My oldest has always loved counting beads. Numbers and Shapes are quite simply a place of bliss for him. It's kind of odd that the counting beads have never made an appearance on our blog. We use them often in varied ways. Both boys love making pyramids, rectangles squares and counting lines.
I always let the littles guide appropriate play with counting beads it's amazing the things they discover. I just set up the invitation to play. On our play table during instructional time, I have our our Sandpaper numbers, box of counting beads and our littles caddy with Montessori inspired table mats. (I just made these and LOVE them. It's an upgrade from our original mats.) One of these days I'll get the tutorial up in case you want some of your own. :)