How to make a pool noodle abacus with ropes and pool noodles for toddlers and preschoolers to play with in the backyard.
I recently made this pool noodle abacus for the toddlers and preschoolers in my daycare, and it’s become one of the most popular features of our backyard play space.
Ok, so technically ours is not a true abacus, but it could be with the addition of just a few more ropes.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
And at the end of the day, we slip them all back onto the rope for a quick and easy clean up.
You may also enjoy this awesome Giant Bead Abacus from The Imagination Tree!
Jackie is a mom, wife, home daycare provider, and the creative spirit behind Happy Hooligans. She specializes in kids’ crafts and activities, easy recipes, and parenting. In 1997, Jackie stepped out of the corporate world to start a family and to open her own home daycare. She began blogging in 2011, and today, Happy Hooligans inspires more than 2 million parents, caregivers and Early Years Professionals all over the globe.