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Counting and Banding Spindles

Sweet Pea is 45 months old.

From: I saw a box of cocktail stirrers at Target and thought they would work for the Montessori spindle box activity.


  • 45 sturdy cocktail stirrers (We found ours at Target near the paper cups.  I had to buy 2 boxes to get 45 stirrers.), Popsicle sticks or actual Montessori spindles.
  • 10 stretchy rubber bands or hair elastics.
  • The numerals 1-10 as Milk cap numbers,  refrigerator magnets or just written on separate pieces of paper.


  • Count out 45 spindles and place them on the table.  Place the rest of the spindles out of sight.  Put the 10 rubber bands and the milk cap numbers on the table.
  • Ask your tot to find the number “1” milk cap number and place it directly in front herself.  Then request that your tot to hand you 1 spindle.  Say “1” out loud as she places the spindle in your hand.
  • Demonstrate wrapping a rubber band around the spindle and place it under the number “1” milk cap number.
  • Ask your tot to find the number “2” milk cap number and place it in front of herself.  Ask for 2 spindles and count out loud as each spindle is placed in your hand.
  • Hand both spindles back to your tot and invite her to wrap a rubber band around them, and then place them under the number “2” milk cap number.
  • Repeat for the remaining numbers.

Observations: Sweet Pea was interested in this activity, although she did not enjoy it as much as some of our art projects.

Also, she would not use the rubber bands to make “bundles” of spindles for each number.  She refused to even try and insisted on just placing the sets of spindles under each number.  However, when she was done, she did want to see me put rubber bands on each bundle, so I obliged.  I am wondering if the action of putting the bands on is too difficult for her age.

This activity would also work with only smaller numbers.  Just make sure that you use the correct number of spindles.  There is a control of error in having the exact right number of spindles, so if you only use the numbers 1 – 4, you would want to limit the available spindles to 10 (Since 1+2+3+4 = 10).

Despite our difficulty with the bands, I thought this activity went well and kept Sweet Pea engaged.  I would recommend counting spindles for someone looking for an quick math activity, although I would reserve the banding aspect for an older tot.

Notes from the Trenches: The real Montessori spindle box activity uses a box with separate compartments from 0-9 to house the spindles.  I thought the rubber bands would work just as well, but since Sweet Pea refused to use them, we had a hard time keeping the spindles contained.  I will probably make or buy a 10 compartment box before I try this again.

Rating: 2 Stars * (Easy, Frugal)

4 comments to Counting and Banding Spindles

  • jocelyn

    Thank you! I have a little fella in my 4’s class who is having difficulty grasping the concept of counting. This activity will be right up his alley! Thanks!

  • Kit

    I just found your blog and love it. I don’t know how many hours I have spent reading through old posts and loving your ideas.
    I made my own Montessori spindle boxes. I used empty manicotti trays as compartments. I cut wooden skewers in half to make the spindles. Total cost was about $2. Sherbet loves it. I have one tray that is 0-5 and one that is 6-10. I plan on combining them as she gets more confident.

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