Egypt was the first country to develop a wide variety of trade beads. In ancient times, they were used to embellish belts, jewellery, rolls of papyrus and sandals to distinguish the rulers from the ordinary person. African trade beads were made of colourful materials that included stone, clay, glass or shells. Kids will enjoy crafting their own trade beads from household materials.
Paper Bead Necklace
Kids can create colourful beads from paper. Cut triangles of white paper that measure 2-inches wide at the base and 3-inches long. Each triangle will become one bead. Have the kids colour them with markers. Cut plastic straws into 2-inch lengths. Put a drop of white glue on the straw. Place it along the wide end of the paper with the white side facing up. Roll the paper around the straw keeping it centred. Squeeze glue on the tip of the triangle to secure it. String the beads on coloured yarn.
For younger kids, dye hollow shaped pasta to craft a colourful necklace. Fill plastic containers with enough rubbing alcohol to cover the amount of pasta you want to dye. You will need a container for each colour. Add several drops of food colouring to the alcohol. Add your pasta and let it soak for 15 minutes. Drain the pasta and spread it out on paper towels. Allow it to dry for a couple of hours before stringing them onto yarn.
Prepare a batch of dough clay by mixing 2 cups flour, 1 cup of salt and about 1/2 cup of water. Divide your clay into several chunks and add drops of food colouring to each piece. Make as many different colours as you desire. Let the kids roll the clay into ball shaped beads. Poke a knitting needle through the centres. Encourage the kids to mix colours and experiment with shapes. Let the beads air dry overnight. String them onto yarn to create a necklace or bracelet.
Supply the kids with strips of fabrics that measure about 2-inches wide by 3-inches long. Each strip will become one bead. Cut plastic straws into 2-inch lengths to become the centres of the beads. Dilute white craft glue with water in a plastic container. Have the kids dip a strip of fabric into the glue mixture and squeeze out the excess between their fingers. Lay the strip flat and lay the straw along the short end. Roll the fabric around the straw. Let the beads air dry over night. Thread yarn through the centres to make jewellery.