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20 March 2018

Zirrly Super Beads {Crew Review}

Super Beads from Zirrly are fusable beads: you just spray them with water to fuse them together. We were given their Mega Pack for this review, and the kids were super excited when it came in the mail; I'm not sure that I've ever had so many "when will it get here" questions the whole time we've been with the crew!

The kit came with a nice big bag of beads, plus a couple of small additions they included. Because the beads fit snugly on the pegboards, they've included a little tool, which is helpful both in getting individual beads off as you build, and it's also very helpful when you have a completed project that's ready to remove from the board.

The kits come with 4 boards, but these have a cool feature: they are interlocking. So with the one set, you can build projects in small, medium, or large sizes.

The boards are clear, which means that you can slide one of the templates they've included in the kit into the back -they're designed to fit snugly, and won't move out of alignment or fall out very easily at all, and they're cute designs. The only weird thing was they sent us a whole bunch of copies of the same designs in the kit; sometimes more copies than what we even have boards. So my first impression was, "Cool! Look at all these designs they've sent us," but that quickly deflated to, "Oh. It's just the same four ideas over and over again."

The designs are easy to use, though: you just snap them into the back of the board. They fit firmly, so there's no frustration about starting and having things slip. Miss Kitty(5) loves this kind of craft, and it was no problem at all for her to do it completely independently once she'd been showed how things work with these new kind of beads.

The fusing process ought to be simple... but it's not. For younger kids, it's a "needs adult help" moment in the project because you have to have enough water to get them wet -- but not so much water that they over melt. It took a couple of tries for us to get the balance right; it's pretty easy to get more water than you think collecting down at the bottom of the tray as it runs down the beads; we found that the hour the instructions say to let the project sit is pretty optimistic. In reality, we had to  let them sit all afternoon or overnight.

They're weirdly flexible when you first take them off the trays. Hero(11) made himself a "volt meter" and you can see how it moved as I was taking it off the tray for him. (He could have done that himself, but I wanted the picture, so he let me do it.) This flexibility is a feature that the kids played with some; Dragon(7) made a bow and pretended to shoot arrows until the bow broke. We were able to put it back on the tray and mend it... kind of. It was a cool idea, but the beads just didn't bond together strongly enough for that kind of thing. The projects stay flexible for a while, and gradually stiffen. The one Miss Kitty gave me sat on my desk for a couple of weeks, and by the end of the review period has almost completely stiffened. But the flexibility is cool while it lasts, and really these are more process-oriented crafts (the building is the fun part) than product-oriented crafts for my kids, so the change in stiffness really didn't affect anything.

Another problem we ran into is that the beads never "set": there's no process for finishing them, so they're always very vulnerable to water. The bow that Dragon made got set next to the sink and forgotten, which is not an unusual thing to happen to toys at our house, and it got quite icky. We had one bead fall into a glass of water, and nobody noticed it for quite a while, and it had melted completely into a little pile of goo. The fact that they melt in water and the instructions say to wash after using them makes me wonder what kind of crazy chemicals they're made out of, and what precisely "non-toxic" means. I was uncomfortable with this aspect, and wished that they had included more information about what they're made from in the package insert. I don't like that there's no way to "set" the beads so they hold their shape. Miss Kitty(5) has loved various crafts since only two years old, but I don't know that I'd let someone that young have these. Also, one day we had the bowl I put them in sitting on the counter, and a glass of water was spilled near them. It was a close call: had it spilled into the bowl, most of them would have been ruined, and it made me aware of how easy it would be to ruin the whole set. Craft time has always been a time that I encourage the kids to drink some water, but these are just so sensitive to moisture. Makes me wonder how they will handle the "drink your air" humidity we get in the summer around here. Will they be sticky at 100% humidity? I don't know. I also don't know what would happen if they got wet while touching a piece of fabric like a sweatshirt or if they got spilled on while they were on carpet, but I don't think it would be good.

Most of the beads had a hole that went clear through them, but we noticed that several were like this, with the hole improperly formed. Depending what side it was, it could affect the way that they set on the pegboards. It didn't bother me in a set that we got for free, but there were enough defective ones in our bag that I would have been a little miffed if I'd spent money on them.

The Mega Pack product description on their website gives several advantages of their product, but I'm not sure that I agree with them on all points. Their claims are bolded; my comments come after. 

  • No More Hot Ironing - This is true.
  • No More Annoying Gluing - We have never glued fuse beads of any sort, so this has no impact. But. The value claim "annoying" bugs me; we glue all the time on the miniatures we build; in fact, the building -gluing- is my husband's favorite part of building and painting his favorite art projects. So I don't think that, if we did do a project that was elaborate enough to need glue, that the glue would be "annoying".
  • Super Beads Fit Snugly Onto Board - This was really nice. Bumping trays is no big deal, rather than catastrophic.
  • Simply Spray With Water and the Super Beads Fuse Together - This is true as far as it goes, but you can't set them, and if you get them too wet they're both destroyed and gross.
  • Completed Designs Are Flexible and Won’t Crack - Yes. For a while. But then they stiffen.
  • Fun, Educational and Creative Fun For All Ages - If your child is past needing fine motor practice, calling these educational is a stretch. They are a kid craft, and do not make projects that are nice enough to save indefinitely.
  • Safe and Non-Toxic - I'd like to know more about what makes them melt. The fact that they do melt, and that the instructions say to wash after handling them makes it very hard to completely trust this claim.

What the kids say:

Miss Kitty(5): They're very good and I like them because they're very good. I liked them because I noticed something: that they're very very fun.

Dragon(7): I think that they're nice, except for one fact: they need water to dry and solidify. I enjoy them. It was rather surprising that they were actually flexible! I did have one project that I accidentally ruined.

Hero(11): I think that they're nice in their own way, being that they need water, and it's less messy, but the drawback to that is that they seem like they're a little more fragile. But, they're good in their own way.

Though we had them available with our other craft supplies during the 6 week review period, after the initial excitement wore off they didn't go back to them, but the kids say they like them -- however my husband hates them, and I don't love them. I definitely don't like dealing with the mess of beads melting on my bathroom counter; that cleaned up easily, but it was yucky. Ironing is not so bad. Hero nailed it: these are surprisingly fragile, which is not a great feature in a kid craft. The fact that they can't be set means that as they float around my house they're an icky mess just waiting to happen: spills are a normal part of having kids. Toys that can't ever handle even small spills without making a big mess are a problem.

The Crew was offered a number of different super bead kits, and you can check out what they had and how it worked for them by clicking on the banner below:

1 comment:

Jonathan Czegledi said...

You guys did a fantastic job reviewing and presenting our Super Beads. We’re super impressed. Thanks so much!!!


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