With just a few supplies and an eye for fun, kids can make bead jewelry anytime, anywhere!

By Barbara Albright

 Most school-age kids like to string beads and create some spectacular jewelry or other adornments. While we think of this as a girls' activity, boys get iinto it, too.

Regardless of the child, what is amazing is that given the same selection of beads and stringing material, kids come up with different creations! What a terrific way to encourage artistic expression.

Beads, Beads
Beads come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. They're sold at bead and craft stores and the craft sections of warehouse and department stores. Better quality beads, which are usually sold at bead and fine craft stores, are worth seeking out.

For stringing material, consider any number materials -- thread, plastic lanyard, hemp, string, embroidery floss, leather or suede cords, and wire.

The diameter of the beads and the skill of the beader dictate the stringing material. For instance, small children can practice hand-and-eye coordination with a shoelace and large, chunky beads.

It's fun to make beads from clay. Make your own or buy bead-making clay from craft stores.

The Art of Beading
Begin by considering a design. A single large bead looks dramatic looped on a suede cord and used as a choker. Smaller beads can be strung onto hemp -- perhaps with a small knot between each bead or group of beads.

Make several strands of beads to use together as bracelets, anklets, or necklaces.

Secure the hemp or cord to a clipboard or pin it to your jeans to make beading easier.

Other ideas:

  • Braid three pieces of hemp and work some beads into the design.
  • String beads onto narrow wire and make forms: hearts, circles, diamonds.
  • Wrap beaded wire around a chopstick to make a spiral.
  • Attach beaded forms to stringing material.
  • Use elastic thread to hold a group of bracelets together for a bangle.
  • Use the same principle to make a hair holder.
  • Make beaded key chains, anklets, rings, necklaces, earrings, bookmarks, and sculptures.
Bead Organization
Put all your beading supplies in one place. This can be a low-tech as a cardboard shoe box, but with a little more organization, you will enjoy beading more.

Craft stores sell handy covered plastic boxes with dividers, or you can improvise with pill organizers and bottles, spice jars, and film canisters.

When working with small beads, such as seed beads, pour a few into a custard cup or jar lid to keep them in one place. Use a small funnel to pour them back into their containers.

Keep beads away from small children who might put them in their mouth!