Giant Bead Abacus for Counting and Addition

Turn a large cardboard box into a giant abacus for some fun counting and addition games with kids! Kinaesthetic learning and fun, with some motor skills mixed into the play too.Giant Abacus textWe had a huge cardboard box in our house for a couple of months which we used to made scenery at Pop’s pirate party, a fishing boat for some Bible storytelling (pop on over to my other blog to see that one) and a giant train tracks small world game! Not keen to ever let a box go (much to my poor husband’s despair!) we squeezed one more use out of the other box lid. The kids gathered some string and a big box of coloured wooden beads and we designed a huge abacus for counting and maths play! These are the beads that we used and love:

Counting and adding with a giant abacus
I simply punctured some holes in either side of the box edges, making sure they lined up, then threaded the string across and knotted on the outside. Then the children were given the task of sorting the beads into piles according to colour, then counting gout 10 of each to thread onto the strings. This is itself was a great maths game for sorting, matching and counting! We threaded 10 of each colour onto individual strings, then I pulled very tight to tighten the string and added another knot on the opposite side.Counting with a giant abacus All finished and ready to play! We stood the box up and wedged it tight so it couldn’t fall down, then they started to move and count the beads across the strings. The abacus was fun for each girl at her own level of development. For baby Bean it was a great motor skill to be able to reach and pull the beads across the string. We talked about colours and shapes and I counted as she touched and moved them to help her become familiar with the number names.

Pop named the colours and was able to count small amounts independently and to higher numbers with my help. We practised working on 1:1 correspondence (i.e. that each object touched or moved represents one number counted.)

Cakie counted them with ease and we set the challenge of adding together groups. Can you ding out how many orange and blue beads there are altogether? How about green and yellow? Is it the same amount? Why? How many are there on each string? How many are there altogether on the whole abacus?  She was able to practise counting and addition to far larger numbers that she has down before and it was plenty of fun too!
Playing with a giant abacus

What they are learning as they play:

maths: counting using 1:1 correspondence, adding together groups of objects to find a new total, beginning to understand counting in sets of numbers e.g. by 10s, counting up to 10 objects reliably, counting and addition up to large numbers (up to 40)

motor skills: gross motor co-ordination by moving objects at arm’s height

Cakie: 4.9

Pop: 3.2

Bean: 15 mos

After we finished playing with this we turned it into a giant cardboard box train track town for playing in and around! Check the photo and click on over to see that fun activity idea too!

Cardboard town and trains small world play activity

Search our cardboard box activity archives here. We have plenty!

Like this wooden bead giant abacus? You’ll love this pool noodle foam abacus from Happy Hooligans! She has some fantastic extension ideas for counting with the loose parts too and it’s great for outdoor play!

[This post contain an Amazon affiliate link for your convenience.]


  1. Cindy McQuiggan says

    Looks like a great concept, but it looks like it could be a strangulation hazard.

  2. says

    I love it, Anna! This will be perfect for indoors when we pack those pool noodles away! Thanks so much for the mention! Can’t wait to share yours with my followers!

  3. says

    This thread was a little confusing; now I see Anna was talking about the blog you mentioned in this post– for Bible Storytelling. Wow, you really have gotten a lot of uses out of a big cardboard box :)

  4. says

    And I think I added to the confusion– I mean that Anna mentioned the blog, and got lots of got uses from a box; sorry if it sounds all mixed up, Jennifer.

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