an easy access for the kids to observe the progress going on during the experiment. The reason might be simple but it helps kids to improve their sensory skills.

pour water to glass go science girls

2) Half fill the glass cups with the tonic water. (Keep in mind that there is enough space for water beads to bulge).  

adding water beats to water

3) I asked my younger one to drop few non-toxic water beads in the glass cups filled with tonic water. Do not put too many water beads in a single glass cup since it becomes tight for the water beads to accommodate. 

Add tonic water and water beats into the cup

We used three different types of water beads i.e. transparent, yellow colour and multicolour water beads in three glass cups separately. Choosing the water beads is my elder daughter’s choice. She love playing with colours. 🙂

4) Let it settle for an hour or more until the water beads take nice round shape and stop absorbing water.

Observations: Here you can show your kids what is the difference between the regular and tonic water beads. Tonic water beads are slightly smaller and sticky than the regular ones. The main culprit for the stickiness is the sugar content in tonic water. If your kids feels fussy to touch the sticky ones, you can use diet tonic water to serve the purpose.

Shinning Water Beads Experiment

5) Once the water beads are ready in the glass cups, just drain the excess tonic water if any from the glass cup.

Water beads Experiment

Shining water beads

6) Turn off the lights and make the room dark. And turn on your black light on to the water beads.

Glowing Water Beads Experiment For Kids

Science Behind Glowing Water Beads

Do you remember ‘I stressed on quinine compound while listing the supplies required for the activity’. This is where quinine’s role is coming into picture.

Tonic water does not shine or glow under normal light but what happens when it is exposed to UV light. Generally tonic water tastes bitter because of the presence of a chemical compound called ‘Quinine’. Quinine is a highly fluorescent compound. When the UV black light (invisible) falls on the tonic water, the phosphorous in the quinine compound absorbs the invisible light and reflects back the light energy which is visible to human eye. That is the reason tonic water glows when the black light is flashed through it.

In our experiment, the tonic water absorbed water beads glow when they are exposed to invisible UV black light because of the fluorescent compound, quinine (that shines under black light).

My kids are amazed seeing the water beads start glowing under the black UV light.  So what are you waiting for? Introduce your kids these simple glowing science experiments in a fun and hands on way. Never ever worry about how far they understand the concept or science behind it but encourage them or let them be amazed and surprised to the science with fun and wonder. Slowly they will understand the concept behind the glowing.  

Please Note ...

The water balls that we used are non-toxic and are safe for kids to touch and play. But beware, these water balls are not edible. If your kids swallow the beads, they could expand in the stomach and can cause blockages – resulting in choking hazard. So the experiment should be done with care.

The black light torch that we used is a low powered long wave UV torch. That means they are safe. But do not expose the black light to eyes directly.

Parents are suggested to put your complete attention on your kids while performing this activity. Click here for more information.

Making Glowing Water Beads

Making Glowing Water Beads With Tonic Water

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Glow in the Dark Ice Cubes – Sensory, Edible Science Activity

Glowing Ice Cubes Glow Science For Kids

Let’s make glow in the dark ice cubes !

Are you throwing a Halloween Party in your home? If yes, then why not spice up your party with some simple and amazing techniques that can be done at home!?

Everything is better when it glows! Isn’t it!!!?

Yes, absolutely!! Not only a Halloween, any formal cocktail event or birthday party is an ideal set up to show off glowing ice cubes. What are you waiting for? Light up the night with the awesome fluorescent, glowing science fun!

If you loved our glowing water beads activity, your kids will be thrilled with this one!

Glowing Ice Cubes Glow Science For Kids

I planned to try this glowing ice cubes setting much before my younger one’s (5 years old) birthday party. As a parent I am very much happy seeing the kids happy and excited. But before arranging this setting in the party, I already had a try along with my little ones to check and explain the science behind it.

So let us see what happens with the activity and learn some fun science at home using some magical ingredients that are available at home.

