Way back last winter when we were dying for new indoor activities, I bought a container of pony beads for George to string on pipecleaners. He enjoyed it for a little while but got good at it pretty fast and then the activity lost its charm. I'd bookmarked The Artful Parent's pony bead suncatcher tutorial and, though our beads weren't the translucent variety, thought we'd make a go of it anyway. George really likes playing with cookie cutters so even if the end result was a bust, I knew he'd have fun in the process.
The beads we have are a rainbow assortment which was good for our purposes. Older kids would enjoy making shapes or scenes out of the different colors, but "can you put another purple one into the star?" type stuff seemed to help George feel successful while still being mildly educational since he's got colors and shapes down pretty solidly.
We talked about putting them into the hot oven (400 degrees for 20 minutes) so they would melt, and I asked him what he thought would happen to the beads -- would the colors blend together or would they stay separate? He's been pretty interested in cooking recently so I likened it to making a pizza, where the ingredients stay identifiable, or making a cake, where the ingredients blend together to make something that looks different.
Meanwhile, Zelda chewed on a cookie cutter. I let George choose which cutters we used, and he picked all of the Hanukkah shapes: dreidel, star of David, scrolls, and menorah, in addition to some ovals. Weird, but whatever.
I got out the drill and a small bit and drilled holes in the finished shapes. This was easily the least popular part of the whole process. Zelda whimpered in fear and George cowered in the doorway saying, "do it fast!" After fastening on some fishing line and snipping the top ring out of an old oats canister, I tied them uniformly around the ring and added a bit of yarn for hanging. I'm not sure how long it'll last, but it's a pretty cute little mobile.
Festive! And only four months early for Hanukkah. We'll totally do it again, but with the translucent beads. Guess who's proud of his handiwork?