* Prices may differ from that shown
My daughter received this set for her 5th birthday and use has been hooked ever since.
Aqua beads are small plasticy beads which you can place onto a tray to form a pattern. When you have designed the pattern you like you then spray them with water (using the spray bottle provided) and leave them to dry. When they are dry you find they have stuck together and you have a small bead ornament.
Initially I was a bit worried we would have beads everywhere as they are quite small and fiddly. But despite a few rogue beads we have found this a really good craft activity. The pack comes with beads, a tray which you form the patterns on, pattern ideas (which you can place under the transparent tray and the child copies), a spray bottle and a pen like contraption which picks the beads up.
My daughter didn't get on with the bead picker so uses her fingers instead. She spends between 20-30 minutes making patterns and then loves being able to spray them herself. We usually wait til the next day to peel them off of the tray and she has a collection of bead ornaments now.
One of the things I was worried about was what on earth we would do with these things once they are made but someone has bought us an expansion pack which has key rings loops in. This was a great addition and she has been making these for all the family. We have also been using them to stick onto home made cards; I just spray some water onto the back of them and push and hold them firmly onto the cards.
We have had Hama beads in the past which is also something my daughter enjoys playing with but the advantage to aqua beads over Hama beads is that she gets to spray the water herself whereas with Hama beads an adult needs to iron the beads and they can be quite hot for a few minutes after.
They have lasted a while which is good for the price and I think she will continue playing with them for a while. I can see this being a toy which will be used for years as the children can make more complicated designs as they get older. Also being able to buy additional packs with different features makes it a good activity.
Overall this is a good craft activity for children who like to make things and have small fingers!
Each and every time the advert for Aqua Beads appeared on the TV, my soon to be five year old daughter was begging me for a set. "Look at what I could make" she would cry.
When my older daughter was young, there was nothing on the market to resemble Aqua Beads. I immediately liked the concept of being able to use water to stick beads together, so we researched the best set to get her started with once her birthday rolled around.
For £9.99 we bought the starter set which contains over 800 beads. This price is fairly stable wherever you look, but it is usually found in the two for £15 from Argos which makes it slightly better value.
Inside the set as previously mentioned were a large amount of beads all packaged nicely according to their colour. There was a good colour range included. Also in the box was a plastic compartment box with a lid, which although looks quite flimsy has done a good job of housing the beads. A small plastic bottle with nozzle acts as the spray bottle. This could actually double as a small perfume bottle in little girls craft sets, but it's a decent size for an adult to use, but perhaps a little small for children to grip and be able to use properly one handed. The bead tool however is a different story being a nice size to fit smaller hands.
No craft set would be complete without the standard templates. We were given four different ideas sheets which fit snugly into the bead board. I thought this was a nice idea, as the templates were in full colour and made using the correct size circles to fit the bead size perfectly. So often in sets, templates are an afterthought and don't really fit the set they are packaged with, so a bit plus for Flair, the maker of the set.
Obviously my daughter was eager to get started so she sectioned off the beads into the plastic compartment box. Immediately I could see the small plastic beads being lost quite quickly, and this would be the one downfall to the set. Like many smaller children, girls especially when they start playing with beads etc., you invariably hear the familiar "ting ting ting" if you have laminate floor as one or three drop from the table to the floor. The hoover will often be heard collecting stray beads from under the front of the sofa or table.
Once our beads were sorted into colours, we set up the bead board and worked out how the tool worked. The board is made of clear plastic sitting in a pink tray. This is a good fit and there is space to remove the clear board and place a template underneath. A couple of grooves on the templates and plastic board enable everything to stay in place quite nicely.
The board itself has small bead like grooves which the beads nestle into when they are placed on the board. If you imagine an old fashioned solitaire board with the larger dips, then this is a much smaller version.
The next step is to use the bead tool which is essentially a fat plastic pen with a hole instead of a nib. The top part of the tool is pink coloured plastic and serves no purpose other than to be held comfortably. The base of the tool is clear and shows when you have managed to place a bead into the hole. This is done by pressing lightly down into the beads until one pops into the tool. It's a very easy process but children do have to remember not to press too hard otherwise the beads tend to splay out everywhere.
To get the bead from the tool onto the board, there is a small button that acts as a release when the tool is above the board. We learnt very quickly here that the tool has to be quite close to where you want the bead to fall as it can jump into the wrong groove very easily.
Some practice is needed for first time Aqua Bead users to master the technique, but once mastered, it's a very easy and quick process to create a design.
The main negative part of the tool is that it will only hold one bead at a time. There are other sets on the market that hold multiple beads, but not the starter set which is a shame.
Once your design is in place, the time has come for it to be glued together with water. A spray of water will create a sticky substance from the beads which sets the design in place.
I researched how this happened and essentially the beads are made from PVA based glue that is activated when it comes into contact with water.
