Christmas is coming faster than seems possible and our Christmas art is in full-swing. With all the hustle and bustle that comes with the holidays, I wanted to keep our art projects as simple as possible. This adorable candy cane craft uses only beads and pipe cleaners. It’s easy, fast, requires little preparation and almost no clean up (unless baby dumps the entire plate of beads onto the floor when you aren’t looking.)
For this project you will need:
- Red and white tri beads (I got my giant tub of beads 50% off at Hobby Lobby)
- Red and/or white pipe cleaners (chenille stems)
- Paper plate (optional–not pictured)
- Sharp scissors (optional–not pictured)
I decided to cut my pipe cleaners in half to make mini candy canes, since I wasn’t sure how long my little elves would be engaged in stringing the beads onto the pipe cleaners. The small size was perfect for B and G (4.5 years old) but E (5 years old) happily beaded two candy canes and probably would have kept going if her mom hadn’t arrived to pick her up. I did this craft with two groups of kids and found that the half-size candy canes were best for the 3-4 year olds and the full size ones were great for 5 years old and up. All of my photos show the smaller candy canes but both sizes are made exactly the same way and both look adorable hanging on the tree!
Before the kids got started, I folded down one end of the pipe cleaner and pushed a bead as far as it would go to that end. This created a stopper so that the beads didn’t fall off the end as the kids were pushing their other beads into place. I tried gluing the bead into place with liquid glue but that only made a sticky mess. Folding down the tip of the pipe cleaner seemed to work well; none of the beads have come off our candy canes so far and it keeps the end from being so pointy. I also bent the pipe cleaners into candy cane shapes. They don’t hold their shape well during beading, but it gives the kids an idea of what their finished craft will look like.
I set out a plate of beads and a pile of ready-to-bead pipe cleaners and the kids got busy. We talked a bit about different patterns they might choose to use for their candy canes but I didn’t push them to use a pattern if they weren’t interested in doing so. I knew they would be getting some great fine motor skills practice with this activity no matter how they ordered their beads. Next year I might make some simple pattern cards and encourage them to follow a pattern as they bead their candy canes.
The kids stayed very focused threading their beads onto the pipe cleaners. I modeled a 3 red, 3 white pattern on my candy cane but the kids were disinterested in my patterning. B wanted to follow a red-white-red-white pattern for his candy cane and the girls were more creative in their designs. Theirs might not look like traditional candy canes but I loved seeing the different ways they approached this simple craft. When the kids finished, I folded over the bottom tips of their candy canes just like the tops to hold the beads on and protect little fingers from the sharp point. We reshaped the pipe cleaner into a candy cane shape and the kids eagerly placed their candy canes on the tree. Don’t they look great?