Pool Noodle Abacus for your Backyard Play Space

Pool noodle abacus:  use pool noodles as loose parts in your backyard play space.

pool noodle abacus (happy hooligans)

Ok, so technically ours is not a true abacus, but it could be with the addition of just a few more ropes.playing with pool noodles

Whatever you choose to call this activity, the fact is: we’ve been playing with pool noodles here in our backyard play space, and they’ve been a big hit!  I was going to save this activity for an upcoming post in my “Backyard Series”, but it’s so darn colourful and cute, I’m sharing it here on its own ahead of time.

.playing with pool noodles on a rope

Making a backyard abacus is a piece of cake.  All you need is a few pool noodles and some rope.

Prepare your pool noodle:

I simply used a sharp, serrated knife to “saw” through my noodles, cutting the noodle into many pieces.  To make things a little interesting, I did not cut my pieces all the same size.turn a pool noodle into an abacus

Then I simply cut a length-wise slit into the pieces, going as deep as the center hole so I could “open” the noodle up at the slice.  This is how you’ll place the noodles on the rope.  And it means the hooligans can easily take the noodles on and off the rope when they please, and use them as loose parts in our play space.

Never heard of loose parts?  Jenny from Let the Children Play has written an excellent piece describing them.  You can find it here.


Find a couple stationary objects in your yard that you can tie your rope(s) to.  I tied mine to a tree at one end, and my clothesline pole at the other.  pool noodle abacus

Doesn’t it look fun?


If you’re wondering about our colourful rainbow wind chime, hanging above the abacus, it was really fun and easy to make, using sticks we gathered on a nature walk.  You can find my tutorial here.

Add your noodles:

Pop those bad boys onto your rope and let the children at them!

It’s such a simple concept, but these have gotten a ton of use.  The hooligans push them back and forth, the take them off and play with them in the sandbox, and they pile them into the coupe car and our pulley bucket.

A stick and a bowl of sand provided the base for an interesting activity for this little one.IMG_8622

And at the end of the day, we slip them all back onto the rope for a quick and easy clean up.pool noodles and rope for loose part play

Looking for more easy and one-of-a-kind activities to keep your hooligans entertained for hours on end this summer?  Check out our Dino Dig and Baby Bath Station.  Your little ones will be captivated!

You may also enjoy this awesome Giant Bead Abacus from The Imagination Tree!

If this is your first visit to Happy Hooligans, I’d love for you to pop over and LIKE us on facebook.  I update my page daily with easy and affordable arts, crafts and play ideas.

follow happy hooligans on facebook

You can follow me on Pinterest too!  I have over 90 boards dedicated to all kinds of kids’ crafts and activities, as well as some personal interest boards too.follow the Hooligans on Pinterest!

See you there!


  1. makingboysmen says

    Looks like great fun and we love loose parts play, unfortunately pool noodles in the UK aren’t hollow otherwise I’d love to give it a go. Makes for a lovely colourful addition to the garden. Thanks for stopping by the Outdoor Play Party

  2. 123homeschool4me says

    This is SO clever!! What a brilliant idea!

    Thanks for sharing your creativity over at TGIF! I appreciate you taking the time to link up!! I featured this post today.

    Hope you can pop over and link up again today =) Have a great weekend,

    • happyhooligans says

      Oh no! Don’t be so hard on yourself, Maren! Everything we do here is super-simple and really inexpensive. Just use some of these ideas as inspiration and you’ll impress the heck out of the kids and yourself! 😀

  3. Tara says

    Genius! My 3 yr old is completely fascinated with anything Dino related. We will definitely be trying this one out. Gross motor skills, educational, ANF fun makes for my idea of kid -fun! Thank you Jackie!:-)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>