Help With Children's Beading Classes

Q: I've just been asked to do a seven-week beading course for children at a private school (an after school enrichment program.) While I've been teaching beading for 10 years, I teach to adults. I have a few projects I could come up with - a woven bracelet, illusion necklace, but I desperately need your help in thinking of some other kid-friendly beading/jewelry projects. The age range is 3rd through 6th grade.

A: The children here are into little friendship bracelets with and without beads, and the little beady animals made with pony beads. Your class sounds fun. Wish I had been exposed to beading at that age. Imagine the bead stashes we all would have now if we started in grade school! Since you'll have the time with them, why not get them started on peyote stitch? Plastic pony beads, acrylic 4-ply yarn & tapestry needles-- get some of the glow in the dark pony beads-- make nice little "wall hangings", or even pouches. "Suncatchers" can be made with the transparent &/or glitter ones. For the wall hangings or suncatchers, get some bamboo skewers, and run one through the top row of beads, then snip off the point. My younger son made an "Indian bag" in 3d grade-- it's about 12 beads wide, has faceted acrylicbeads plus animal shaped "pony" beads & jingle bell fringe. and a 4 bead wide peyote stitch strap. All the beadee babies patterns that the kids are all stuck on (gecko etc.) For the kids who can do those way too fast, challenge them by making the beading materials smaller, ie. wee ponys, e beads, seeds. Here are some sites with a large supply of patterns. Seed bead ones done on beading wire are small enough to be incorporated into other jewelry themes. Have you considered teaching them to make their own beads with polymer clay.... teaching them to make a simple cane and then the process of slicing and applying the canes ? I have taught beginning polymer clay to children in this age range many times, always with fantastic sucess ! It's a medium that everyone can do, because the colors are so beautiful and remain true, it's a minimal expense, and the results are almost always striking ! It would work well if you have the kids coming back for several weeks, because you can teach it in steps. I have found that boys as well as girls enjoy this medium, and they aren't restricted to necklaces and bracelets ( although many of the boys end up making tube beads with big holes to go on a leather choker ), but they can also make beads for keychains, to wear on their backpacks, etc. I have also taught many afterschool enrichment classes, and some other beady possibilities include: embellishing with beads, such as sewing simple beaded flower patterns on gloves, socks, pouches, or other inexpensive items; 'Macrame' bracelets with beads; making a beaded fringe on a shirt pocket or handbag; beaded memory wire bracelets and rings; and beaded barrettes and headbands ( strung on thin wire and wrapped). Hope this gets your creative juices flowing !!