The instructions told us that the design will take approximately an hour to "set" once sprayed. With only one board included in the starter set this meant that once a design was completed the toy had to go away until it was ready to be removed from the board. This was a bit of a disappointment to an excited five year old who wanted to carry on creating.
After the required time limit we learnt a couple of really valuable lessons. Make sure the water has been sprayed evenly over the beads, and make sure your design is thick enough to withstand someone lifting off the board.
It would appear that sometimes the designs need longer than the required hour to set. I started encouraging my daughter to leave them overnight to give them a good chance to set properly.
Overall I think this set is good value for money. It's a good concept that is safe for children. Obviously the beads are minute and need supervision around children. I think the design could do with some tweaks to make it more user friendly and replacement beads and parts should be made more readily available as they aren't at the moment.
It is however a good present for a crafty child and one that has definitely proved its worth in our house.
For my daughters birthday we were struggling with what we should buy her, she isn't a typical little girl that enjoys dolls and she doesn't really play with her character sets anymore so we were a bit stuck. I saw this set in Tesco and at £10 thought it wouldn't be a major issue if she didn't enjoy it.
The set comes in a bright pink box making it eye catching when placed on the shelves and shows a little girl on the front displaying her creations. The box states it has over 800 beads and that you simply add water, it's stated on the box that this is for 4 years plus and this is how old she turned so I knew it should be suitable. On the back of the box the contents is listed aswell as being pictured so you know exactly what you will find in the box.
On opening the box you find, 8 different bags of beads, a plastic wheel to store the beads with a plastic lid, a plopper, a water spray, instructions, a board on which to make your creations and 5 templates.
The 8 bags of beads are packaged in soft plastic and fully sealed so once they are open they can't be resealed, I would suggest using scissors to open the beads as I did use my teeth on one packet to find they nearly ended up all over the floor. The beads come in black, white, red which isn't a true red, blue, green, pink, yellow and orange and are very small balls of hard plastic, for some reason you get more beads in the blue and the yellow.
The plastic holder is a circle which has 8 compartments in it, the lid simply pushes on and it is supposed to hold the beads, the lid doesn't secure in any way and even though we have made sure this is kept flat all the time the beads manage to escape and mix so it is pretty much a waste of time and I think the makers need to come up with a better system.
The plopper is made out of pink plastic with a nib and a button, the nib opens up when you press the button and you place the nib over a bead and let go of the button to pick it up. Once you have managed to pick up a bead (you often end up chasing the required bead around the plastic storage) you place the plopper above the little dimple you want to place it in and press the button again to release it. The plopper seems cheap and I am expecting it to break pretty quickly, we found that the bead was often being dropped without the button being pressed and my daughter got that fed up of it that in the end she started using her fingers to place the beads instead.
The water spray is a little clear bottle made of plastic which has a spray top in bright pink and a cap to put on top so there is no leaking. The spray seems sturdy and of good quality and sprays over a wide area when used.
The instructions are nice and bright also based around pink, there are little pictures of what you can make from the templates dotted around and some simple instructions on how to use the set. The instructions do hold a few warnings but really things that are common sense such as for the child to wear overalls and that the beads are not for human consumption. There is also instructions on how to put together a little box and photo frame which you can make from the templates provided and then some hints and tips on the back.
The actual board to make the pictures on is made up of a pink base with a little slither of plastic pointing inwards that the template fits over to stop it slipping. The top half of the board goes onto of the template and is clear and made up of loads of little dimples that the beads sit into when making your pattern.
The templates included in this set are two to make a box, one with a caterpillar and a dolphin, one with a panda and a fish and one to make a little photoframe with flowers.
The set is fiddly to use since the plopper doesn't really work how it should and the beads are difficult for little fingers to manipulate, my daughter liked the idea of what she was doing but wuite quickly asked me to do it instead whilst she just watched. You place the template on the bottom part of the board and then fit the top over sitting the slither of plastic into a little indentation, this really doesn't make it very secure and with rough little hands it easily slips off and has to be reset. Once you have managed to get the right coloured beads into the right coloured dimples you have to spray the beads with water to set them, you need to use plenty of water otherwise they don't set properly. Once you have spray the beads you have to let it dry for an hour which my daughter wasn't keen on as then the board is in use and you can't do any more for an hour.
When our design dried my daughter was amazed, the beads lifted off the board easily and were nicely stuck together apart from one little bit which mustn't have had enough water on it however the creations feel sticky which I don't like.
I found this set pretty disappointing and my daughter didn't seem greatly impressed either, I wouldn't really recommend this to anyone as it is fiddly and at four years old she can't manage to do it herself which she gets annoyed at. The pieces are not really that good quality and just seem cheap, having used a product with a similar idea in Hama beads I would always suggest them to someone rather than this. The one good thing was that after the mucking about we did manage to make the photo frame we set out to do and my daughter was impressed with it.
