You CAN make these recycled paper beads by hand.
Your kid, however, depending on her age, probably can’t. The easiest way for kids to make these paper beads by hand is to wrap them around those narrow straws for stirring coffee, and even then, it’s pretty fiddly. You can handle fiddly, but kids? They have a notoriously low threshold for tolerating fiddly.
And that’s why even though *I* may not super love this 4M Recycled Paper Bead Maker, because I can make better beads by hand, my eight-year-old kiddo DOES love it. Super hard.
Unless your kid is older than my kid, I wouldn’t recommend just ripping this guy out of the box and throwing it at her head; there’s definitely a learning curve, and I had to teach my kiddo how to pin the paper strips between the two metal bars and then start turning the crank so that the winding of the strip would hold the bead in place. I also had to give her a small glue bottle from our stash, as the little packet of glue and the little glue swab are really just enough to get an excited kid started right away. You’ll also want to supply your own scissors, although the upcycled soda bottle shown on the box isn’t really required to work the bead maker.
To work the paper bead maker, have the kiddo hold it in her non-dominant hand; once she’s a little more adept, she can also use that hand to control the paper strip as the bead is being formed. The kid will use her dominant hand to place one end of the paper strip between the two metal bars, then turn the crank. After a few turns of the crank, the kid can start to pause every couple of inches and add a smidge of glue–just a smidge! Why are kids so heavy-handed with the dang glue?!?
When the kid reaches the end of the strip, she’ll want to add more glue. Any excess that bleeds out from under the paper can be smoothed around the bead while she turns the crank, varnishing and sealing it. If you really want these beads to be suitable for long-term everyday wear, however, you’ll likely want to hit them up with another coat of varnish or a clear sealant. Otherwise paper dissolves eventually, you know?
The kit comes with a few sheets of paper for making the paper strips, but the real fun, I think, is in exploring all the possibilities for upcycled papers–tissue paper, wrapping paper, magazines, comic books, etc. Newspaper lends itself really well to being painted, but fussy cutting any upcycled paper will let you have a neat graphic on the visible part of your bead. I’ll be attaching these music staff beads that I made from old sheet music to gift tags and business cards, for instance.
As far as sizing goes, the bead maker supports a variety of widths, although you won’t want to cut the paper strips into lengths much longer than eight inches, or your bead will get too fat. I actually found cutting the paper wider, up to 3/4″ or so, made the strips easier to handle as I was making the beads. To make shapes other than simple cylinders, check out this awesome cheat sheet of paper bead templates.
So, do you need this bead maker? No. Does it revolutionize bead making? No. Is it going to bother you that it’s made almost completely of plastic? Oh, yeah, that’s definitely going to bother you. It’s quick and easy and fun, though, your kid can use it independently, and if she’s a crafty sort of kid, then yes, she’s probably going to like it a lot.
[I did NOT receive this 4M Recycled Paper Beads Kit from a publicist. Syd’s Uncle Chad bought it with his own money (well, I assume. How well can one person really know another?) and gave it to her for her birthday!]
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