Make Your Own Abacus

Make Your Own Abacus


We stumbled upon an abacus at an antique store around Thanksgiving. Big Brother insisted that he needed it. When we reminded him that Christmas was coming up soon, he decided he would ask for the abacus. It was pretty humorous to see the look on people’s faces when they asked him what he wanted for Christmas. It varied between a look that said something like, “What kind of kid wants an abacus for Christmas?” (my child, thankyouverymuch) and “What in the world is an abacus?”  :)

Christmas rolled around and Big Brother received his abacus (from my parents), much to his utter delight. He was so excited and enjoys playing with it during quiet time in his room. It has also helped him with one-to-one correspondence.

I wanted to share a few abacus activities with you this week, but thought it might first be beneficial to show you how you can make your own in case you don’t already have one. And if you’re looking to buy one instead of make one, this Melissa & Doug abacus looks super sturdy. We don’t actually have this particular one (remember, our is an antique), but you can’t go wrong with Melissa & Doug.




Here’s what you’ll need:  pipe cleaners, beads, and 2 dowel rods. You’ll also need a hot glue gun (not pictured).





1. Create 10 piles of 10 beads each, according to color.





2. Lay out 10 pipe cleaners between the two dowel rods and mark.





3. Attach the pipecleaners by twisting the ends around the dowel rods.





4. Secure them in place with a little hot glue.





5. Recruit your child to add the beads onto each pipe cleaner.





Bonus:  This is great fine motor practice!





6. Wrap the other ends of the pipecleaners around the second dowel rod.










7. Secure with a little more hot glue.





Ta-Da! Your abacus is ready!

Stay tuned tomorrow and Thursday for some ideas for using your abacus with your child!



*Please note:  The links in this post may be affiliate links. Please read my full disclosure policy.



  1. I have read a few of the articles on your website now, and I really like your style of blogging. I added it to my favorite’s web page list and will be checking back soon. Please check out my site as well and let me know what you think. Thanks.

  2. I came accross your site while looking for online versions of soroban’s / abacus and noticed that your construction of the home made abacus is different from mine.
    First of all the use of pipe cleaners seemed like a good idea for beginning abacus users. since it may make the slow down the beads movement. At my Japan Math site we use all wood (dowels, and popsicle sticks) and pony beads, but for some learners the pipe cleaners might be a good idea. I am interested to know if you later made an abacus with a beam in the center to resemble a more traditional abacus? Also do the pipe cleaners maintain their resistance over time?

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