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Mother’s Day – Clay Bead Necklace

Sweet Pea is 36 months old.

From: I was planning on having Sweet Pea make clay votive holders for Mother’s Day gifts, but the Crayola Air Dry Clay I was going to use specifically says, “Do not mold into candle holders or other like items for use around flame.”  So we went to Micheal’s to look for another type of clay.  But then I saw this Pluffy kid’s clay and decided that it would be fun for Sweet Pea to make a beaded necklace with it instead.


  • Non-toxic clay that can be baked or air-dried.  (We really liked the Pluffy because it was so soft to work with and hardened nicely when baked.  But you could even make your own.)
  • Aluminum Foil.
  • Beading needle or toothpick.
  • Beading wire or string.  It must be stiff enough for your tot to poke through the bead hole.  (We used 0.7mm Clear Stretch Magic, which was okay but I would look for something prettier next time.)
  • Cookie Sheet.
  • Baskets or bowls for the baked beads.
  • Scissors.
  • Smock or bib for your tot.


  • Cover your work area with the foil and your tot with a smock.
  • Show your tot how to break off a small piece of clay and roll it between his or her hands to make a bead.

  • When your tot has finished creating the bead, use the beading needle/toothpick to create a hole all the way through the bead.   Despite what the picture below shows, it is best to poke the needle through the shortest part of the bead so your tot will have an easier time stringing it.  Also it helps if you roll the needle around a bit to make sure the hole is large enough.  (Obviously older kids could do this part by themselves, but the beading needles were somewhat sharp and I didn’t have the patience to help Sweet Pea poke a hole in all of the beads.)

  • Being careful not to crush the bead and ruin the hole, place the bead on a foil covered baking sheet.  If your beads are very different sizes, arrange the tray so all of the small beads are on one side and the largest on the other.  (This helps so you can more easily bake the largest ones for more time than the smaller ones.)
  • Repeat until you have enough beads.  It is a good idea to wash your tot’s hands before they switch to a new color of clay.
  • Bake the clay according to the directions on the package. (15 min @ 275 F per 1/4″ of thickness for the Pluffy beads.)

  • If necessary, remove the smallest beads after the first baking and return the larger beads to the oven for 15 more minutes.  Repeat as necessary.

  • Let the beads cool and place in baskets.

  • Put the string through one bead and tie it in place so the beads don’t all run off the end of the necklace every time your tot picks it up.

  • Show your tot how to push the string through a bead and pull it all the way to the end.
  • Let them string as many beads as they want.

  • When they are finished stringing the beads, tie a loop at the unfinished end.

  • You can fasten the necklace by slipping the loop over the bead tied to the other end.

  • Happy Mother’s Day!  Wear or give your necklace away.

Observations: Sweet Pea liked making the beads, but she was confused about how we were going to turn them into a necklace.  After I told her we were making necklaces, she immediately started making long “snakes” out of the clay and calling them necklaces.   I had to explain many times that she needed to make beads and then we would later string the beads into a necklace.

Obviously this necklace looks like it was made by a 3 year old, but I love it!  I am excited by this project because I can imagine how delightful it would be to have 5 or 6 sets of necklaces created over the course of a decade.  It would be so interesting to see the improvements in the beads and pattern making over the years.

Notes from the Trenches:

  • Creating 4 necklaces in a day was about 3 too many for Sweet Pea.  I am apologizing right now to the relative that ends up with the necklace containing only 3 beads on it.
  • If you have white clay, use it before any other colors.  Our white beads turned out somewhat grungy.  The white really picked up tiny pieces of the other clay colors.
  • Sweet Pea’s beads were wildly different sizes.  If you want the necklace to look a little better, you could cut the clay into same size chunks before letting your tot make beads.  However, I really liked the idea of letting Sweet Pea do as much as possible by herself for comparison to future years.
  • Even with one of the ends tied, Sweet Pea dumped all of the beads off of the necklaces several times.  She didn’t seem too discouraged about it and just kept restringing them again (and again).
  • It just occurred to me now, but I really wish I had used the beading needle to scratch the date into the end bead for each of the necklaces.

Rating: 1 Stars * (Fun)



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