Today is an easy one because…it’s Friday! No downloading, no prep or research. It’s this simple. Go outside with your kids and play with sticks.
Did you know that the stick made it in to the toy Hall of Fame in 2008? No surprise, really. Sticks are free, they encourage creative outdoor play, and they’re renewable. The perfect toy!
This time of social distancing, when children have few playmates, is a great time to encourage kids to explore sticks. So often, kids are told, “Put that stick down!” “Be careful, you’ll hurt someone!” And yet, they continue to pick them up! Because sticks are an endless source of fun. Sticks are the perfect toy for free play, which all the experts say is a critical part of child development.
You can help your child cultivate their ‘stick sense.’ Advise them to always know where both ends of their stick are. Start smaller children with shorter sticks to help them understand this concept. This can also be a good ‘estimating’ game – “Can you find a stick that is as long as your arm, without ‘measuring’ it?” Then try it with their leg, their full, two-arm span, their height, etc. Practice makes perfect, and good estimating skills are valuable!
Some places offer guidelines, such as – Arm’s length and shorter can be swung (e.g. wands, fishing poles), but longer sticks should only be used as walking sticks or horses. Obviously, no throwing or poking when others are around!
So get out there! Find lots of (relatively) straight sticks that are your child’s arm’s length, then build a tower with them. Place two sticks parallel to each other, then the next two sticks perpendicular to the first set. And so on. In addition to making a cool tower, you’re teaching the concepts of parallel and perpendicular! Isn’t that geometry??
Here is just a short list of things to do with sticks. We’re sure your kids can come up with more:
- Walking stick – decorate it with paint, wrap strips of fabric around it, hang feathers or beads off of it
- Dig with it – the muddier the spot the better
- Use it to test where the ground is frozen vs. thawed. Hmm, why do you think this area is still frozen?? Why is this area soft/thawed?
- Make a flag out of your stick with a piece of fabric
- Make a fishing pole or cat toy by adding string and either: pretend bait; or, something to entice your cat
- Make a star out of sticks and bind the ends together with string
- Use it as a baseball bat, if you have a good ball
- Use it to mix up a batch of mud
- Find a stick with a fork (Y) in it. Weave string around the forks and weave natural things into it – leaves, bark, etc.
- Make a fort out of sticks, then have a snack or read a book in your fort.
- Find enough small sticks to play an outdoor game of ‘pick up sticks’
- Write in bare dirt or sand with your stick
- Find two ‘drum’ sticks and drum on a rock or stump
- Make a magic wand and decorate it
- Play golf with it
- Make a fairy house out of sticks, moss, leaves, acorns, etc
Truly, the options are endless. And don’t underestimate the bond that kids develop with their sticks! If you want them to leave sticks in the woods, tell them to find a special spot where they can find it later. Or, have them leave it outside the door, to remind them of their next great stick adventure!