Learning Activities

DIY Cereal Abacus

Craft a Cereal Abacus

Your child probably tires of the monotony of flash cards and workbooks quickly, but she’ll be fooled by this colorful, interactive counting box! Moving cereal pieces across wires with her fingers hardly seems like math practice, yet she will be perfecting her counting out loud. Addition and subtraction, pattern work, one-to-one correspondence and making groups with the cereal will strengthen your childs arithmetic skills in a fun and painless way! This activity is a guest post from a new friend, Shannon Gauger. Check out some fun math games, for your little one, here.

I love this activity because it is a simple Do It Yourself version of something your child probably uses in their school setting. Having your child help you make their very own abacus could help them be even more motivated to use it at him!

Untitled design

What you need
Small, sturdy shoe box
O-shaped cereal in assorted colors
Floral cloth wire (8 gauge) cut to fit the width of the box
Wire cutter
Hot glue gun
Craft glue, wrapping paper, plain paper, and markers or paint to decorate the outside of the box (all optional)

Set Up

1. Carefully lift the sealed side edges of the shoe box, creating a flap under which you can tuck the floral cloth wire ends so that they are not visible.

2. Bend the tip of the wire at approximately 1” from the top.

3. As you are prepping the box have your child start sorting out colors from the cereal. Once you have the wire prepped have your child string ten pieces of cereal onto it, counting out loud as she goes.

4. Bend the other end of the cloth wire so that both sides tuck underneath the unsealed edge of the box.

5. Tape the 1” ends of the wire to the sides of the box, making sure that the rows are evenly spaced and parallel.

6. Repeat steps 2–5 until you have five rows of cereal strung on wire (or more, if you are using a larger box).

7. Use a hot glue gun to seal both flaps down over the floral wire. Hold the flaps down until the glue sets.

8. If your child wishes, they can glue decorated paper or colorful wrapping paper onto the top and sides of the box.

To keep the counting box free of dust when not in use, simply cover it with the shoe box lid.

Activity Time

Use this newly made abacus box to practice counting with your 2-3 year old. You can help them practice their on-to-one correspondence as they slide 1 cereal across the wire at a time.

Your 3-5 year old can practice addition and subtraction very easily while sliding the cereal to add or subtract. An abacus can help your child see large numbers as groups. The visual makes it much easier to work through for a preschool aged child

With your 6+ aged child you can even work on multiplication with the abacus. Have 5 rows of 4 cereal groups is a great way to picture 4X5.


Sing counting songs with your child as she manipulates the cereal. Examples: “Five Little Monkeys,” “One, Two, Buckle My Shoe,” or “This Old Man.” Or, create your own counting rhyme, such as this:

“One red o rolled over there,
Two red o’s make a pretty pair,
Three red o’s add up to a few,
Four red o’s, two for me and two for you;
Five red o’s lined up in a row,
Six red o’s, half a dozen, you know;
Seven red o’s dancing on a wire,
Eight red o’s for us to admire,
Nine red o’s looking mighty yummy,
Ten red o’s would be nice in my tummy.”
(Pretend to gobble up the cereal).

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