How to Make an Abacus for Toddlers

by Jean Marie Ritchie, Demand Media Google
    The abacus is a colorful math manipulative suitable for teaching 1 to 3 year old toddlers.

    The abacus is a colorful math manipulative suitable for teaching 1 to 3 year old toddlers.

    Toddlers are curious about their surroundings and learn effectively through touch and exploration. The abacus is a beaded device that has been used around the world since ancient times as a calculating tool. Toddlers and school-aged children still use it as a math manipulative and learning toy in class and at home. Make an abacus for toddlers with common items and colorful beads to teach simple math concepts such as counting and addition using a hands-on approach.


    12 Popsicle sticks 7 skewer sticks hot glue gun glue sticks 91 beads pliers

    Step One

    Cut each bamboo skewer in half using the pliers. You should now have 14 sticks. Use only 13 of the wooden sticks. Set the leftover piece aside for a different craft or later project. Clip the curved tip off one end of each of the 12 Popsicle sticks. Lay two of the Popsicle sticks flat on the work surface in front of you. Position them horizontally side-by-side with the clipped ends touching each other. Pick up one of the Popsicle sticks with one hand and apply a small amount of glue along the cut end using the hot glue gun.

    Step Two

    Set the glued Popsicle stick down in its previous position horizontally beside the other stick on the work surface. Bind the cut end of each of the two Popsicle sticks together by pushing the glued end flush against the other Popsicle stick's clipped end. Allow time for the glue to dry. Spread hot glue along the top side of the glued Popsicle sticks. Attach one end of each halved bamboo skewer vertically along the glued side of the Popsicle sticks spacing each one evenly apart from one another. Cover the glued end of the skewers with another layer of glue.

    Step Three

    Lay two more Popsicle sticks over the wet layer of glue, positioning them in the same manner as the first two. The wooden skewers should now be sandwiched between the four Popsicle sticks, two on each side. Let the glue dry. The base of the abacus is complete. Hold the unit upright on the work surface with the base on the bottom. Thread five beads onto each skewer. Glue four more Popsicle sticks on the abacus, two on each side, three-quarter way up from the base to secure the beads. Add two beads to each skewer along the top. Glue two more Popsicle sticks on each side along the top to hold the last row of beads in and let dry.


    This project should be completed by an adult. The abacus is made with small parts and should only be used by toddlers under adult supervision to prevent choking or other injury.

    About the Author

    Jean Marie Ritchie has been a writer since 1998. She has contributed to the Lawrence House Centre for the Arts, Sarnia Historical Society and community newspapers. Ritchie managed her own business for eight years and studied corporate communications at Centennial College.

    Photo Credits

    • Abacus on white background image by mashe from