We have been taking time to sit and craft these few days, as part of our attempt to focus less on the academics. Junior J has been fidgeting and struggling with writing as well as Math for the past two weeks, so I've cut down on seat-work in those areas. We spend part of the afternoons working with our hands, and recently we've been creating with Hama beads.
The concept behind these beads is simple: you fit these tiny plastic beads (made with polyethylene if I am not mistaken) on a pegboard in any pattern you'd like, and then fuse the beads together by melting them with a hot iron, with a piece of paper in between the beads and the iron. You then have to peel the fused beads off the board, flip it, and repeat. Two of the popular brands of beads would be Hama and Perler (affiliate link). Ikea stocks Pyssla beads, which are similar, as well as the pegboards. The former two come in different sizes, with larger beads for younger kids, while Ikea's version only comes in the small size. You can also purchase the paper for ironing the beads, however, we've found that regular baking paper works as well. In terms of ideas and templates, Pinterest is great resource, and the Perler site also has lots of free templates you could use.
Our pegboards and beads were passed to us by a homeschooling mum, and thus far the kids were not too keen on working on them. I wasn't too, since the idea of them dropping beads and baby picking them and eating them was quite a nightmare! However, Junior J seemed interested the other day, and started filling up a star pegboard. Watching him work was interesting: he started off with the arms of the star and decided to fill them up with alternating colours, then filled two arms with lines of varying colours. He then got tired of trying to find specific colours, and randomly filled up the center.
Lil J wanted to join in the fun as well, but needed some guidance. I ended up making a rainbow with him, and he helped to find the colours and we put them on the board together.
It has been quite a learning experience, and a reminder that these times spent crafting together can be lessons in themselves. We work on our creations side by side, and help each other to find beads of a certain colour. The boys pick up learning points along the way: Junior J observed that the star was made up of triangles and a hexagon, while the heart was made of two semi-circles and a square. He learnt to observe details and colours. Lil J revised his colours, and we also noted the colours of the rainbow. The picking and placing of beads is good fine-motor training and an exercise in patience. We've more or less contained the mess by keeping our work to the dining table, and each person gets a tray, which is useful to catch any falling beads. We use bowls to hold and sort the beads, and the boys have to pick up any beads they drop immediately.
I showed Junior J various pictures of creations made using these beads, and he was really excited when he saw this one. He followed the picture, and made the watermelon slice using that as a guide, and now wants to do all the other foods too!