Nov 30, 2015

Holiday Crafting with Kids: Ornaments!

It's officially the holiday season and Christmas is already in full swing at our house. We're decorating and shopping, cooking and crafting. This year Oliver is old enough to help make gifts for family members (like his Grandparents, etc.) and be involved in the gift giving part of Christmas. I saw these homemade ornaments made out of melted pony beads (we had a bunch on hand from previous projects) and thought it would be something fun that Oliver could easily help create. The best instructions I found were on Artful Parent for fairy wands using cookie cutters.


- Pony beads
- Cookie cutters
- A metal cake pan lined with foil
- A drill with a small drill bit to drill the holes
- Ribbon, string or yarn to hang the ornament

To make the ornaments:

We placed cookie cutters in an aluminum cake pan lined with foil.

Oliver took different color beads and placed them into each cookie cutter. He was very pleased with all the bright colors.

Once Oliver was finished, I made sure all the beads were spread out into one single layer in each cookie cutter without gaps, pulling out any extra beads.  I also cleaned up the extra beads rolling around the pan - 3-year-olds drop a lot.

We put the tray on the grill at 400 degrees for 5-7 minutes, just until the beads melted together. I'm sure a toaster oven outside would also work.  It's not recommended to cook these inside because of toxic melted plastic fumes. Safety first!

Let the ornaments cool completely before removing them from the cookie cutters. They should just pop right out, though on ours a few had a little bit of melted plastic sticking out the bottom where the cookie cutter was uneven sitting on the pan. The excess plastic popped right off with a dull table knife, then the ornament slid right out of cookie cutter.

We also had a few rough edges on a few ornaments, so I went over the edges quickly with a piece of sandpaper to be safe - the jagged parts disappeared in seconds.

To make the colorful shapes into ornaments, I drilled holes into each one. Don't drill too close to the edge or the plastic might crack and break.

Once the holes were drilled we put ribbon through each hole  and tied a bow - I think they came out really nice!

Oliver is VERY proud of his ornaments and I have to admit they look really great. They feel very thick and solid (like you can't easily break them) and the colors are so beautiful in person. I love it that you can make a lot of them quickly and inexpensively and they come out so nice!

A few tips: 

We used solid pony beads and translucent pony beads, but for ornaments the solid colors came out SO much better. The translucent ones were too light when they melted.

Choose simple symmetrical shapes - snowflakes, trees, snowmen, hearts. Animals with legs and small parts are much  more difficult to pop out of the cookie cutters and tend to break.

While the simple-shaped ornaments pop right out of the cookie cutters, the melted beads leave some residue behind that's really hard to clean off. The idea of plastic residue coming off in future cookies totally grossed me out. I recommend either buying a few cookie cutters exclusively for crafting or using old ones and replacing them with some shiny new ones from Sur La Table for $1.25 each. I used old cookie cutters and bought some shiny new ones for our Christmas cookies this year.

When it comes to drilling, the plastic is surprisingly hard and very tough - it takes a little bit of force and pressure to push the drill bit through. The pressure combined with the speed of the spinning bit produces a lot of heat - this heat remelts the beads in the hole. When the melted plastic cools on the drill bit, it's totally stuck on there and becomes a mess. I highly recommend buying a new inexpensive drill bit to replace the one you might ruin (unless someone has a great way to get melted plastic off?). This is what mine looked like after:

Lastly, DO NOT overcook the beads. Keep a close eye on them after the 5 minute mark. We lost track of time on a tray of translucent beads - they were only on for like 10-11, but it was a mess. Most of the beads lost their color and there were burned brown streaks. The smell was terrible. They were also incredibly  difficult to get out of the cookie cutters and most of them shattered.

Solid colors + simple shapes + only 5-7 minutes of cooking = they come out so much better!

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