The bling thing

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Being a child art therapist and an arts & crafts counselor has involved a fair amount of jewelry-making over the years. There are a lot of things to recommend jewelry-making as an activity in both situations.

  • This activity is festive and fun, like playing dress-up or getting ready for Halloween.
  • Hand-made jewelry tends to become a symbol of identity that is proudly worn.
  • Jewelry styles are so diverse that anything goes, and kids can forget about the creativity-crushing idea of right and wrong.
  • Materials are cheap or free and easy to come by. Whatever materials you have around are enough to come up with some kind of jewelry project.
  • Stringing beads and objects is meditative and calming and promotes easy companionship.
  • Because this activity involves many small items, there is usually a sharing of materials in a group. These shared elements connect the varied finished pieces, a nice metaphor for group connectedness.
  • Kids love to make presents for friends and family, and in our culture a gift of jewelry is associated with love.

Pretty much anything you have on hand for stringing works fine. Ribbon, telephone wire, lanyard, or shoelaces are good bets. The ball chains pictured were donated for camp arts & crafts, and I can personally guarantee that they are universally loved, no matter the age or gender. You can buy them here.

What to put on the strings? Beads, buttons, decorated cardboard pendants, wooden spools, styrofoam peanuts, paper, found objects, anything. Sculpey and Model Magic are great for making beads. And remember: you can make a bead out of anything you can punch a hole in. Paint and decorate freely!

Below are some examples of materials and of jewelry created in art therapy sessions, in the camp arts & crafts room, and in my very own basement studio.