Pipe cleaners are much easier to bend and manipulate than copper wire--but copper is great for bigger kids who want to create a wand that will last for a long, long time.
I asked Maddie what shape she wanted. At first she chose a flower, but after trying it out, she decided that it was too difficult, as the copper wasn't very bendable. "What about a heart?" I asked. Oh, yes! That would be perfect. I showed her how bend the wire loosely at about halfway, and then we wrapped it tightly around the end of her dowel, using the pliers when she liked.
...added her beads, and finally had just what she wanted. We just folded the wires over each other, but if you want to, you could soften all edges by applying duct or electrical tape to the ends.