We have a primary lacing bead set from Melissa & Doug, but you can get creative with other found objects such as washers or buttons, and a stronger thread such as bakers twine or a shoe lace. Be sure your child is over putting little objects in their mouth.
I keep ours in a kit: beads in a storage container, two strings, a tray and mini muffin tins to sort by color and shape. Sorting alone keeps their fingers busy, but separating helps identify shapes, colors and sizes, and later when placing them on the thread/lace, help them with sequencing.
I really like to have different activity kits at the ready. That way my daughter can grab what interests her, or get assistance from me.
I have a coloring kit, paint kit, tracing kit, puzzle kit, building kit, and others.
Have fun and get creative with play time. And remember, play items don't have to be store bought. Look around your kitchen, office, or garage to see what you have on hand.
This project will keep your tyke busy for a long while!