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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???