The humble stick is perhaps the simplest and most versatile of any toy, inspiring endless adventures for generations of children worldwide.
A stick can be anything you want it to be; a sword to fight off fierce dragons in the forest, a wand to cast magic spells, a measuring tool, a musical instrument or a craft material.
Sticks are easy to find, natural and, best of all, free.
Benefits of playing with a stick
Playing outside with a stick helps to foster a sense of connection to nature, which can only be achieved through meaningful experience in the natural world.
Simply playing with a stick can spark joyful learning experiences such as tree identification, knowledge of seasons and ecosystems and safe use of tools.
Other skills developed by stick play include imagination, problem-solving, co-operation, and physical skills (gross and fine motor skills).
Five ideas to get you started
Swords: A stick makes a fine imaginary sword just as it is.
To add some realism to the stick play, try using a smaller stick to make a handle. You can use string to bind the handle at a 90-degree angle to the larger stick.
We use a square lashing technique, details of which can be found here.
Dens: How about using sticks to make an outdoor den? A den is a perfect place to hide, play, have a picnic or spy on wildlife.
The simplest way to make a den is to find a tree with a low, sturdy branch.
Lean long sticks on this, binding them together at the top with stems such as ivy, honeysuckle or clematis. Rest smaller sticks close together along its length to make a wall. Cover this with a thatch of leaf litter.
Journey sticks: Making your own journey stick serves as an excellent memento of a day out in nature.
Start by wrapping the whole stick in coloured string, or add stripes of wool to tuck objects into.
Then simply add in any natural objects you find along the way.
To extend this activity, these sticks can also be used as navigational tools.
The collected materials and markings have various purposes. Some objects could be used as markers for natural features in the land, such as tree bark to indicate passing through the woods.
Symbols carved into or painted onto the stick could show weather patterns, natural features, or events that took place.
Catapults: Gather together three sticks, a conker shell and an acorn, as well as two elastic bands.
Start by wrapping an elastic band around the ends of the thinnest two sticks, so they’re held tightly together. Slide the third stick between the first two sticks so that one is still flat and the other is at an angle.
Then comes the trickiest step – you need to tightly wrap the second elastic band around the two thinner sticks, getting it as close as possible to the third stick.
Attach the conker shell to the end of the angled stick using the third elastic band. Load your catapult with a nut and push the angled stick carefully down to the ground.
Making sure you’re not leaning over the catapult, let go and watch as your acorns fly through the air!
Play stick games: How about using sticks you find in the forest to invent new games or play old favourites?
We have used sticks to play ‘Capture the Flag’, ‘Pick up Sticks’ and ‘Giant’s Keys’ as well as endless games of throwing sticks for the dogs! What games could you play with a stick?
We hope this article will inspire you to get outside and discover the wonderful world of sticks!
Share your stick-y adventures with us on social media by tagging us @floandfawn