- Materials, depending on your option chosen
- Cord, string or wool
- Example prayer beads [optional]
Before you begin
- Use the safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. Additional help to carry out your risk assessment, including examples can be found here. Don’t forget to make sure all young people and adults involved in the activity know how to take part safely.
- Make sure you’ll have enough adult helpers. You may need some parents and carers to help if you’re short on helpers.
Setting up this activity
- If using clay, you’ll want to run this activity over two sessions. Plan where to keep the beads whilst they’re air drying, and how to label them. Avoid anywhere too hot, as this makes them more likely to crack.
- You may want to run this activity over two or three sessions to give everyone time to make and paint their beads.
All about prayer beads
- Gather everyone together in a group.
- Ask everyone what they know about prayer beads. Does anyone use prayer beads, or anything similar? How are they used?
Some people may share that they’ve used them, but some people may not feel comfortable saying this or explaining how they use them, so this shouldn’t be forced, and people should only share if and what they’re happy to.
- Tell everyone that beads are used in many beliefs and cultures around the world, to help with prayer and meditation. For example:
- Islamic prayer beads are called Sibha, Subha or Misbaha. They’re often used by Muslims to perform dhikr - a form of worship involving the repeating of phrases. They usually have 99 beads, separated into three groups. You can find some more information on this page.
- A Rosary is a type of prayer beads used by Catholics, when reciting a set of prayers. They have 59 beads.
- Japamala or mala are prayer beads used in Buddhism and Hinduism. They traditionally have 108 beads, of about the same size and material. They’re sometimes used more widely, for meditation or mindfulness.
- Worry beads or kombolói, are popular in Greek culture. They usually have an odd number of beads, and have a number uses, including relaxation.
- Ask if anyone knows anything else about these types of beads. Some people may share that they’ve used them, but some people may not feel comfortable saying this or explaining how they use them, so this shouldn’t be forced, and people should only share if and what they’re happy to.
- Now, everyone can get started making their own beads.
Whether you're from a predominantly Muslim group, or just interested in finding out more, here's some more information about Islamic prayer beads.
- Islamic prayer beads are called Sibha, Subha or Misbaha.
- They’re often used by Muslims to perform dhikr - a form of worship involving the repeating of phrases.
- They usually have 99 beads, separated into three groups.
- Muslims may say words such as Subhanallah (Glory be to allah), Alhamdulillah (All praise is to Allah), Allahu Akbar (Allah is most great, or God is greater) using their prayer beads.
- The importance of prayer is mentioned throughout the Qur'an, the holy book of Islam.
- In the era of the Prophet Muhammad, Muslims did not use Islamic prayer beads as a tool in their prayers, but may have used pebbles or the cores of Jujube fruit.
- Now, there are many different tools to help Muslims remember Allah, including prayer beads, apps and digital finger rings.
Make your beads
Option 1: Air-drying clay
- White air drying clay
- Cocktail sticks
- Wooden skewers
- Fine sandpaper (optional)
- Acrylic paint
- Varnish (optional)
- Access to water
- Clay modelling tools (optional)
- Cord, string or wool
- Take a piece of clay and mould it into your chosen shape. You could roll the clay piece into a ball, then mould it into a different shape later.
- Carefully push your cocktail stick through your clay to make a hole, keeping your fingers safely away from the stick. This should be supervised by an adult volunteer. The ball of clay should now be on the stick.
- While your clay is on the stick, you can perfect or change your shape. If you started with a ball shape, you could pinch each end of the bead to create a bicone shape, which is like two cones, attached together by their base.
- Smooth out any marks, then carefully slide your bead off the stick. You can smooth the clay by using a little water on your fingers – but don’t get the clay too wet, as its more likely to crack a when it’s drying.
- Now’s a good time to check the size of the hole against the size of your cord or thread that you’ll be using to join the beads together. Remember it’ll shrink a little when drying. If needed, you can use a wooden skewer to make the hole bigger.
- Once you’ve made all your beads, put them away somewhere to dry. Check the instructions, but it’s usually at least 24 hours. Keep the drying clay away from anywhere that’s too hot, such as in direct sunlight or on a radiator, as this makes it more likely to crack. Don’t forget to store any remaining clay in an air-tight container
- When the clay’s completely dry, you could use fine sandpaper to smooth each bead.
- Once the beads have fully dried, you can paint them. You might want to put the beads back on your stick or skewer for this part.
- Once the paint has dried, you could add a coat of varnish to protect your beads, and for a lovely shiny finish.
Option 2: Paper
- Old wrapping paper, magazines, or similar
- Template shapes for beads (optional)
- Skewer or dowel
- Glue sticks
- Foam block or similar
- Paintbrush for varnish
This is a great way to use unwanted wrapping paper, magazines and scrap paper.
- Draw out a long thin shape, depending on what shape and size of bead you’d like.
