Counting with beads for toddlers & preschoolers

Counting with beads for toddlers & preschoolers

This activity can be done with many colours and several ways. This doesn’t need to be solely a Christmas themed activity as seen in my photos. In this post, I show a simpler toddler version, aimed more at fine motor skill development, and a pre-schooler version with numeracy involved. Keep reading until the end for toddler version.


  • Play dough
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Beads
  • Number cards (or any version of)
  • Muffin Tray


1- Place play dough in bottom of each slot of a muffin tin tray. 

2- Place pipe cleaner in middle of each slot of play dough. 

3- Place number in each slot or attach to pipe cleaner as seen in photo. I used a clothespin to hold number cards that I quickly made onto the pipe cleaners.


4- Offer beads and ask your child to place the corresponding number of beads (to the number given) on to the pipe cleaner. All I had on hand when I did this was multicoloured and multi-shaped beads. Totally not with the Christmas theme, but it it helped with engagement. They were far more excited to work with fun beads than red and green ones. Depending on their level of independence, you may need to assist and count with them. This offers a chance to start great conversations about numbers! I didn’t stress over order and whether 1-12 was covered in that order. At the toddler/preschool age, allowing them to navigate while completing an exercise was all right for me.


5- Toddler version! Rather than focusing on numbers, I placed the play dough directly on the table for my son with the pipe cleaners inserted and offered him the same beads. This was more of a fine motor skills development activity. Perfect for toddlers! He sat forever threading beads, removing them, and laughing at their shapes.


Playing with play dough on it’s own is great for fine motor skills development and muscle strengthening. It’s one of those things that never loses its value or entertainment with children. If you’re a person who likes to make their own play dough, my favourite no-cook version that lasts for ever is from Imagination Tree.  


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