Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Bead Belt Craft for Kids {Native American Unit}

Last month, I started an eight week unit on Native Americans with the kids (ages 3, 5, 5).  Every week we read a story about a little Native American boy or girl from a different tribe in the book Eight Little Indians by Josephine Lovell.  The book belonged to my husband when he was a young and despite being published in 1936, it depicts the Native Americans in a very positive light and is a wonderful resource for educating children on the varying traditions of the different tribes.

The first story we read was about Leaping Trout, an Iroquois boy who loved to swim and built his own canoe.  When Leaping Trout's father sent out a messenger to invite others to his party, he gave the messenger his wampum belt to show that the message was really from him and not a trick (the large amount of purple shells on his belt indicated his power and wealth).

For a fun handicraft to go with the story, the children made their own wampum belts.  My 5 year old twins were able to make these with only minimal assistance.  This would also be a great craft for kids for the Thanksgiving holiday!  Here's how we did it..

Authentic wampum beads are made from shells and are white and purple.  We used Perler Biggie Beads to this handicraft, but you could also use pony beads or make your own clay beads.  E wanted hers to be realistic (purple/white) while L chose pink/orange and H chose blue/green.

The key to making the belt is to put two threads through each row, one from the left and one from the right.  I tried to take a picture that would demonstrate this.  I started the first row for the girls, and then (to my surprise) they were able to take over independently and complete their bead belts all on their own.  The whole process is quite fast - about an hour to create a belt that will go around a child's waist, and less if you want to make a shorter decorative hanging.

This is L's belt.  I love how focused the kids were when they worked on their projects.  They were very excited that they had created something they could really wear.

Here's H modeling the belt I made for him.

We'll definitely be doing this handicraft again in the future.  It will be especially fun when the kids are older and can use smaller beads and make patterns in the belts to make unique wearable art.

Stay tuned to this blog for more Native American crafts for kids.

Also, be sure to check out the LaLaLogic Critical Thinking Curriculum for Preschoolers which I developed.

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