Fuse beads, Perler beads, fun-beads-to-stick-in-your-nose/ears beads – call them what you want, I am THRILLED to have bought BUCKET LOADS of these little plastic cylinder-shaped beads. I spent countless hours in the 80s making coasters for my parents, grandparents and other unsuspecting relatives. Little did I know that history would repeat itself and I now find myself doing the same thing 30 years later – this time the plates have shapes beyond circles and squares, the colors are more vibrant – some even with glitter and they have the preschool friendly larger size called Biggies.
Some things remain the same though: there are so many benefits to playing with Perler beads that they are worth every minute spent picking up random stray beads from the floor. This past weekend I pulled out our three buckets of beads (two with regular sized beads and one with Biggie beads.)
Without further instructions or guidance the three big boys (8, 6 and 3) sat down quietly and started on their own projects… this is every bit as shocking to me as it is to you!
Jansen (3) loves anything on wheels, the bigger, the better! The theme of this weekend’s creations was of course fire trucks, traffic signs and more trucks, made by all the boys. Jansen can independently follow the directions and finish a design – with little to no instructions from me, which is why I love the Biggie beads for preschoolers.
Items needed to have a blast with Perler beads:
Iron and ironing board
Instructions (check out my Pinterest board for inspiration):
Biggie Perler Projects: Click the images for printable instructions!
The skills developed by playing with Perler beads:
- Fine motor skills: picking up the beads with a pincher grab, carefully placing them on the plate without knocking all the other ones over.
- Concentration: completing a design, depending on the size can take 10-30 minutes, picking up knocked-over or spilt beads can take much longer.
- Color recognition: you can buy the beads in color sorted tray or in mixed buckets. Identifying correct colors is an extra (fun) step when you buy the bucket – a great opportunity to talk about colors.
- Counting: counting how many beads are in each row, even counting the beads that you dumped on the floor – lots of opportunities to count.
- Pattern recognition: blue, red, blue, red… what comes next. This is a great skill to learn for preschoolers.
- Restraint: “Do NOT put the beads in your nose or ears!” – trust me – this is very tempting when you are child. IF a bead should get lodged in a facial cavity do NOT try to remove it yourself with any type of tool. You can hold the nostril that does not contain a bead and ask your child to BLOW as hard as he can – this MAY dislodge the little snot-covered pearl. If not, let the professionals remove the stray bead – take this from someone who knows. (Click the link for a great story!)
Instructions (follow closely):
- Place Perler beads on plate, either in perfect order, random order or little to no order – it really doesn’t matter – the fun is all the same.
- Once the design is finished, dig out your ironing board. (that’s the squeaky surf-board with legs that you have stored in the back of the closet with your cleaning supplies – so in the least used area of the house).
- Find your iron! It is probably in your laundry room cabinet, on the top shelf, behind last year’s Halloween window decorations and the broken plate you used for Santa’s cookies – I know ours was RIGHT in that spot.
- Plug in your iron and crank it to a high “cotton” setting.
- Cover your bead creation with a layer of parchment paper – make sure the paper covers all the beads. (Do NOT touch the iron directly onto the beads, unless you plan on scraping melted plastic off the one dress shirt your child wears every year for picture day).
- Iron the parchment paper-covered beads, applying gentle pressure and moving the iron slowly back and forth.
- Once you can tell that all the beads have melted around the edges (enough to stick together), CAREFULLY flip the plate, beads and parchment paper over. So the parchment paper is on the bottom and the plate is facing downwards (BE CAREFUL – it’s HOT).
- Lift off the plate, place a new piece of parchment paper on the exposed beads and repeat the ironing. (This step is optional, but I like to make sure the beads are fused on both sides for added durability).
- Set the wax paper-sandwiched bead creation aside to cool off. Carefully remove the paper once you can touch it without burning your fingers! – and VOILA – you are done!
- You will have to play around with how much pressure, how hot the iron should be and how long you should iron the design, but you are a certified Bead-Ironing Master once you have done one or 34 of them!
- Finally: pick up all the stray beads off the floor – and please share with me in the comments if you figure out a great way to do this.
What was your favorite part about Perler fuse beads when you were little? (Please don’t tell me that they were only popular in Denmark!)