Tuesday 26 February 2013


Montessori Activity: Home-made Spindle Boxes - Counting & Numeral Regconition

AGE: From 4 years old (after mastery of The Number Rods and Cards)


1.     A box containing 11 compartments clearly labeled from 0 – 10 for each compartment

2.     1 container with 55 popsicle sticks as “spindles”

3.     Number cards from 1 - 10 as labels for the compartments (or you can also just write the numbers on the compartments)

4.     1 container with 9 elastic bands or pipe cleaners (optional)


1.     To reinforce the child's understanding of number names, numerals and quantities.

2.     To teach the concept of zero as an empty set and its corresponding symbol.

3.     To demonstrate that separate items may make up a single quantity.

4.     To reinforce the natural sequence of the numerals.

5.     To provide a sensorial feel of the quantities with increasing number of spindles in the child's hand.


1.     Name the Spindles, point out the slots and the numerals one at a time, and have the child say the number’s names.

2.     Explain that these numbers will show us how many spindles to put into the box.

3.     Point to the no. 1 (have the child read it if he is older), say: “One” and put 1 spindle in this box.”

4.     Repeat for the other numbers and ask the child to count the spindles before placing them into the box. (If the child so wishes, he may tie them with the elastic bands or the pipe cleaners before placing them into the compartments, but it is not compulsory.)

5.     Continue until all spindles are in the box.

6.     Look at slot 0 and notice that it is empty.

7.     Tell the child that "0" is the empty set or "0" receiving nothing. Say: “This is zero. Zero means nothing. That is why there is nothing in this spot.”



1.     Have the child take out the two spindles from slot 2, count them and tie them with a rubber band and put them back in the slot 2. Repeat for the other spindles and count each bundle through from 0 - 9.
2.     Play shopping by pretending that the number cards are money representing $1 - $10, and that you are going to buy spindle. Pretend that each spindle costs $1. Give the child $5, and ask him how many spindles you could buy. He should answer 5. Ask him to give you 5 spindles from the fifth compartment, count them and give it to you.


1.     Then take out the Spindle 1 from the slot and place it gently back into the basket.

2.     Take out the other spindles group by group, and after taking off the rubber bands, place them one by one (counting as the child does this) back into the basket.

3.     Ask the child why there was no spindle in slot 0.

4.     Have the child put back the material on the shelf.


The exact number of spindles is provided. If counting has been incorrect, there would not be sufficient number of spindles left.


1.     This activity is best done on a child’s size table.

2.     Give child the chance to answer, so you need to pause and waiting for him to reply.


I saved all the office canteen take-away dinner containers and use them for compartments for the "spindles", and I bought the popsicle sticks from the hobby shop as "spindles". It saved a lot of money buying the real thing. Even better still, the traditional Spindle Box stops at 9, but if you make your own, you can make it up to 10.
J (3Y11M21D) tried this today in Chinese, and he could do it very well. He later suggested turning this into a shopping game (see Tips section), and this game was stretched to 45 minutes. This game is not so challenging for him in Chinese, as he knows all his numbers now. I will try it in English someday instead.



11 November 2019 (3Y5M24D): C tried this for the first time today. I said the number and she placed the spindles one-by-one into the box. I counted with her along the way.

Thereafter, she decided to work on the number jigsaw puzzle that we bought while in Australia: 

1 comment:

  1. I have just found your blog and I love it! It is so complete and so organize. There is so much that I don´t know where to start. I can´t wait to do all these activities with my daughter.

    Thank you!!


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