Although children love to make their own jewellery, most beads that are available in the shops are much too pricey for their casual experiments. Making your own beads solves this dilemma. Those crafted from pasta tubes such as penne or macaroni are cheap, easy to thread and lots of fun to make.
Packets of dried pasta are available very cheaply at most supermarkets. Any size can be used, from smaller types such as macaroni to larger ones like penne that may be easier for very young children to work with. Once they've been painted, have dried and optional glitter has been added, they can be threaded onto a string to create a cute and colourful necklace, bracelet or anklet that your child will be proud to wear or give as a gift.
Time: We took approximately an hour and a half, including drying time for the paint. However, this will vary depending on the child's age and abilities.
Age: 5 -10's although younger ones may enjoy it too if they're closely supervised.
A 500 gram bag of penne, macaroni or other kind of tubular pasta. If your children are very young, you may find that a larger type is best for their little fingers. (If you'd prefer not to use paint, colouring the pasta with coloured felt-tipped pens may be an alternative as this won't require drying time.)
Non-toxic acrylic paints in various colours, including metallic colours, if possible.
A few paint-brushes
A paint palette (a piece of cardboard will suffice if you don't have one)
A jar of water (to clean paint-brushes)
Old toothbrush (optional)
Glitter or glitter glue (optional)
A ball of string or wool for the pasta beads to be threaded on.
A blunt-ended tapestry needle
Old newspapers to cover your work surface when painting is going on.
Paper plates for drying the pasta beads (optional)
Rags or paper towels for cleaning hands and excess paint
Cover your work surface with newspaper and organise the paints and brushes. Make sure that your child is wearing a painting apron.
Guide your child to paint the pasta 'beads' in bright colours. Experiment with different colours and techniques to add variety. For example, use two or more colours on each bead or decorate them with stripes or spots. Of course, this will depend on the age of the child. It may be easier for very young children to finger-paint their beads.
A fun technique that older children may want to try involves flicking a contrasting colour of paint onto the painted bead with an old toothbrush. Embellishing them with metallic colours also adds an interesting effect. Be careful that paint isn't applied too thickly, however, as this can dramatically increase the drying time.
When beads are completed, they should be set aside to dry. Depending on the kind of paint you're using, how thickly it's been applied and the temperature, this may take as long as an hour or two . They'll dry more quickly if you place them somewhere warm and sunny, and if you can regularly turn them over so that all surfaces get the opportunity to dry properly.
To further embellish the beads, glitter or glitter glue can also be used. Glitter can be gently sprinkled onto the wet paint, but glitter glue is best applied when the paint has dried or even after the beads have been threaded. Be aware, however: glitter glue takes ages to dry.
If you're using felt-tipped pens to colour your beads you can progress to this stage immediately. Otherwise, wait until the paint and glitter glue has completely dried on the beads.
After cutting a suitable length of wool or string and threading a blunt-ended tapestry needle onto it, show your child how to thread their hand-painted beads.
The first bead will need to be tied on or you can attach a large plastic or wooden bead that will stop the beads falling off the string. While older children will be perfectly capable of working independently, little ones will need to be constantly monitored. It is often helpful to tie the needle onto the wool so littlies won't accidently pull it off.
Before beginning, be sure to leave a few centimetres at either end so the finished product can be tied together.
After the ends of the necklace (or other beaded item) have been tied securely together, encourage your child to wear and enjoy their special hand-made fashion creation.