Get stuck into sticks

Get stuck into sticks © Sergey Khamidulin -

There’s nothing like a stick to encourage imaginative play, says Bel Deering. To a child, a stick can be anything from a pen to a magic wand. So if you go down to the woods today, grab yourself some super sticks and have some fun. 

Sometimes the greatest toys are the simplest and most natural of things… sand, water, leaves, and, of course, the humble stick. We all know boys, and perhaps girls, who take great pleasure from finding a good stick to add to their collection. If you have access to a woodland area, ask each child to look for and collect a stick to use in outdoor play. If not, ask the children to collect a stick when they’re out and about and bring it into school.

Most famously used for sword fighting and lightsabre battles, sticks obviously need to be introduced with a safety warning. Remind children that they must not run with sticks, wave them around or fight with them and if they are carrying a long stick, they should hold it upright by their side. Children also need to consider wildlife when finding sticks. They should not take living sticks or ones with creatures on. Work together to create your own ‘Stick code’ – a set of guidelines for working and playing with sticks – then try out some of the activities below.

Huff and puff

It’s not just the Three Little Pigs who build their homes from twigs and sticks. In this activity, challenge the children to work alone or in groups to build a stick home for their favourite animal. Prompt them to think about making the homes weather-proof and safe from danger – maybe even trying to blow their house down to test how strong it is.

Meet a stick

Blindfold one child in a pair and sit or stand them somewhere safe. The other child goes off to find three sticks and brings them back to their partner. They choose one of the three sticks, place it in the hands of the blindfolded child and ask them to explore it with their hands. Then the stick is taken away, mixed up with the other two and the blindfold removed. The now-unblindfolded child has to try and recognise ‘their’ stick that they explored with their sense of touch.

Stick trumps

This is just like top trumps with sticks. Play in groups of four to six. Everyone has onds to find the lsquo;best’ stick (following the stick code). Holding the sttheirbacks, one person in the group starts by choosing their favourite stick property (such as length or width) and seeing who wins. Other categories might be smallest, lumpiest, most forked etc.

Pick-up sticks

Remember the old children’s game pick-up sticks? Why not try it with real sticks? Put all of the sticks in a heap and let the children take turns to try to remove a stick without disturbing the others. The game will encourage careful observation and thinking (which stick can be moved most easily) and develop manual dexterity.

Paint a stick

Find a stick and using the brightest colours you can find give it a sunny makeover. Look for aboriginal designs with dots and stripes then display them on your nature table.

Bel Deering is the manager at RSPCA Mallydams Wood, East Sussex.

Sticky books

A Stick Is an Excellent Thing: Poems Celebrating Outdoor Play (HB) by Marilyn Singer (Clarion Books £10.93)

Stick Man (PB) by Julia Donaldson (Alison Green Books £6.99)

Stanley’s Stick (PB) by John Hegley (Hodder £5.99)

‘A Stick is an Excellent Thing’ from A Stick is an Excellent Thing by Marilyn Singer Copyright © 2012 by Marilyn Singer. Reprinted by permission of Clarion Books, an imprint of Houghton Miffin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

A stick is an excellent thing

A stick is an excellent thing.
If you find the perfect one, it’s a sceptre for a king.
A stick is an excellent thing.
It’s a magic wand. 
It’s yours to fling,
to strum a fence, 
to draw the sun. 
A stick is an excellent thing if you find the perfect one.

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