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Melty beads- sometimes called Hama Beads or Perler Beads- are colorful bits of plastic that you typically use to make designs and fuse them together using an iron or by baking them. They are the Material of the Month over at CraftProjectIdeas.com, who sent us a package of Melty Beads for free recently.
I never really used them as a kid so when I saw them I didn't really know what to use them for. One quick Pinterest search is all you need to see all the fun melty designs people have come up with- for kids and adults alike! My uses are mainly for kids, but I've got some for all ages added at the bottom.
Since Ladybug is only 3 and going through a phase where she prefers art projects that she can do on her own, I wanted to see what we could do with our melty beads that did not involve a specific, intricate design. We actually found several ways to enjoy them without melting them.
Educational Uses for Melty Beads
Alphabet & Number Formation– This was done using some Dollar Spot flashcards from Target, but you could use printable worksheets or even just draw the numbers and letters yourself.
Color Sorting- This is an easy one! I set out an empty colorful Melissa & Doug puzzle board and had Ladybug sort the beads by color. After she had been doing it for a few minutes she started to goof around and put them in the wrong places. She'd look at me and raise her eye brow and say, “Mommy, does THIS look right?” Keepin' me on my toes, this one!
Counting– I figured she was a little bored with the color sorting so we started counting the beads. This was great for one-to-one correspondence.
Patterns- I asked her if she wanted to make a pattern with the beads. She decided she wanted to make a rainbow and surprised me by singing a song from a Leapfrog DVD with the colors of the rainbow all in the right order. Nice!
Fine Motor Skills with Melty Beads
Lacing– We used fuzzy sticks- AKA pipe cleaners or chenille stems. Ladybug liked putting the beads in the order of our patterns onto the fuzzy sticks.
Stacking- Ladybug figured this out herself. This easy little activity worked the muscles in her hands AND her head. She concentrated really hard at stacking them. They did fall pretty easily so it was an opportunity to work on resilience and confidence. Nothing formal, just modeling acceptance when they fell and the willingness to try again.
Jewelry– The lacing quickly led Ladybug to use the fuzzy sticks and beads as necklaces, crowns, bracelets and even a ring. Oh so fashionable and modern!
Sensory Activities with Melty Beads
Sensory Material- Ladybug loved running her fingers though the box of them. Even better was when we were putting them into a bag to put them away, we had an accidental discovery. I was not paying attention and I dumped a handful onto the back of her hand, which was still in the bag…turns out she loved this and we did to each other for another 10 minutes, back and forth, she would dump some on my hand and then I'd do it to her hand. She seemed very soothed and mesmerized by it.
Surprise Bag– After I saw how much she enjoyed putting her hands into the bag of beads, I thought it would be fun to put a few objects into the beads and see if she could guess what they were by feeling them. I tried to find a few things that were pretty distinctive feeling. I used a small car that she had been playing with a lot as well as a Minnie mouse figuring. It took longer than I thought to find each object and the first time she pulled it out without guessing so I had her put something into the beads and I showed her how to feel it and guess what it was. She thought pretty hard but finally did guess that it was Minnie Mouse.
Put it All Together and What Have You Got?
DIY Melty Bead Abacus– All this lacing, counting and color sorting formed an idea in my head- hey we could make an abacus together! Ladybug's aunt gave her a generous birthday gift in June- a subscription to Kiwicrate. We have enjoyed the projects that came in the shipments and had kept the boxes to store supplies in. It just so happens that this box would make a great portable abacus.
Here is how we made our Melty Bead Abacus.
Melty Beads Inspiration from Around the Web
Well it is a Roundup- so I've rounded up more ways to have fun with melty beads from around the web:
-Share and Remember shows us some lovely Melty Hearts.
-Teach Mama shows us how she uses melty beads as a simple summer learning activity.
Lest you think Melty Beads are only for kids, here are some modern non-kid uses for them:
-Lucky Magazine did a feature with several links, which including some very modern looking woven bead baskets.
-It's All About Creating features a votive holder and napkin ring.
-StyleDesignCreate has these fabulous woven bead zipper pocketbooks, I could see pairing this with a cute outfit for a night out, nothing kid-like about it!
-Etsy has some vendors that weave them into really intricate jewelry in very adult colors, world above our little pipe cleaner accessory!
-This is a practical use that could be used by kids and adults alike- snip the beads and slip them onto the cord of your headphones. It looks cool and evidently keeps it from getting tangled!
Now It's Your Turn!
Do you have a fun Melty Bead project- melty or not? Please share in the comments below, on my facebook page or by linking up below!