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Family Math Activity: Make Bead Wands to Practice Sorting

Several "bead wands" made of colorful beads strung on pipe cleaners are lined up on a table.
Making colorful bead wands can be a fun opportunity to practice sorting together.
In this activity, you will help your child learn sorting by grouping beads by their color, shape, size and more before using them to make fun wands.
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Esta actividad también está disponible en español.

Make Bead Wands While Sorting and Collecting

This activity is an expanded version of the one seen on the video above.

Learning Goal

Exploring and learning about math often requires us to compare and sort objects by their attributes to look for similarities and differences. In this activity, you will help your child learn to sort by comparing and sorting beads by their color, shape, size and other attributes before using them to make playful wands and bracelets.


A table with paper plates, pipe cleaners, yarn, a container full of colorful beads and feathers all laid out.
A container of beads and some pipe cleaners are essential for this activity.

  • 1 large open container for sorting
  • 30 assorted crafting beads (different shapes, sizes and colors)
  • 2 pipe cleaners or 2 10-inch pieces of string
  • Tape
  • Feathers or other lightweight decorations (optional)

Step-by-Step Instructions

1. Get ready for the activity by placing a large variety of beads in a large open container, such as a plastic tray. Let your child play using their hands to explore the different beads in the tray before you sort.

2. Choose one bead from the collection. Ask your child to find another bead that is exactly alike in color, shape, size and transparency (or whether light can shine through). Ask your child: “Which bead is exactly like this one?” Repeat this step a few times.

3. Choose a different bead from the collection and place it next to the first one. Ask your child, “How are the beads different? Is there anything about them that is also the same?” For example, beads may have the same color but different shapes. Repeat this step with two new beads.

4. Beads can be sorted into sets based on their attributes. Ask your child to pick an attribute, like color, to sort the beads.

5. Time to sort! Move the beads into sets that share the same attribute that your child picked.

6. Look at the sets of sorted beads together. Ask your child to name the sets made with that sort. For example, if you chose to sort by color, the sets may be named blue, yellow, red and green.

A small child's hand sorts colorful pairs of beads by color.
Sorting by color is a great place to start.

7. To make a bead bracelet, place beads from one of the sets onto a piece of string or pipe cleaner. Tie or tape the string around your child’s wrist. If using a pipe cleaner, wrap the pipe cleaner loosely around your child’s wrist, so it can slide on and off, and cover the pointy ends of the pipe cleaner with tape.

8. To make a bead wand, place the beads from one of the sorted sets onto a pipe cleaner to form the handle of the wand. Use your creativity to decide what magical shapes and decorations your wand should feature. For example, you can use another pipe cleaner to make a shape like a star that you can attach to the top of the wand. Optionally, use tape to attach a feather or other lightweight decorations to the wand.

Take It Further

  • Sort by two attributes: For an added challenge, sort the collection of beads using two attributes. For example, after sorting by color, ask your child to make sets sorted by both color and size (large red beads or small blue beads). Other attributes can be shape or type of bead.
  • Counting: How many of each kind are there? Count the number of beads in each group (or set). Whenever possible, have your child count out loud and repeat the last number to show how many there are. For example, “one, two, three. There are three blue beads.”
  • Patterns: Make a pattern with your beads. Select beads from different groups in a predictable sequence to place on your string or pipe cleaner. For example, large, small, large, small … blue, blue, green, blue, blue, green. ... Repeat the pattern until your bracelet or wand is full or until you run out of beads.

Book Suggestion

Sam Sorts” by Marthe Jocelyn

Book cover of “Sam Sorts” by Marthe Jocelyn featuring an illustration of a small child surrounded by toys.
Book cover of “Sam Sorts” by Marthe Jocelyn

In this fun book, Sam tidies up his room and learns that there are many ways to sort his 100 things.

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Related Workshop

This activity is part of our Sorting and Collecting workshop, which helps parents and caregivers playfully build children's ability to sort.