Seashell Crafts They'll Love

Turn the seashells that you and the grandkids collect into beautiful treasures.

By Emily Miranda

For Toddlers and Preschoolers:

SEASHELL-ENCRUSTED PICTURE FRAME

Toddlers love to make messes, and creating this craft is sure to  please them. Follow the instructions below to have the kids make a beautiful picture frame. To contain the mess, work in a dishpan.

Materials:

  • Picture frame with a wide border, at least 1.5 inches wide
  • 4 to 12 large seashells
  • Large bag of tiny shells, equaling at least three big handfuls (if you have not collected enough, hobby stores sell wonderful bags of them)
  • Elmer's glue
  • Shallow, rubber dishpan
  • Rough sandpaper
  • Scrap paper

Instructions:

  1. Remove the picture glass from the frame. Place a piece of scrap paper inside the frame where you would insert a photograph. This will protect the area from glue smudges and shell fragments.
  2. Use the rough sandpaper to scratch liberally all over the front and sides of the frame. This will provide a “tooth” for the glue to hold onto.
  3. Place the frame inside the rubber dishpan. This will be the work area.
  4. Allow your preschooler to squeeze puddles of glue onto the frame and place the large shells in the puddles.
  5. Wait for the glue to dry. To speed up the process, place the frame in a sunny or breezy place. You know the glue is dry when it is clear.
  6. Now for the really fun part! Allow your grandchild to squirt the glue all over both the shells and frame. The child can completely cover the whole frame in glue.
  7. Take handfuls of the small shells and sprinkle them all over the glue. Pour as many as you have, patting them into the glue puddles as you go. Take the ones that fall off into the dishpan and press them into the glue again! Keep mushing them in every direction until there is little or no glue left visible. Keep a reserve of about a cup’s worth of shells.
  8. Allow the frame to fully dry without moving or touching.
  9. When dry, have your grandchild pick up the frame up and shake it upside down over the dishpan. Pick up the loose shells that fall and add them to the ones you reserved.
  10. If there are any bare spots where the frame still shows, squirt glue in those spots and employ the same technique as before with the reserved shells. Let dry again.
  11. Repeat step 10 until you run out of shells. You should end up with a wonderfully encrusted picture frame and a very messy dishpan!


For Gradeschoolers:

MERMAID OR MERMAN NECKLACE

Use the shells that you often discard because of their imperfection: ones with holes. Combined with a string of costume pearls, your grandchild can create a magical necklace from the sea!

Materials:

  • Costume pearl necklace
  • 5 to 20 seashells with holes
  • Heavy duty sewing thread
  • Pushpin
  • Scissors

Instructions:

  1. Pour the seashells onto a table or tray. Sort through and find the ones with holes in them. The holes are best if they are at the top, but any will do.
  2. Cut 6-inch lengths of the heavy duty thread — one for each shell you have selected.
  3. Pass the thread through the holes of each shell and tie a double knot on one end, right onto to the top of the shell. If the hole is too small for you to easily get the thread through, use the pushpin to gently enlarge it.
  4. When you have attached all the seashells to a length of thread, you are ready to put together the necklace.
  5. Open the clasp on the strand of costume pearls and lay the necklace flat on the table in a straight horizontal line. Find the center of the necklace. Take your largest shell and tie the loose end of the thread between two pearls in the middle.
  6. Tie the next 2 largest shells on either side of the largest shell in the center. Hang the next size shells on either side of them, working your way out to the edges of the pearl necklace. The smallest shells should be at the ends of the necklace.
  7. Adjust the length of the strings as you try the necklace on. It is sometimes nice to have the smaller shells hang from a shorter string.


For Older Grandchildren:

NEPTUNE'S TREASURE CHEST

Transform an old box into a magical pirate chest by decorating it with seashells!

Materials:

  • Old, small box with lid (a cigar box is perfect, but any small box will do)
  • Seashells
  • Hot glue gun
  • Hot glue sticks
  • Marker

Instructions:
Note: Hot glue is hard to remove once it has dried; plan your design carefully before you begin.

  1. Organize the shells, according to size, shape, and color. The kinds of shells you have will play a big role in your design. The ones you have most will be your "filler" shells, covering most of the box. The ones you have fewest perhaps will go on the corners. If you have any special shells, use them for the focal point on the top.
  2. Draw your design on the box with the marker. Remember to design with your seashells in mind.
  3. Start gluing. Begin with the corners. Glue in place any large or special shells. Then fill in around them with your smaller, "filler" shells.
  4. Fill in all empty spaces with shells. Add any additional shells as you see fit. There can never be too many!

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