Recently, my 8-year-old got really into gel blasters – those futuristic-looking toy guns that shoot little gel beads. He loves staging epic battles with his brother in our backyard using his gel blaster and ammo.
At the same time, my 5-year-old has been obsessed with orbeez for a while now. He has bins full of the little squishy gel balls that expand in water and loves playing sensory games with them. Naturally, I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between the two toys. Were gel blaster ammo and orbeez actually the same thing? I decided to dig a little deeper to uncover the facts.
On the surface, gel blaster ammo and orbeez appear almost identical. They are both small, colorful, squishy gel beads full of liquid. And they expand significantly when placed in water – up to 200 times their original size! So I can understand why someone might assume they are the same product marketed under different names.
However, upon closer inspection I found there are some notable differences between gel blaster ammo and orbeez in terms of their composition, safety, regulations, and intended use. While they share some basic qualities, they are distinct products that aren’t really interchangeable.
Key Differences Between Gel Blaster Ammo and Orbeez
Gel blaster beads and orbeez beads actually have different chemical makeups and manufacturing processes. This results in variances in their safety profiles and applications.
Composition of Gel Blaster Ammo vs Orbeez
The key difference lies in the polymer material used to create the beads.
- Gel blaster ammo consists of sodium polyacrylate polymer beads soaked in a high amount of water.
- Orbeez, on the other hand, are made of sodium polyacrylate plus additional polymers like polyethylene glycol.
Due to their higher water content, gel blaster beads have a softer, more liquid-filled texture compared to orbeez. You can really feel the difference when you squeeze them in your hand.
Additionally, the extra polymers give orbeez more stretch and flexibility, allowing them to bounce and deform without rupturing. Gel blaster ammo is more prone to bursting when fired with force.
Safety Concerns with Gel Blaster Ammo
The high water content and fragility of gel blaster ammo raise some safety considerations, especially when used by children.
While orbeez are safe for even toddlers to play with, gel blaster beads could potentially cause harm at very close range. The high-speed impact could bruise skin or even break it if shot from up close.
For this reason, gel blaster ammo blasters are recommended for ages 8 and up with proper adult supervision. Orbeez don’t pose these same risks and can be enjoyed safely by kids of any age.
Regulations Around Gel Blaster Ammo
Due to the potential safety issues, gel blaster ammo is banned or restricted in some areas. For example, here in the United States some cities have regulations requiring transparent gel blaster guns and ammo to help reduce perceived threat.
Orbeez, on the other hand, are completely unregulated from a legal standpoint. This allows them to be sold and used freely without age restrictions.
So if you’re looking for a toy that won’t run into any local laws, orbeez are likely the safer choice over gel blaster ammo and blasters. Always check your local regulations before purchasing gel blaster products.
Related Article: Do Gel Blasters Hurt? How Much Level Is?
Uses of Gel Blaster Ammo vs Orbeez
Finally, gel blaster ammo and orbeez are designed with different play purposes in mind:
- Gel blaster ammo is made specifically for firing from gel blaster toy guns during mock battles, target practice, or NERF-like games. The ammo is meant to fly fast and far through the air when fired.
- Orbeez are primarily intended for more open-ended, creative sensory play. You can touch, squash, and manipulate them with your hands. But they aren’t designed to be shot as projectiles at high speeds.
While a kid might attempt to use orbeez in a gel blaster, they likely won’t get the same performance as ammo designed for firing. And gel blaster beads don’t generally work as a replacement for orbeez in sensory bins or art projects.
So in summary, the composition, safety profile, regulations, and uses show gel blaster ammo is a separate product from orbeez. But they do share some common qualities as well.
Similarities Between Gel Blaster Ammo and Orbeez
Despite their differences, you can’t deny gel blaster ammo and orbeez have a lot in common visually and texturally.
Here are some of the key ways they overlap:
Appearance of Gel Beads
Just by looking at them, most people would assume gel blaster ammo and orbeez are the same beads.
- They both consist of tiny liquid-filled orbs around 5-8mm in size.
- You’ll find the same clear, colorful varieties of both products.
- When dry, the beads have a similar translucent, shriveled appearance.
So if you saw them side-by-side when dry, you’d be hard-pressed to tell the difference between gel blaster ammo and orbeez.
Absorbent Polymer Material
As mentioned, both products use sodium polyacrylate polymer material in their beads. This super-absorbent powder is commonly used in diapers and other products to soak up liquid.
When the dry polymer beads come into contact with water, they rapidly swell up into colorful squishy orbs. So both gel blaster ammo and orbeez rely on this polymer for their distinctive tactile properties.
Expand Significantly in Water
Due to the sodium polyacrylate, both orbeez and gel blaster beads expand exponentially when placed in water.
The dry beads will soak up and expand to around 200 times their original tiny size when fully hydrated. This absorption process is the same between the two varieties.
It’s really remarkable seeing how such a small bead transforms into a bouncy, stretchy gel ball. This effect can be observed whether you’re hydrating orbeez or gel blaster ammo.
So in appearance, material construction, and water-absorption behavior, gel blaster ammo and orbeez share quite a few attributes. You can see why someone might assume they are interchangeable products.
After taking a deeper look, I can conclude that gel blaster ammo and orbeez are definitely not the same thing. While they may look alike, they have key differences in their chemical composition, safety factors, regulations, and intended use.
But they both provide hours of entertainment thanks to their unique polymer properties. My kids love using both toys in different ways. And I appreciate that orbeez offer open-ended, creative play, while gel blasters encourage more active outdoor fun.
Going forward, I’ll be sure to carefully supervise my 8-year-old when he plays gel blaster battles with his brother and friends. And I’ll continue letting my 5-year-old immerse himself in endless orbeez activities.
While the two products share some qualities, understanding their distinctions allows me to make informed choices for age-appropriate toy enjoyment in my household. In the end, variety is the spice of life, and I’m glad my boys can experience both amazing toys within their recommended uses.