Threading with pipe cleaners and beads


Like many toddlers Eva is a girl with a ton of energy who loves to run, jump, climb, crawl and everything in between for hours on end. But after a long day of tumbling about, I find that she really appreciates getting a chance to sit still and focus on something that challenges her mind in a different way. One of the things she’s real excited about these days are threading with pipe cleaners and big wooden beads. It’s such a simple activity, but yet it can entertain for up to 30-40 minutes at a time.


I first introduced Eva to this game when she was about 1,5 years old which I think was a good age for her. She was a bit frustrated the first few times and insisted on my help with the threading and finding the holes in the beads, but now she rarely asks for help. Instead she loves to show of the different creations she makes yelling “look Mum” despite me sitting next to her. I love the enthusiasm.

When introducing her to this little activity, I decided on using pipe cleaners as a string because they are easier to handle compared to string. If you want to make it even easier for your toddler try using a straight, thin stick of some sort (like a non-sharp skeewer or a straw) instead of pipe cleaners. And if you want to up the challenge use shoestrings and/or smaller beads. I think we might be advancing to the shoestring any day now and when she gets a bit older, I’ll introduce the smaller beads. For now however, the pipe cleaners and wooden beads work great!


You’ll need:

  • Big beads (I’ve used some wooden beads I’ve found at a yard sale, but whatever kind you have would work. If small enough to choke be extra attentive)
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Optional: A tray or similar to keep the beads together


How to:

1. Make loop or fasten a bead at the end of a pipe cleaner. This to make sure the beads stay in place as your toddler threads.


2. If you’d like a longer piece of pipe cleaner thread, take two pipe cleaners and attach them to each other by twisting them around each other. Make sure you twist them really tight, so the beads don’t get stuck when threading them.

3. Show your toddler how to put the beads on and how to take them off again. Hold the pipe cleaner in one hand and put the beads on with the other.

4. Hand your toddler the pipe cleaner thread and beads and let them explore. The first few times your toddler might not thread the way you showed her or keep insisting that you do it for her, but I bet after a handful of times playing with the beads, she’ll get the hang of it and soon she’ll be mastering the art of threading with pipe cleaners and big beads.


I love to see how Eva sometimes threads the beads according to colour and othertimes according to shape and other times in ways that seem completely random to me (though I’m certain they are not).

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