Making paper jewellery can be more than just a way to keep your kids occupied on a rainy day.  Bead stringing helps the very young to develop fine motor skills, and rolling paper beads or cutting paper shapes does the same for the slightly older child.  The more ‘grown up’ ones can be encouraged to let their creativity run wild, making unique pieces from anything from tissue paper to old magazines.

Rolled paper beads
Credit: Brad Flickinger

Simple beads made from rolled paper triangles


Try making beads from magazine pages or coloured paper.  Starting by folding your sheet in two lengthwise, then draw a line with a ruler at an angle to make a long isoscelese triangle (with two long sides of equal length) and cut this out. Roll it around a drinking straw, knitting needle or wooden skewer starting with the long base, and hey presto! you have the bead shape.  Little ones can now glue the pointed ends in place.

Older children might prefer to try a papier-mache technique, soaking the whole triangle in diluted wallpaper paste or gum before rolling to create a resilient bead which can be painted or finished with paper glaze or clear nail varnish and used in a wealth of bead-based projects.

Isoscelese triangle
Credit: Alexander Pavlov/ Wikimedia Commons

Isoscelese triangle

You and your child can experiment with different triangle proportions and the various bead shapes they create. The taller the triangle, the more rounded the bead will be. Make the base of each triangle at least an inch long and make sure the hole is a decent size if working with a little one.

For stringing the beads, tinies usually find pipe-cleaners more manageable than string or thread because it’s easier to push through. It also has the benefit that you can twist it into all sorts of rigid shapes. Try using wired-together beads to make sculptured brooches, earrings, pendants or hair decorations, in any shape from flowers to people. Or just weave beads individually into hair braids or plaits. 

Paper flowers

Almost any 3D paper art project could be adapted into a pendant or brooch with the addition of chain, ribbon, string or coloured wool. Simply tape the back of the finished paper sculpture to an ordinary safety pin to make a brooch, or a plain hairgrip to create a decorative hair slide. Paper flowers are ideal, and you can make many different ones.

A simple flat flower shape is be made by folding a sheet of paper into four and cutting a single petal shape through all the layers, making sure to leave them joined in the centre.  Make two or three in complementary colours, layer them and you'll only need a button or paper disc stitched through or glued to the centre to complete the effect. Make it yellow and white, finish instead with paper rolled into a loose tube to make a simple ‘trumpet’ and you have a daffodil.  You could finish it off with a few paper beads in the centre, or cut fringes from a rectangle of paper and roll it up to make a bunch of ‘stamens’.

Spiral template
Credit: Ivy Pavlova

Spiral template for a simple rolled rosebud

Or it’s amazingly simple to create a paper rose by drawing a spiral on a circle of paper and cutting out a single strip.  Starting with the straight outer end, roll this up tight then glue the swirl onto the central end to hold it all together.  Don't worry if your edges are not even - this can create a more convincing, natural effect. You could add the simple flat petals above behind this swirl for a more fully blooming rose, or to set your bud in leaves.

Roses made from spirals of paper
Credit: Kirsten Skiles

Simple roses rolled from spirals of waste paper

A child who can cope with scissors should be able to manage most or all of these techniques alone or you can have lots of fun together creating beautiful flower arrangements or inventing new plant species.