Teach Investigate Play is evolving! Join my brand new venture at thisplayfulhome.com and get this free guide in return!

Numbers are fun! Egg Carton Abacus

Share on facebook
Share on pinterest
Share on linkedin

If you have a toddler or preschooler at home, you’ve probably come to the conclusion already that numbers can be tricky for little learners. Counting by rote, 1:1 correspondence and recognising numbers do not go hand in hand. In short, it can all be a pretty complex process…

numbers on the side of an egg carton to help with recognition

Age Recommendations for learning numbers:

This activity is primarily aimed at children who can count objects but are not yet at the stage where they can easily ‘read’ the corresponding number. The egg carton abacus is intended to build on pre-existing knowledge – being able to count and use 1:1 correspondence.

As always, i’m super hesitant to put an age suggestion on here, but i’d suggest 3 onward. Z here is now 3.8 years – she can count objects confidently so I used this activity to extend her knowledge on to number recognition.


  • Egg carton
  • Pipe cleaners/ chenille sticks
  • Beads (or cheerios / food pouch lids)
  • Sharp knife
  • Black marker pen
Making the connection between numbers and the amount represented

What to do:

  1. Start off by piercing holes into each compartment of an upturned egg carton.
  2. Thread the chenille sticks through, then up and under to the opposite side. This is to prevent the chenille sticks from coming out easily
  3. Draw the numbers on the side of each compartment. I also dotted each as an extra visual aid.
  4. Provide a selection of craft beads

Why you should try this:

I like to choose activities that cover a few learning skills at once, mainly because I don’t want Z sitting for hours on end doing ‘school’ type work. Here’s a few reasons why this is a good activity to try:

  • Fine motor skills: the pincer grip is needed to grab hold of the beads
  • Hand-eye coordination: it takes a fair amount of focus for little ones to thread the beads on to the sticks
  • Language development: talking colours and numbers
  • Early numeracy: counting the beads out and making connections to the number written on the side.
  • Perseverance: this activity takes a real amount of focus.

Like it? Pin it!

If you like this activity and want to save it for later, I’ve made this handy graphic – just add it to your Pinterest board. You can also follow me on Pinterest here.

Sian Thomas

Sian Thomas

Sian is a trained teacher mama to three awesome children and wife to Greg. As a family of expats, they travel the world every couple of years for new adventures. Right now, they live in Vienna, Austria.

One thing Sian is super passionate about? Helping mums worldwide navigate the early years of parenthood.

You can join her on her brand new venture, This Playful Home, by visiting www.thisplayfulhome.com or clicking the email sign up button below!

Recent Posts