Counting sticks

I didn't mean to lie to you, dear readers, but I did. In this post right here. Today, though, I plan to set the record straight.

You see, in that post about filling my grandma bag for my trip to the desert, I mentioned an activity that used straws and pony beads for a nifty little activity to encourage counting and fine motor skills. I intended to pack those items in my grandma bag but hadn't yet done so. And once I purchased the straws and attempted sliding a few pony beads on them just to see how easy it would be for Bubby, the cussing and straw-scrunching that ensued made it clear the <cussing> beads didn't fit on the <cussing> straws and Gramma would need to make some adjustments to the craft.

So I did. And here's the skinny on the crafty counting sticks Bubby enjoyed making and counting with—and that garnered high praise from Megan, an early childhood educator who thought the idea was quite creative and useful for even a classroom of kiddos.

What you'll need:

10 extra-long pipecleaners (I used 10 as I figured counting to 10 would be reasonable practice for Bubby, who's three and a half. You could go higher, if desired.)

pony beads

1 or 2 index cards cut into squares an inch or so in size and neatly numbered 1 through 10

clear tape

What you'll do:

Fold up about an 1/8-inch on the end of each pipe cleaner and twist around itself so there's no pokey parts to stab little fingers. On one end of each pipe cleaner, tape a numbered square; laying the pipe cleaner across the back of the number and securing with a single strip of tape works just fine.

Your work is done!

Now give your child the pipe cleaners and a bowl of pony beads with instructions to add as many beads as the number on each end.

Bubby thoroughly enjoyed adding beads—picking out "special" ones—then counting them over and over on their sticks, just to be sure it was right. I enjoyed watching his intense concentration as he threaded beads then carefully counted.

Once all pipe cleaners were filled, we pulled off the beads and started all over again. In fact, these photos were from Bubby's second day of playing with the sticks (just after waking, I might add, hence the jammies and adorable bedhead hairstyle).

There! Record set straight: Straws don't work; pipe cleaners do.

Today's question:

Did you—or your children—use an abacus to help master counting?