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Alice + Ames Adding Machine!

Who says twirling ballerinas can’t moonlight as tiny mathematicians?! Follow this tutorial by Becky from to make a simple “adding machine” from your Alice + Ames postage box. We love this so, so much! 

*Please note while this is a fun activity to do with your child, there are some steps that are only safe for a responsible adult to carefully carry out. Take special precaution when using a sharp knife, keep fingers and body away from the blade. Use a sturdy table to support your tools. Take care to keep the knife away from children.

What you need:

  • 1 Alice + Ames postage box
  • 2 toilet paper rolls (to use as “knobs”)
  • sharp knife
  • texta/sharpie
  • glitter and sticky tape optional

Step 1. Carefully cut open your box along one side and remove the gorgeous clothes…pause for spinning and squealing as required.

Step 2. Choose the placement of knobs on the sides of your box, towards the top of the box and slightly to the back (grid face) of box. Trace around the toilet paper roll end to mark placement (perfect for little hands to practice fine motor skills).

Step 3. Using a sharp knife carefully cut around the inside of the traced circle. You want your toilet paper roll to fit nice and snug, so cut smaller and adjust later if needed.

Step 4. On grid face of the box, using the lines as guides, cut out 2 rectangles to view the numbers. We found in line with the middle of our knobs and 2 squares in is perfect. Cut the rectangles 2 squares wide and 1 square deep.

Step 5. Cut 2 more holes directly under the above to insert your manipulatives*. We used dominoes, which were 2 squares wide and about ½ a square deep. Keeping your holes to the right size for your manipulative makes the posting more fun!

Step 6. Cut an answer hole at the base of the box. We left ours attached at the base creating a bit of a mouth and making our machine more robot like (because being able to “spew” things out of your mouth makes you a better toy, according to my 4 year old!)

Step 7. Slide your toilet paper rolls into the prepared holes. Slowly rotate the knobs writing numbers in the viewing holes as space appears. Draw a plus sign between your viewing holes.

Step 8. Decorate! We peeled off the postage sticker and covered the sticky patch in glitter. My daughter also collected the cut out bits of cardboard, and made a “battery pack” to stick inside. We taped the back shut for ease of use. Extra scribbles were added for effect ;)

VOILA! Start adding. Rotate the knobs so two numbers to appear in your viewing holes. Place the correct amount of manipulatives in each of the slots underneath. Collect the manipulatives from the answer hole and count to get your answer.  

*Manipulatives are simply hands on tools for calculating. Choose objects that will fit nicely into the box and not get stuck. For example coins, simple counters, lego blocks or leaves. You could custom make special coupons to feed your machine.

About the Author

Becky McIntosh is a stay-at-home mum to her 2 (nearly 3) young children, currently living by the beach in Newcastle, Australia. As a former math teacher, Becky is passionate about sharing the beauty and fun of mathematics, particularly with parents who home educate. You can find more of her free activities at, as well as beautiful step-by-step units to encourage literacy, art and kinaesthetic inspired learners to enjoy math. Find Becky on instagram @homemademath. Thanks Becky!

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