Glowing Ice Cube Experiment for kids

Glowing ice cubes are easy to make and safe to do this activity for kids. It is also safe to consume as well since it is non-toxic and edible. My girls liked the taste of tonic water (and of course, your kids may feel different about it). Though the taste discourages them, it is a great sensory play material for kids as it is safe in case if the kids decide to taste the tonic water.

Hence, this particular activity has become one of my and my daughter’s favorite activities. This is simple enough for kids to do, but also super cool enough to entertain everyone.

Who is it for
Since this is a sensory play and edible activity, this is highly suitable for toddlers.  In addition, preschoolers will also love to play with ice cubes. They will even be excited to see the glowing ice cubes under UV light.

Don’t stress yourself if kids don’t understand the chemistry behind this activity. This could very well work as a sensory play for the kids of all ages. Kids aged more than 5 years would be able to understand the concept easily.  

Things required to perform the experiment

Have you ever surprised that you could make something that glows at home and how glow-in-the-dark things work? It’s not that difficult or hard to do—all you need is a magical ingredient as I told you in the beginning. Yes, i.e. nothing but tonic water. How will the tonic water works to glow the cubes? Try this activity to know the answers for the questions rotating in your mind.

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Thinks we need go science girls

Steps to make glow in the dark ice cubes


We wanted to compare the glow of normal water and the tonic water. So we prepared ice cubers in two different trays.

Take some normal water in a beaker and ask your kid to fill in the ice tray. Place the filled ice tray in the freezer until the water could turn into cubes. 

Repeat the same step for tonic water as well. 

Pour water in ice tray

Tonic water ice cubes turned out to have a textured structure while normal water ice cubes were more transparent. 

Normal water vs tonic water


Since we wanted to do more than just tonic water, we added food color to both tonic water and normal water. I let my elder daughter add color to the water and pour in the ice tray and freeze.

Mix and pour yellow colour water in to the tray


To create another variation, I choose a fluorescent paint. (Caution : I used acrylic paint since I couldn’t get fluorescent food color. Acrylic paints are not edible. At any cost, children should not be let to taste the ice cubes mixed with acrylic paints) I suggest you to go for food color to make the activity completely edible. I asked my kid again to fill this mixture into the ice tray and freeze.

Add fluorescent colour to water and pour to ice tray
We marked the tray at the back using a marker just to distinguish which ones were made from tonic water. 

Once all the liquids are frozen, take out all the ice cubes made of different mixtures using normal water into separate bowls as shown in the figure.


This step is little boring for you I guess!!! 🙂 But not for our kids hopefully. They are always excited and active to do mixing of different substances. This also helps their little brain to understand the concept of measuring the substances in right quantities and mixing the substances in a right way. It would be like a practice session on mixing different mixtures.

Coming to our step-4; repeat the above three steps but this time we need to make cubes using our magical ingredient i.e. nothing but ‘tonic water’.

Ice cubes go science girls

Hope you all understand the preparation steps before we get into the activity. My girls are ready with cubes made of tonic water and normal water mixed with food color and fluorescent fabric color. You can follow the figures (how my girls have arranged the ice cube containing bowls to perform the experiment) we have uploaded along with this post.


All you need to do in step-5 is so simple and effortless. Just turn off the lights and flash some black light onto the ice cubes. Now turn on the black light. The ice cubes will start glowing.

Tonic water and normal water
Glowing tonic water

Mamma! Tonight we are going to have a parrrrtyyyyy… Yeyyy!!! How could mamma make such an amazing thing even at home!?? You can expect who said these words. Yes, my girls were very excited seeing the glowing cubes. They are also excited to know the reason behind it. Without any delay or before their mood switches, I started explaining them the simple science and secret behind this activity.

Here are our results

As expected, the glow on the tonic water was much brighter than the normal ice cubes.  In fact, we could clearly see the texture of the tonic water ice cubes when they were glowing. 

