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For Christmas this year I knew that I wanted to get my sons some craft stuff to add to our collections as we do like craft but they get a bit fed up of painting and drawing thanks to doing so much at school these days. Both my children are quite into Ben 10, so when I saw this Ben 10 Hama beads kit I thought it looked quite ideal as we would be learning some new skills alongside an existing interest.
The kit comes in a slightly larger than A4 size box, so the parcel looked quite impressive under the tree and my sons were very pleased to open this. It is aimed at children age 5 plus - my sons are 4 and 6, with my youngest being just short of 5, and I think this is an adequate age suggestion for the product. My 6 year old was really taken by the kit, whereas my almost 5 year old found it a little bit fiddly and a bit too hard to be careful and concentrate.
We had never experienced working with hama beads before, so it really was a case of me learning how to go about it with my children. Inside this kit there was a plastic bag with 4000 beads in it. There were then 2 peg boards, a sheet of ironing paper to use with the finished designs, and a set of instructions which consisted of a colour diagram of the 3 models on the box shown in the picture above.
If I had thought a bit better, I think I would have opened the kit on my own first, as we realised quickly that there were 14 colours of beads in the big bag, and once we put a hole in the bag, they were going everywhere, and it was very difficult to find out just the one colour you want when there were 3 different shades of green alone, alongside a couple of yellows and some peach and light brown that were also similar. So I set about sorting all of these beads into some different plastic pots we already had with lids, so that the beads were organised by colour. This was no mean feat - I must have been on with the task for a couple of hours at least until we were done.
My son in the mean time started the smaller model of the omnitrix - Bens magical alien watch from the show. He quickly grasped the concept of working from the diagram one row at a time, and as it only required 3 colours he could do this alone as I sorted the beads.
The two larger models required clipping both peg boards together to work on, and so as soon as the first model was made I needed to iron it straight away so he could continue on with it.
The ironing part was relatively easy. I found that the sheet of paper provided was more than ample to cover all of the models, and as I ironed the beads became really visible through the paper. The beads melt a little under the heat and as they cool again they fuse together creating your model.
The bit I found hardest was that there were not really any decent instructions about how to go about it. On the box it shows that you put the diagram under the plastic peg board and then you copy the image on to the top. My son found it easy enough to work through a line at a time to do the design. I could have done with knowing a bit more about the ironing though, as at first I found that I didn't do it long enough and only some beads had fused together. Then, with the larger models, I found that I did it so long that in one place on Ben 10's leg, the beads had melted too much and the leg is really thin. The best result for me seemed to be that the beads were melted enough to go slightly flat and go more of a square shape than a round one.
My next problem was getting the finished model off the peg board. I found that it was not just a case of it lifting off - I had to get a kebab skewer, and gently push this between the pegs under the model to lift it up a bit at various points on the model so I could get some room to gently lift it up.
The plastic boards seemed a little poor quality to me. I don't know if it was my lack of experience and over exuberance with the iron, but each time I ironed them, they got a little bit more bent. This then made it a bit tricky to make your model in the first place as it wasn't sat flat to the table and the beads were not flat so they would not sit nicely.
The kit was extremely good value in my eyes as it did occupy my eldest son for a good few days of the recent half term holiday while he created his designs. There was then a lot of spare beads so he could have a go at creating some ideas of his own. We made a lamp post and a monster.
I found that he was very patient with it, and it kept him really engrossed in the activity for a long time. He got a lot of satisfaction in creating models he could recognise, and he felt like he had done it himself as I let him get on with it with only a bit of help.
I would certainly buy more hama beads after this experience, and I think this set is a good way to get boys involved in being creative. The RRP on this is £16.99. It is currently £15, and I got it even cheaper at £13.24 which I think was a bargain for the hours of entertainment he got from it.