My son's birthday was at the beginning of May and he received quite a few monetary gifts from aunts and uncles and things and so he had quite a bit of money to go off and spend. He was down to his last fifteen pounds when we visited a toy shop in a local shopping centre and he was unsure as to what to buy with his money. When we were browsing we spotted some Hama bead sets and within them a Hama bead puppet theatre set for £15.00 and so we decided to purchase that.
== What are Hama beads? ==
Hama beads are basically a bead which can be used on a peg board to create designs which are then covered with ironing paper and ironed to make them set in to the design that you have made. You can make pre designed creations with the beads or choose to make your own allowing a child to express their creativity.
The beads come in various sizes including mini, midi and maxi so it is worth noting which ones that you pick up should you buy them individually instead of in a set as they can be bought in coloured packs as well.
== The Hama bead puppet theatre==
The Hama bead puppet theatre comes in a long but quite thin cardboard box. On the front of the box is the product name as well as the Hama logo. There is a picture of two children looking happy as they play with the puppet theatre set and you can see all of the creations readily made as well as the theatre in the background.
Once you open the box you will find a pull out thin plastic tray which stores two bags of mixed coloured midi Hama beads. There is also a sheet of ironing paper, a peg board,four sticks in which you will put your puppets on to, a sheet of sticky tabs to attach the puppets to the sticks and full instructions on how to make the puppets as well as how to make sure that they set properly.
Within this set you also receive a thin piece of card which when cut and folded as instructed makes the mini puppet theatre so that a child can use their puppets to put on a little show.
This set comes with instructions on how to make four puppets and there are only enough sticks to make four puppets as well. You can make a lion, princess, clown and a sailor. I see no reason why you cannot make other puppets using your own designs and some lolly sticks though to be honest.
== Using the Hama bead puppet theatre ==
My son was very keen to get started with the set as soon as we got home and he was keen to make the lion first of all. One of the bag contained lots of orange, yellow,red and white beads so we realised that this was the one that we would predominantly need for this design but we opened both and poured them in to the two halves of the plastic tray.
As we were going along we kept getting piles of beads out and sorting them in to the right colours for what we needed at the time. This actually proved quite tiresome, more for my son than for me as he found the task quite boring, and so I began to allow him to follow the instructions independently whilst I sorted through all of the beads. I sorted every single one of those 5000 beads out in to individual colours and then stored them in sandwich bags which had sealable tops so that they were easy to access from then on. It was a mind numbing task to say the least but once it was done the process of making the puppets was more enjoyable.
The instructions provided to make the puppets are very clear and so my son was able to work on them independently using basic counting skills as he could work out that he needed so many yellow per row and then so many red for example. I did enjoy helping him with making the puppets though so we would often do half each. The only issue we had initially was that we thought the orange beads on the illustration were red at first and so started using the reds and then realised we had done it wrong! This was more down to our own error than an issue with the instructions though!
As the items we were making were puppets we did need to make a front and a back for each puppet so there was a reasonable amount of waiting before we could finish a puppet as we would need to iron the front on the peg board using the ironing paper and then allow it to cool down slightly before removing it from the board and then starting again!
Putting the beads on to the peg board was simple for the most part and although fiddly at times it wasn't something that my son couldn't handle at six years of age but I am sure smaller children would struggle with this set. At the very top two rows of the peg board though it was very difficult to get the beads to attach for some reason and we really had to push down hard to get them on and it felt very much like the pegs were too big up there as the beads fit everywhere else. I am not sure why it was like this at the top but as the puppets use the full board it did make things quite awkward at times.
Once we had completed either a front or a back of a puppet we had to iron the beads to make them stick together. Of course this was a job for me to do and I made sure my son stayed well away from the iron at all times. Ironing the beads was simple in that you just need to cover them with the ironing paper and then move the iron around slowly until you can see the colours of the beads more brightly through the paper. We followed the advice in the instructions and once we had ironed the creation we placed it under a heavy book to allow it to set before removing it from the peg board. The puppets were very easy to remove from the peg board apart from those top two rows again where it just felt a bit tight and I wondered if they would rip.
Once we had a complete puppet we could use the sticky tabs and one of the plastic sticks provided to attach the front and back of the puppet together. We found that the best way to do this was to stick the stick half way up the puppet so that when attached they didn't flop around all that much although there is a little bit of flopping regardless as they are only joined in the middle.
After we had made all of the puppets over the course of a few days we cut out the puppet theatre so that my son could put on a little show with them. The cutting out of the theatre was easy as the instructions were quite clear but once it was all done we realised that it was quite thin cardboard and quite flimsy really so it would fall over at the slightest touch and it proved quite difficult to get it to stand up anywhere at all-more so when my son decided to stick his head through it as well! We decided that it would be best if my son hid down the side of the sofa and put on a little show that way and he enjoyed doing that so the fact that the puppet theatre was of little use didn't bother him all that much in the end.
We have some Hama beads left after making the puppet theatre and so my son will be able to make anything he likes with those and I am going to encourage him to use them up and perhaps make me a book mark!
== Final thoughts ==
As I mentioned earlier we bought this set for £15.00 and you may initially think that it is a lot of money to pay for essentially what will be four puppets made out of plastic beads but I have to say that the amount of time that was taken in making these puppets and then the amount of play that my son has had with them afterwards the £15.00 was money well spent really. It was an activity that my son and I enjoyed doing together and it was spread out over the course of a few sessions and I think that kind of quality time spent working on something together is priceless really.
It is a shame that the peg board seems to have issues at the top of the board and the puppet theatre isn't very well thought out but these are minor issues in the grand scheme of things and I would say that it is a very good set indeed.
You can pick this set up on amazon for a little short of £15.00 including free super saver delivery should you be interested.
Thank you for reading my review!