The Abacus was invented during the Ming dynasty in China around 1300BC, and quickly became a practical calculating tool that was critical in their advancement of technology. It is unlikely that the people using them as originally intended could have predicted that their use as a calculating device would be superseded by it’s use as a children’s toy but it’s a crazy world we live in!
How the ancients actually used an abacus for complex calculations remains a mystery, but we do know that children can use them as a great introduction to counting, moving the beads 1 by 1, or 2 by 2, for example.
To begin with young children will most likely enjoy bashing the beads and moving them with their palms, and enjoying the noise it makes.
As they start to improve their fine motor skills encourage them to move the beads individually and challenge their pincer grip. Ask them to move a specific number of beads, and specific colours to layer up the learnings!