Make a Colorful, Kid-Friendly DIY Abacus Toy

Wooden playthings are timeless and enjoyed by kids of all ages. There’s something to be said about classic wooden train sets and hand-carved rattles when you compare them to the mass produced plastic, light-up toys that inevitably also occupy space in your family’s toy chest, and I’m here today to show you one that you can make at home: A colorful DIY abacus.

How to make a colorful, easy abacus for home decor or child's play.


Step 1

Cut a board of 2×2 wood into three pieces: The two sides measure 12″ in length, the base will measure 15″ in length.

Step 2

 Open GalleryCreate a template to space the holes for your DIY abacus.You will want to make sure your abacus rungs are even, and the best way to do this is to create a template using scrap wood. Measure and pre-drilling 5 holes, each spaced 1-1/2″ apart.

Step 3

 Open GalleryUse grilling skewers to paint round beads.Prepare to paint the wooden beads your chosen colors. It’s really not easy to evenly paint something that’s round, but in this case, I was able to string the beads onto a grilling skewer and balance them over a wooden box for elevation.

Step 4

 Open GalleryPaint your beads easily and evenly by putting them on a grilling skewer to prevent rolling.Coat your beads using non-toxic paint. Most of mine required 3 coats to achieve an opaque look.

Step 5

 Open GalleryScrew into each end of the abacus to assemble it. While the paint dries, assemble your abacus frame by joining the pieces using a screw at each lap joint. Tip: In addition to pre-drilling to ward against splitting, use a second drill bit that is slightly larger than your screw head to widen the opening and allow for you to countersink the screw so that it is out of sight completely.

Step 6

 Open GallerySand the abacus frame.Sand the assembled abacus using a fine sandpaper (tap into a palm sander if you have one handy). Smoothing down the edges and surfaces evens out the abacus frame nicely. If you want to seal the wood, I recommend a non-toxic finish like beeswax, or a salad bowl oil finish to keep the toy kid-friendly.

Step 7

 Open GalleryString the painted beads onto 16String your beads onto 16″ lengths of leather cord, and attach them to the frame row by row. I like using leather cord for this project versus a dowel, because the narrow dowels that you would need to fit through these beads seems apt to snap like a twig if pulled the wrong way by a child. Leather has a little stretch, making it more kid-friendly.

Step 8

 Open GalleryTrim the excess leather.Knot each end so that they are very taut, and trim any excess leather away.

Step 9

 Open GalleryDIY abacus for the home or kids.Enjoy your DIY abacus as a piece of classic home decor, or as a toy for your child!


  • A 2 x 2 board (minimum 4′ length)
  • 15 round wooden beads (packs are sold at craft stores in quantities of 12 or 24)
  • Non-toxic craft paints or finishing oils
  • Paint brushes
  • Grilling skewers (helpful for painting beads)
  • 1/4″ Leather rope (minimum 8′ length)
  • 2 wood screws (minimum 3″ length)
  • Sandpaper
  • 1-2 clamps


  • Saw
  • Cordless drill/screwdriver
About Emily Fazio 


I caught the home improvement bug at an early age, and now I'm a full-time DIYer living in Rochester, NY. The projects I cover on my blog Merrypad range ...

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One Response

  1. Sherri says:

    You could use Pony beads to make a smaller handheld amicus for kids math tool. Thanks for the inspiration

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