- Long thin triangle strips will create oval-shaped beads. The base of the triangle will be the width of the bead. The longer the triangle, the fatter your bead will be.
- A long straight strip, or long thin rectangle, will make wide cylinder-shaped beads.
- You can also experiment with other shapes, so be creative.
- Keep drawing out the shapes, until you’ve drawn out the shapes for all your beads. To make this step easier, you could make a paper bead template to draw around.
- Carefully cut around your drawn shapes using scissors.
- Fold the wide end of your shape around the dowel, then create a crease so the skewer stays in place.
- When you’re happy the dowel’s straight, add some glue across the rest of your shape.
- Take your skewer or dowel and, starting at the wide end of your paper, roll the paper around the skewer slightly, creasing it, so that it starts to form a cylinder.
- Once you’re happy with the alignment, roll this back and remove the dowel.
- Apply a little glue across the width of the paper.
- Now carefully roll the paper past the glue and continue rolling, keeping the paper as straight as you need for your design.
- Remember to add glue as you roll, making sure the roll is tight.
- Keep going until you get to the end of your paper shape, making sure it’s firmly glued down at the end.
- Carefully transfer your bead onto a toothpick, and pop it in a foam block or similar. This will mean it doesn’t stick to anything and make it easier to varnish.
- You can cover the outside of your bead in a layer of varnish. Several thin coats over time give a much more polished result than one thick coat. Be patient for the best results!
Thread your beads
- To make it a quicker and easier activity, people could choose from a selection of ready-made shop bought wooden beads, rather than making their own.
- If you’re making your beads, gather all your finished beads together and decide on the order they should go in.
- Once you’ve got your finished beads, thread them onto your cord and secure with a knot. You could try a simple overhand knot or a square knot.
- People could use their beads as prayer beads, worry beads or reflection beads.
This is a good opportunity for Muslim Scouts to reflect on the importance of prayer and worship in their faith, if they'd like to.
- What does prayer mean to you? Why do you pray? Why is it important?
- What does Islam teach us about prayer?
The importance of prayer is mentioned throughout the Qur'an. For example: “Those who have believed and whose hearts are assured by the remembrance of Allah (SWT). Unquestionably, by the remembrance of Allah hearts are assured.” (Qur'an 13:28, translation) Another translation of this is "Those who believe (in the Oneness of Allah), and whose hearts find rest in the remembrance of Allah, Verily, in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest."
It was also stressed by the Prophet Muhammad: “Know that among your duties, prayer is foremost”.
The Hadith (the words and teachings of the Prophet Muhammad) say "Allah says, “I treat My servant as he hopes that I would treat him. I am with him whenever he remembers Me: if he thinks of Me, I think of him.." (Al-Bukhari)
If you used clay to make your prayer beads, you could also reflect on how Allah (SWT) has created man from clay, and how we are as diverse as the different soils we are created from. "We created man from sounding clay, from mud moulded into shape..." (Qu'ran 15:26)
This activity is a good opportunity to explore different faiths and beliefs, and reflect on your own. If people are comfortable, they could share any of their own experiences of prayer.
- Why do you think people pray? How might prayer beads help?
- For people who pray, they could reflect on what prayer means to them.
- For people who don’t pray, they could think of how they take time to reflect on their lives and their beliefs. Does anyone practise mindfulness or meditation, or have any rituals they build into the lives?
- Did you find out something new in this activity? Why is it good to learn about different faith and beliefs?
- Glue and solvents
Always supervise young people appropriately when they’re using glue and solvent products. Make sure there’s plenty of ventilation. Be aware of any medical conditions that could be affected by glue or solvent use and make adjustments as needed.
Supervise young people appropriately when they’re using scissors. Store all sharp objects securely, out of the reach of young people.
- Sharp objects
Teach young people how to use sharp objects safely. Supervise them appropriately throughout. Store all sharp objects securely, out of the reach of young people.
- Craft: Unusual substances
Supervise young people appropriately when they’re using unusual substances, such as powdered paint, ash or dirt. Be aware of any medical conditions that could be affected by what’s being used. Make sure you follow all relevant safety guidance or manufacturers guidelines, where available. Make sure you dispose of it appropriately too, in line with safety guidance.
- You can choose how much you prepare for this activity. If making paper beads, you could cut out the paper shapes in advance to make it easier and quicker.
- For a cheaper option, you could make your own salt dough, using plain flour, salt and water, then bake your beads in the oven.
- This can be very fiddly, so make sure anyone who struggles with fine motor skills have support. Everyone could work in pairs, or a young leader or an adult volunteer could be on hand to support.
- Beads can be of any size – make sure you’ve got enough paper or clay so that people can make bigger beads if they need to.
All Scout activities should be inclusive and accessible.
Write a prayer or reflection to use with your beads.
Make sure everyone has the opportunity to share their own beliefs and experiences, if they’d like to.