I decided to make the Montessori colored bead stair after I had already made my own imitation “golden” (actually white) beads. So far, the colored beads representing each number between 1 and 9 are not actually necessary, since the child can just count out the appropriate number of single golden beads. However, they are a handy shortcut that keep the child interested in whatever we’re doing.
If I expected my kid to count out 9 single beads every time he wanted to represent 9 (which I already know he’s capable of doing), he would get bored really fast and find the whole exercise too tedious. However, if he can just grab a 9-bar out of our set of colored beads, he’s likely to stay interested much longer.
Recommended Age Range: Preschool, Kindergarten, Early Elementary
Time Required: Each bar takes about 1-2 minutes to make depending on the length. With one 500 pack of beads of various colors, I was able to make ten each of 2-,3-,and 4-bars, nine 5-bars, six 6- and 7- bars, and five 8- and 9-bars, or about 60 bars. Therefore, the total time was approximately 1-2 hours. At some point I will likely buy another 500 pack of beads so that I can have 10 of each length for when my kids are learning multiplication. Completing my set will likely take less than an hour.
Cost: Less than $5 in used supplies (I had already bought fishing line and wire for the Montessori “Golden” Beads and only a minimal amount of each was used for this project. I used a 500 pack of faceted, 8 mm, plastic beads of various colors from my local craft store, which cost $2.69 after using a 40% off coupon. I will likely someday buy another pack so that I can have at least 10 of each length bar. A 900 pack of similar beads (Affiliate Link) are available on Amazon for $4.99 presently.)
- 500-1000 pack of beads of various colors
- wire (I used a 175 ft spool of 20 gauge galvanized steel wire from the hardware store, but any similar gauge would likely work. I estimate to make 10 of each length bar using 8 mm beads would require less than 25 ft.)
Supplies & Tools:
- small diagonal wire cutters
- needle nose pliers
- First, sort all your beads by color. My variety pack had 12 colors, so I used an egg carton to sort them.
- Decide which color will represent each length bar, using the most plentiful colors for the largest bars.
- For each number bar, you could experiment to see what the desired length of wire is, then use a ruler to measure out the desired number of wire pieces for that length. However, I chose to first thread the desired number of beads onto the wire spool.
- Curl the end of the wire using the tip of the needle nose pliers in order to hold the beads on the wire.
- Cut the wire leaving an extra length to be curled. For me the ideal extra length was about the length of one bead (or around 1 cm), though this might vary from person to person depending on the tool and technique used to bend the wire.
- Curl the end of the wire to hold all the beads together.
- Repeat in order to have bars 2 to 9 beads long, with each length being represented by a different color. Make as many as you can of each length (up to 10) based on the number of beads you have of each color.
I made a special box to hold all my bead material, but they could be stored in a wide variety of ways (including in a Ziploc bag).
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