Smiling ice cubes Go science girls
On the contrary to our expectation, among the fluorescent paint mixed ice cubes, the normal water ones were brighter. I believe the tonic water didn’t mix well with the acrylic paint as we could see patches of the paint across the ice cubes. That might be a reason. 

Glowing ice cubes Go science girls

The food colored ice cubes were so dull. We actually decided not to use any food color to make ice cubes for the birthday party. 

I allowed my daughter to play and taste the ice cubes (of-course – except the fluorescent paint mixed ones). They even explored it further testing the ice cubes with normal flashlight. 

Glowing Tonic Water Ice Cubes

Science behind the Glowing Ice Cubes Activity

Our magical ingredient ‘tonic water’ contains a highly fluorescent compound nothing but ‘Quinine’. Even a small quantity of quinine in the tonic water makes the things glow in the dark. But you will need a black light because this is how you can make things glow by screwing black light.

What happens here is; the fluorescent compound quinine absorbs the ultraviolet (UV) light (nothing but black light), which is generally invisible to the human eye, and then emits it back at a visible wavelength. So basically, the invisible light goes into the ice cube, and comes back out as visible light. Cool!

Currently I have used LED UV torch as my black light, but there are lots of different ones available in the market that suit your budget, so have a look around and get it. I really like the idea of the torch ones too…)

This is one of the fun and cool science activities which is perfect to introduce for younger kids around 5 years. You will also get the chance to introduce some new words (like liquid, fluoresce, ultraviolet etc.) to your kid’s vocabulary in a fun and playful way.

Some Q&A to kindle interest in the subject

What makes tonic water glow in the dark?

The answer is amazingly so simple: Tonic water actually contains the chemical fluorescent compound quinine, which fluoresces under certain ultraviolet or black light and that makes tonic water glow.

Does tonic water glow in the dark without a black light?

Yes, tonic water can glow without black light but only when exposed to a blue or purple LED (light emitting diode) light. 

Does frozen tonic water glow in the dark?

No – Frozen tonic water glows only when exposed to UV light. 

Does diet tonic water glow?

Yes, perfectly glows!! It doesn’t make any difference whether you use regular or diet tonic water, just make sure the label on the tonic water bottle lists quinine.

What is tonic water good for?

Tonic water is nothing but a soft drink containing chemical quinine (which gives a bitter taste to the tonic water). Some people believe that quinine is a common treatment for malaria and also helps with restless legs syndrome and leg cramps. However, there is no scientific evidence verifying this belief.

What is the best tonic water?

Fentimans, Fever Tree, and Schweppes are now making the entire line of tonic waters.

Check our Glowing Science page for more glowing fun!  You will definitely like our glowing slime and glowing water beads experiments.  

Have you tried these activities at home? Let us know your results in the comments.

Subscribe to our newsletter here. We will send more such exciting science activities that you can try at home. 

Shinning ice cubes go science girls

Caution Note ...
We used a low powered UV light (black light torch) to do this activity.  UA A-light (low powered UV light) is not harmful and can be viewed without any protection.  They generally do not cause any harm. However, I would suggest do not expose this light directly to eyes. So watch over your kids when they play with the black light torch (if you have one). 

In addition, as described in the article, do not use acrylic fluorescent paint when you try this activity at your home. acrylic paints are not edible. You can get fluorescent food colors which can be used to make glowing ice cubes that are edible too. 

Finally, all the activities in this blog require adult supervision. Do not let your kids do these activities alone. Being around them encourages them to explore more while avoiding unnecessary accidents. Read here for more information. 

Glowing-Ice Cube Experiment For Kids

Glowing Ice Cubes Science Experiment

Disclaimer:This post contains affiliate links from Amazon. An affiliate link means that when you purchase using the link provided in this page, I would get a small referral fees WITHOUT any extra cost to you. I highly appreciate your understanding and support.