Beaded Bendable Shapes

by Meghan

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Lil’ M no longer cares to be left out.  She wants in on every craft and activity Big M does these days.  Sometimes, it can be a bit of a struggle, given their 2 year age difference, but I am enjoying the challenge of coming up with activities I can easily modify to entertain them both! These Beaded Bendable Shapes are just such an activity…

Beaded Bendable Shapes - a great rainy day fine motor skill activity for toddlers and preschoolers

Beaded Bendable Shapes

Big M loves to play with these beads.  She is as girly as they come – if it is shiny, sparkly and can be used to adorn yourself, she’s all over it.  She often asks to “do beads”, and until recently, given their size, I was always reticent to let her play with them when Lil’ M was up.  But last week, on yet another blustery snow day, I was grasping at straws… well, pipecleaners, really… to keep them entertained.  So, when she asked to do beads, I caved.  I knew Lil’ M would want to play too, and as I got the beads out of the craft closet, I spotted the pipecleaners.


Pony beads
Pipe cleaners

Cost: Less than $5

Prep Time: Less than 5 minutes

Clean-Up Time: Less than 5 minutes

I bought a pound of pony beads at a craft store over a year ago – we’ve barely made a dent in them so far.  You can find a one pound bag on Amazon for less than $5, or get 1000-count bags in single or themed colors for even less.  I get pipe cleaners for $1 at my local Dollar Store – I pick up a different color or two whenever I stop by, so we always have a decent assortment in the craft closet.

Beading for Toddlers

Lil’ M had never beaded before, but she has great fine motor skills, and I thought with the stiffness of the pipe cleaner, it might make it easier for her to play too.  I was right!  If you knew how active this child is, the fact that she sat still for more than 10 minutes on a single activity is miraculous in and of itself.  The intensity of her focus and concentration was so fun to watch!  At first, I held the pipe cleaner for her, while she threaded it on, but it didn’t take long before she grabbed it and took over.  Big M was so excited for her too, and cheered her on with every bead she got on.

To limit the potential mess, I only gave her a small sprinkle of beads in a little bowl.  I also watched her like a hawk because she still tries to put things in her mouth, and technically, these beads are for ages 3+.

Shapes for Preschoolers

As I monitored and helped Lil’ M, Big M was off to the races filling up pipe cleaners and asking for more.  The bristles on the pipe cleaners are great to keep the beads from just sliding off, but to keep the girls from pushing them off the end, I just made a little kink in the bottom before handing them each pipe cleaner.  She was much happier and less frustrated using the pipe cleaners vs. the lacing strings we typically use, as well.


To keep Big M engaged, I showed her how we could connect the ends of the pipe cleaner together by threading them through the beads on the opposite end.

At first, she wanted to make bracelets.  Then, she realized they were bendable, and asked if she could make different shapes.  “That’s a great idea!  What shapes do you want to make?”  She made a circle, a heart, and a square – then she asked me to help her make a hexagon, but I think we may have needed longer pipe cleaners for that!


As always, Big M’s imagination and creativity, exceeds my own – she always finds a way to take our activities to the next level!Beaded Bendable Shapes

Do your kids like to play with beads?  What are some fun creations you have made with pony beads?  If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy Scissor Skills for Preschoolers and Weaving Word Webs. For more fine motor skill fun, check out our Fine Motor Skills board on Pinterest!

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Jennifer April 30, 2015 - 2:19 pm

This is such a great fine motor activity and way to learn about geometry! Thanks for sharing!

PGPBMeghan April 30, 2015 - 3:15 pm

Thanks! My girls love it – it’s definitely one of the activities they ask to do over and over and over again, and one of the few Lil’ M will sit still for!

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