I originally got the idea of glass pebbles as a child’s plaything from a nursery manager who kept a bowl of them for the children to explore. The children delighted in them and they made a beautiful decoration for a summer nature table designed by one of my colleagues.
Two years ago I collected a big box of them myself for the three children I look after. They were entranced by them – especially the youngest, who would ask for them every day (“Bubbles!”) from the time he started to talk.
This resource makes a lovely exploring game by itself, or even better partnered with a collection of bowls, spoons and tongs. I usually pour the glass pebbles out on a tray where the sun can shine on them and let the children play with them like pirates with a chest full of treasure for a bit. Then we just see where we want to go with them. One child wants to lie very still while I place lines of pebbles up her arms and legs. She could be in a trance….until she springs up, scattering them everywhere while laughing hysterically. Other times she just likes pouring them all over her head like rain!
Another child likes to hide tiny shells and coins in the glass pebbles to make a treasure hunt for his friends. A little boy drives his cars through a pebble lake. A 3 year old makes circles and patterns with them. One girl starts sorting the pebbles into bowls by colour.
Last week two little girls created an ice cream parlour with the pebbles, filling tall containers with pebble ice cream and giving me a purse full of pebble money to pay with!
“That’ll be £80 please.”
“Oh my goodness, that is a posh ice cream.”
And everyone loves pouring, scooping and filling little bags with treasure! I find I never actually have to suggest ideas. The children have far more ideas than I do.
Playing with glass pebbles stimulates the senses of sight and hearing, can be a great way to learn colours and counting, refines fine motor skills as the child picks up and transfers the little pebbles with finger and thumb, spoons or tongs, and is very soothing to the spirit of the child, as you will see from their inner contentment. Children love beautiful things.
Technically this little one is too young to be playing with glass pebbles, but he adored them and learned all the colours of the rainbow before he was two with the help of the pebbles, bowls, mats and spoons. He then played many games of colour matching with all his other toys.
Many small children love the wonderful lingering TINGGGGG sound as they pour or drop glass pebbles from the little brass bottle to the brass singing bowl from my Music & Sound Box. At a certain age, usually around eight months, they discover something called ‘object permanence’ which means they realise an object still exists even though it has just vanished from sight. They will go looking for it and rediscover it. Once they gain control over their hands, especially between the ages of one and two, they love to play ‘posting’ with tiny objects and practice making things disappear and appear again. The transferring game is object permanence in action.
The little girl shown below, like many others at the same developmental stage, loved to post glass pebbles into the little brass bottle and tip them out into the brass singing bowl, over and over again for hours, massively exceeding the 5-10 minute attention span considered ‘normal’ for a child her age. At one point she did try to feel a glass pebble with her mouth, and I moved it away, telling her, “Not in your mouth”. She didn’t try it again, but played happily for days with the glass pebbles without incident.
I realise that some of you may be concerned that I am letting children under two play with tiny items that look deliciously atttractive, a bit like sweeties, and have the potential to be swallowed or choked on. I carefully assess each child under three individually, and if they are still at the stage where they are putting everything in their mouth, I put the items away and try again when the child is older.
EU safety regulations concerning items intended to be sold as a children’s toy states that any plaything with small parts has to be clearly labeled “WARNING: Not suitable for children under the age of 36 months. Choking hazard.” Since glass pebbles are not manufactured as a children’s toy, they are a bit of a grey area. However, anyone looking at this website could be forgiven for thinking that I am suggesting they are a good idea for children to play with!
So because of these laws, I am not about to sell you any glass pebbles for your child, just in case someone follows my suggestions, gives their toddler a bowl of them and the child swallows one and chokes. I would not like to be held responsible for any accidents. But I can give you ideas and links to sites which sell glass pebbles. They are often available from garden centres or florists. Just pop a query in the comment box below and I’d be pleased to help.
I would always say, weigh up the benefits versus the risks. You know your child best. If they are under three and you want to try letting them play with glass pebbles, supervise closely until you are sure they will not try to eat them.