Reviewed by Louise Totton
Unless you’ve been lucky enough to have spent some of the early part of 2020 on an exotic holiday, the chances are you’ve experienced one of the wettest and windiest months on record. Trying to fill the weekends and the half term holidays when you’re confined to the house is no mean feat, and the kids are invariably instantly fed up with any of their existing toys as soon as you tell them to turn the TV off and to go and play.
At the moment, I’m finding that open-ended creative activities are keeping my two entertained the most at the moment, and they will spend a whole afternoon with their craft box or their Hama Beads sets, so I’ve been on the look out for some slightly different crafting bits to keep them busy. They have even been using their Hama Beads to make necklaces and bracelets which they’ve thoroughly enjoyed although the plain colours and lack of pretty shapes has stifled their creativity slightly. They’ve both been asking recently if we can get some prettier beads so they can make some more ‘cool and trendy’ jewellery so when we were asked to try out a couple of bead sets from Alex and Alexa, we jumped at the chance.
Alex and Alexa have a fabulous range of kids’ products on their website, ranging from clothes to toys and even lovely kids’ products for the home and garden, but I knew straight away that the girls would think the beads sets would be the best thing since sliced bread! Alex and Alexa currently have five different beads sets on the website, and we were sent two of them to try out – the 1,700 piece set, and the 380 piece set which includes letter beads as well as decorative beads. The first set we looked at was the 1,700 piece set which the kids chose, mostly because they couldn’t wait to get their mitts on the plethora of beautiful beads!
The kids’ first impression of the set was amazement at just how big the box was – it’s absolutely huge and because of that would make a brilliant present for someone else as well something to buy just for the house – we all know how much kids love ‘big box presents’. The set comes nicely presented in a bright pink box, which contains a tray showing off 48 individual compartments of beads as well as threads and fastenings for making bracelets and necklaces.
The variety of beads is really impressive, and it’s certainly a kit that the kids will get an awful lot of use out of. The majority of the beads are gorgeous translucent jewel colours and there is a fabulous variety of sizes and shapes. All of the beads have holes running through the centre for threading although some of them were a little small to get onto the thread. There is also a generous number of metallic effect beads which my eldest thought were a little bit more grown up and she was really keen to get threading and make herself some beautiful jewellery.
The set also includes several ‘fasteners’ that can be threaded onto the end of your creations to keep the beads from sliding off and to allow you to wear the jewellery without having to knot and unknot it every time you want to put it on and take it off. The quantity of thread is really generous too, and there is plenty to keep your little jewellery makers busy for an awful log time.
The smallest beads really are very tiny and initially I wondered what use they would be to us; they do have holes in but were too small for us thread and make jewellery from. But they are so very small and light that they stick brilliantly to paper and card with PVA glue, and my youngest daughter has made herself some beautiful pictures by gluing the beads to her paintings for a bit of extra shimmer. This is a great extra usage for them, and is particularly good for kids who might not have the dexterity and finesse to be able to thread the beads successfully.
I loved that the beads came pre-separated into a tray which makes using the beads a much nicer experience – the kids could focus on designing their pictures and jewellery whilst being able to clearly see what sizes, shapes and colours of beads they had available. The tray isn’t the strongest and won’t last for ever, but it has a lid and will certainly see us through half term although I think I will get the kids a stronger, permanent storage solution for them so we can keep them nice for even longer. We all thought this was a fantastic set and there are a lot of beads for £27.60; they’ll certainly keep the kids entertained throughout half term and beyond.
The second set that we were sent is a little smaller at 380 pieces but the smaller set does include a great collection of metallic beads, silver coloured charms, and silver and bronze threadable letter cubes for making personalised pieces of jewellery and friendship bracelets. The other thing that sets this apart from the larger set is the permanent storage trays that it comes with for keeping your beads and charms safe. There are two clear, rigid plastic storage trays that come with tight-fitting lids and separate the letter cube beads from the more decorative beads.
We thought that this set would be fantastic for older kids who might want to spell out the names of their friends to give the jewellery as a gift, or spell out words like ‘LOVE’ and ‘HAPPY’ as my daughter did to create decorations for her bedroom. Again, the beads aren’t awfully heavy so she has also glued some onto the front of her diary to tell anyone who might come across it to ‘KEEP OUT’, and has made an ID tag for her schoolbag so that it has her name on it.
The metallic beads made some lovely jewellery too, and the girls had a lovely time designing their pieces and even theming them; we’ve had Elsa, Rapunzel and rainbow theme bracelets. Although initially this set looks like it’s not quite as good value as the first set as it’s still £27.60 for fewer pieces, we think that the two hard cases for storing the beads as well as the extra play factor from the letter cube beads definitely justifies the cost and I think they are great value.
We have had a great few days trying out these sets and they are a fantastic way to spend a rainy day away from TV and screens. I love sets that encourage creativity and these certainly do that – the kids have had a wonderful time with them and I would definitely recommend them to anyone who is looking for a slightly different slant on a craft set.
RRP: £27.60 each set
For more information or to buy, visit www.alexandalexa.com.