My eldest daughter is 4 years old and I have just recently agreed to let her play with this Aqua Beads Starter Set. She's a very creative child and loves to make all sorts of stuff, but I was unsure whether this sort of thing would be too fiddly for her. But she has proved to me that she has a massive amount of patience (more than me!) and is quite capable of using this toy unaided.
**What Are Aqua Beads?**
Aqua Beads are something aimed mainly at little girls (due to the bright pink packaging) and recommended for 4 years and above. They are basically lots of very small different coloured beads which can be assembled on a tray to a design of your liking (or copied off a template provided). Then you spray them with water, leave for an hour or so, and then they set - i.e. the beads are now all stuck together, and your creation is complete.
What you do with your creation afterwards is entirely up to you...we are currently accumulating lots of little beady patterns which don't seem to have any real purpose in life!
**What Does The Starter Set Provide?**
Priced at around the £10 mark from various retailers (Tescos, Toys R Us, Argos etc) you get:
* 800 beads (8 colours)
* 1 x base tray
* 1 x layout tray
* 5 x template sheets
* 1 x water sprayer
* 1 x bead plopper
* 1 x bead storage tray
* 1 x instruction leaflet
Now I think this is quite good value for money. It is especially good if you do not yet know whether your child is going to enjoy using Aqua Beads because it is a relatively small set but provides everything you need to have a good play around with them.
Everything is a lot smaller than I imagined it would be, the base tray and layout tray are slightly smaller than the size of a CD, so the designs you end up with are small (a good thing I suppose!). The templates you get with this set include a dolphin, flowers, a pattern to make a 3D box - not something we have succeeded in just yet, a caterpillar and a panda (and I find this a bit like one of those 'magic eye' pictures, now you see it, now you don't - sometimes I can tell it's a panda and other times it just looks like a jumble of black and white beads).
I found the bead plopper a bit odd to use at first, it is just like a plastic pen without a tip and the idea is that you push it onto a bead and it grips the bead, then when you have the bead where you want it on the layout tray you press a button on the side of the plopper to release the bead. At first my daughter and I were struggling to pick up the beads, but we were pressing the button too much! Once you get the hang of it, it is very simple, and my 4 year old has got it down to a tee.
**How easy are Aqua Beads?**
Well surprisingly enough my 4 year old daughter seems to have no problem using the set and can quite successfully set about this on her own - she can get the base tray and layout tray assembled with templates, and then begin making her Aqua Bead creations. She has no issues using the plopper (after our initial confusion) to collect beads and deposit them in the relevant places in the tray. Something to point out here is that the tray has lots of tiny delves for the beads to rest in, so once they are deposited they are somewhat safe, unless you have a rampant 2 year old charging about the place.
My daughter sometimes struggles when she is coming to the end of a creation and it can get a bit fiddly trying to get the last beads in position without disturbing the other beads. On a few occasions she has accidently knocked the tray and sent the beads flying. This is very frustrating for a 4 year old, and I usually end up quickly fixing the mess for her. The water sprayer is a little bit tough for her to press, so she usually requires my assistance in this area, which is good because then I can move the beads out of the reach of my 'bull in a china shop' 2 year old while they dry and set.
**The End Products**
Once your little creations have dried and set you can remove them from the tray and then it is up to you what you do with them. They look just like a lot of little balls stuck together, which is exactly what they are. They do not set completely solid as I expected, they are a bit wobbly and bendy which is strange, but so far we have had no bead escapees. They are a funny old thing and have no actual purpose, but my daughter is very proud of her work and likes to carry them about with her, and look at them every now and then. We are getting quite a collection and I am currently wondering about storage solutions...
The only downside I have is with the storage tray. It is a flimsy plastic 8 compartment tray, with a slip on lid. This I have discovered has to be stored upright at all times, I made the mistake of putting it back in the box and moving the box around. The next time we opened the box the beads were everywhere, and I had the long job of putting them all back in their relevant compartments again. My pesky 2 year old also accidently knocked this tray onto the floor with one swoop of her hand sending beads spraying across the room, so something with a snap on lid would be much better, in my opinion. I am on the lookout for a more impressive bead storage solution.
I am actually really impressed with the set, I was initially unsure about it because of the bright pink box and the delighted looking girl on the front - usually an indication that what's inside the box is a load of rubbish. But this stuff is good and really occupies my daughter for long periods of time. It is definitely something which requires a certain degree of patience and stamina, so I would not recommend this for anyone under the age of 4, and I know for a fact that some 4 year olds would not give it the time of day because they just wouldn't have the patience. But for a child who likes to sit and create, it is a brilliant idea
It's just the end product which poses the problem - what do you do with it???
Available on Tesco Direct for £9.97