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We started working on this little project a while ago as a way to develop my preschooler’s fine motor skills. She’s currently into making necklaces, so I thought we’d make, paint, and string some beads. What resulted was a painted bead necklace - a preschool fine motor activity.
String, or twine, anything to put the beads onto
Start by warming up the Sculpey clay. This clay is great because it never dries out, and it needs to be baked in order for it to harden. One drawback is that the clay needs to be kneaded a lot before it is soft enough for little fingers to use. Once it was warmed up, though, this clay is excellent to mold, shape, and create with. An adult needs to knead the clay at first, it’s just so stiff to begin with.
Next, it’s time to create the shapes. Rolling, squishing, and shaping the clay builds up the muscles in little hands so that they are better able to hold pencils, etc.
My preschooler started out by rolling snakes and molding them into circles. Then we made a heart, some oblong beads and some spherical beads.
After all the beads are shaped, be sure to use a toothpick to make a hole in each bead large enough that the bead can be strung onto the necklace.
Next, follow the baking instructions on the Sculpey clay and bake the beads. Be sure to allow enough time for the baked beads to cool before painting. We stopped here for the rest of the day.
The next part of the project involved painting the beads.
Using craft paint, have the child paint the beads anyway he or she wants. A paint palette can easily be made by using wax paper and daubing about a tablespoon each of red, yellow, blue, white, black, and green.
Paint one side, then let it dry before painting the other side.
It was fun to watch my preschooler explore the colors as she carefully selected how each bead should be painted. After she had finished painting each bead on one, we let the paint of the beads dry on the one side. This was another break in the project.
We picked the project back up the next day and painted the other side of each bead. Again, the same careful strokes and color choices were exhibited by my preschooler. She loves to paint so this activity was something that really kept her attention. Again, once we finished painting the other side, we had another built in activity break to wait for the paint to dry.
The final step is to string the painted beads.
We used a silver metallic thread on which to string the beads. My preschooler enjoyed this part, too. She carefully selected which bead would go on in what order. She was able to handle the blunt needle easily, and enjoyed being able to this part “all by herself”. I added a step to the process for our necklace, and it developed Mom’s fine motor skills. I tied little bows out of ribbon to act as spacers for the beads. I wanted the beads to be spread out on the necklace and not all clumped where gravity pulled them.
She wore the necklace all day, and I had to do a lot of convincing to get her to take it off for her bath time.
The molding, painting, and stringing all helped my preschooler build her fine motor control – in different ways. And, the fact that the activity took most of a week helped her understand the concept of patience a bit more. Finally, we had a lot of fun as Mom and daughter building something that she made, with minimal assistance from me. It was fantastic to see this creative side of my preschooler have an outlet.
What are some preschool activities that you’ve had great success with? I’d love to hear about them.