A few weeks ago, I was working on the computer (okay, I was browsing on Amazon Prime; don’t judge) when my son sauntered over and asked if he could buy some Orbeez.
“Huh?” I said, still entranced in my quest to find buttah-like knockoff leggings.
“I’ll use my own money,” he said. “Pleeeeassssee!”
He went on to talk about his friend So-and-So who had these little beads that expand in water, and he just had to have them — with water balloons. This was very important: Orbeez and water balloons.
“Yeah, yeah. Sure,” I muttered, eager to get back to my happy hour Amazon Priming. I added the Orbeez and a bag of 500 water balloons to my cart. “But you’re paying for them!”
He coughed up some of his birthday money, and I went back to browsing through “Today’s Deals,” and forgot all about the Orbeez — until they arrived right on time two days later.
Now I can’t get rid of them. I find Orbeez in the bathroom. They are in buckets in the kitchen. They are in water balloons making puddles around the house. I step on them in the middle of the night, and I almost ate one the other day thinking it was a grape. Heck, the other night, I came downstairs to find my son soaking his feet in a Tupperware filled with Orbeez.
But even though these things are literally everywhere, and taking over my life, I’m still clueless about what Orbeez actually are, and I can’t for the life of me figure out why my kids are so obsessed with them. They look like marbles, but feel like eyeballs, as my brother-in-law so aptly described them the other day.
Orbeez are actually superabsorbent polymers that grow to more than 100 times their volume when placed in water. And just what the hell are polymers, you ask? Excellent question! Because I asked myself the same thing. The Orbeez website (which is about as scientific as I feel like getting about this), says that polymers are several molecules joined together and they grow when the water is absorbed in the spaces between the molecules. Apparently, polymers were invented way back in the ’60s to irrigate crops during droughts. Who knew! But we parents better know polymers as the tiny beads inside diapers. That’s right, Orbeez are basically just colorful diaper pellets.
So what’s the appeal? Why are my kids so eager to dish out $12 of their own money for these little beads that eventually look like grapes with their skins peeled off? My first and best response to that question is: Who the hell knows! Kids are weird, and they like weird things.
Then again, dipping your hands in them and letting the little eyeballs squish through your fingers is kind of relaxing and meditative. And that’s just the tip of the polymer gel iceberg. My kids like to put the unexpanded Orbeez beads inside water balloons so that they expand inside the balloon. This is a very big deal to them, and all their friends. Why? I have no idea. I’m more confused than ever.
In the name of research, I did a Google search for “things to do with Orbeez,” and well, let’s just say, that’s an hour I won’t get back. You can make Orbeez slime and Orbeez soap. You can put Orbeez in shaving cream or on top of light tables for sensory exploration. You can fill water tables and bathtubs with Orbeez (okay, is it just me or does an Orbeez-filled bathtub sound a little kinky to you? No? Just me? Okay then…).
There are Orbeez bracelets and Orbeez ornaments, and then there is the super-creepy baby doll in an Orbeez bath. Huh? I’m more confused than ever.
There are entire Pinterest boards devoted to Orbeez crafts, and I have to admit, flowers inside a vase filled with Orbeez is actually kind of cute. The Orbeez craze is just getting started.
At the end of the day, I’m no closer to understanding the Orbeez craze, but you know what, if it’s going to keep my kids entertained for an hour on a rainy afternoon, and they aren’t whining for more screen time, I don’t need to know details. The next pack is on me, kids.