How to Make an Easy Abacus – Hands on Nature Crafts and Spanish Learning

In this post: Learn how to make an easy abacus to help your kids learn how to count in Spanish! *Post contains affiliate links.

Learning with my littles at home has been one of my favorite parts of the rollercoaster of 2020. As a teacher, even to teenagers, my goal was always to encourage learning through play. We would play games, sing songs, do arts and crafts, run around…we always had so much fun and most of the time my students didn’t even realize they were learning. What an amazing transition it has been to go from teaching teens to toddlers! I’m tapping into my years teaching preschool and Kindergarten but with even more confidence in the need for play, exploration and invitation.

Don’t get me wrong y’all, my kiddos are just about to turn three so in no way are we doing any serious learning at home yet. We focus on spending time outside, developing our social emotional skills (more on that another day…) and important life skills like self-care and cooking. Nevertheless, I still love finding creative ways to begin introducing math (and Spanish!) into our learning at home.

I have been dreaming up this acorn cap counting frame for weeks and finally was able to finish it! I noticed that when my children try to count things, they often go all over the place, and they haven’t yet mastered the idea of counting something and then moving it away so it won’t be counted again (totally normal at this stage of learning!) That is why I made them their little toadstool counting log a few weeks ago and why I wanted to make them this counting frame. To introduce and reinforce the idea of counting something and then moving it aside to count the rest. Does that make sense? Have you noticed that with your own children?

Instantly they fell in love with this! Not even for the counting, which we work on intentionally a few minutes each day, but it is also just fun to play with. There is something mesmerizing about spinning these little felted acorns around and moving them from side to side. I know we will use it for years to come as we learn to count up to 20 and then begin doing simple addition and subtraction, even skip counting could be done with this if you set it up right.

The best part, for me, was that it was made with things we found on our nature walks. I found this forked stick in our woods and then we spent a few mornings each week hunting for acorn caps. This beauty cost me nothing but a little time outside and a few hours crafting- my favorite way to spend any afternoon.

Here is what I used:
Forked branch
Pallet wood board
Acorn caps
Wool balls (you can make your own but I’m lazy and bought some a long time ago for other projects!)
Hot glue

Cut and sand your branch to the proper length. Then attach it to the board- make sure it won’t be too top heavy! If it is really tall and you have a skinny base, it will topple over.

For the little felted acorns, I just used hot glue to attach the wool balls to the inside of the acorn caps. Then we actually drilled teeny tiny holes in the very top to thread through so they wouldn’t flip over and be upside down. Create your pattern and thread onto your string.

To attach it to the forked branch, I drilled tiny holes through to put the string through so I only had to wrap it around once to tie. I tried just tying it around and wrapping it several times before drilling but it looked too messy and didn’t hold as well. Thread your string through your holes and voila! You can do this with just rows of 5 or rows of 10, depending on where your little one is at with their math skills.

I saw a difference immediately with their counting. Of course we are practicing our counting in Spanish so this was not only math but also language work! Once we really master counting to 10 then we will slowly start adding more numbers and this will be an amazing tool to make that learning visual and experiential.

Happy counting!

Helpful amazon affiliate links:
Felt Wool Balls
THE best non-toxic wood sealer for toys
Hot Glue Gun

Useful Spanish words:

Ábaco – (ah-bah-koh) – Abacus

Bellota – (beh-yoh-tah) – Acorn Pelota – (peh-loh-tah) – Ball

¡Vamos a contar! (bah-mohs ah kohn-tarh) – Let’s count!