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"It's not just a stick!"

"It's not just a stick!" Well maybe it is. The open ended flexibility of sticks and twigs allows children to explore countless opportunities with them.

While adults often intervene or discourage stick play due to safety concerns, it is important to recognize that the advantages far outweigh the risks. Engaging in risky play is actually beneficial and crucial.

If you have reservations about how your child engages with sticks, you can address the potential dangers while still granting them the chance and independence to develop spatial awareness and self-control.

For instance, you could mention something like "You're swinging your stick near John. What could you do differently?" This type of observation paired with a question raises awareness and empowers your child to problem-solve and adjust their play, fostering child-driven play.

A child, with their magical point of view, can imagine numerous ways to engage with a basic stick. By pausing and observing for a moment, we can also start to see the magic. Picture your child holding a plain stick. As they hold it, the stick undergoes a metamorphosis. They wave it, and it transforms into a

  • magical wand, brimming with possibilities and weaving spells of creativity.

  • valiant knight's sword, poised to protect castles and embark on daring adventures.

  • paintbrush, crafting vivid landscapes and expressing feelings on a blank canvas.

  • building block, constructing bridges and homes, shaping new worlds with each placement.

  • telescope, unveiling the skies and stars, beckoning endless exploration and revelation.

This visual analogy exemplifies the Reggio Emilia approach, where a simple stick, ignited by a child's imagination, transforms into a potent instrument for learning, creativity, and development. By embracing and fostering these transformations, we assist children in unlocking their boundless potential. Let's delve into the enchantment of stick play.

Social & Emotional Benefits of Sticks

  • Open-ended materials evoke self expression

  • Children can process and practice real-life experiences through play

  • Handling long/sharp/ pointy objects instills a sense of pride, autonomy. and healthy "risky play"

Encourage self-expression by providing your child with a stick and some paint. Observe as they turn it into a vibrant magic wand or a personalized staff, showcasing their creativity and uniqueness.

Practical experiences: Inspire your child to construct a small shelter or a miniature house using sticks. This activity can help them develop teamwork and negotiation skills when collaborating with friends, simulating real-life problem-solving and cooperation.

Recognizing pride and independence: Take a moment to observe your child the next time they pick up a long stick, and appreciate their confidence in handling it with care. Acknowledge their skill in safely engaging in risky play by praising them with, "I notice how cautiously you're holding that stick. Well done!"

Cognitive Benefits of Sticks

  • Imaginative and dramatic play as sticks can"transform" into anything and everything (e.g. wand, sword, house, etc.)

  • Scientific Concepts:Organization, observation, classification, composition

  • Mathematical concepts; Numeracy, quantity, one-to-one correspondence, size, and measurement.

To spark creativity, turn the simple act of playing with a stick into a game with your child. Encourage them to explore their imagination by asking, "What could this stick transform into today?" Watch as they unleash their creativity, whether it becomes a magical wand or a fishing rod. Engage in their imaginative play and collaborate on weaving a story together.

Explore scientific ideas by gathering sticks of various sizes and shapes. Encourage your child to categorize them based on length, thickness, or color. Pose inquiries such as, “Which stick is the longest? How many short sticks are there?”

Challenge your child with mathematical concepts: Use sticks to measure objects in your garden or home. For example, “How many sticks long is the the slide? Can we find a stick exactly the length of the picnic table?”

Language Development with Sticks

  • Children may describe their symbolic play

  • Storytelling prompts expressive and receptive language development

  • Connect stick play with relative books, e.g. Not a Stick, Stick Man, Stick and Stone, The Three Little Pigs, Sticks, etc.)

Encourage and prompt your child to narrate their activities. For example, you can ask them to talk about the adventures their stick is having today.

Engage in the activity of storytelling using sticks. Explore books about sticks at the nearby library. Consider reading "Not a Stick" by Antoinette Portis with your child. Then, inspire them to invent their own stick adventures and narrate the tales to you.

Visit your local library to find books with a similar theme:

- Recommendation: Explore books that involve sticks, such as Stick Man by Julia Donaldson or Stick and Stone by Beth Ferry. Have conversations about the narratives and the roles of sticks in them.

Physical Development with Sticks

  • Small sticks prompt pincer grasp, dexterity. and fine motor skills

  • Large sticks exercise gross motor skills, as well as balance, control, and coordination

  • Hand-eye coordination and depth perception

Engage your child in fine motor skills crafts, for example, using small sticks and beads or string. Encourage them to thread the beads onto the sticks or tie the sticks together to improve their pincer grasp and dexterity. This activity is beneficial for developing the muscles required for writing.

Enhance gross motor skills through outdoor play with sticks. Encourage your child to balance a large stick on their shoulders and walk a short distance. This enjoyable activity helps boost balance, control, and coordination.

To enhance hand-eye coordination, try this activity: Create a game by arranging a basic target setup for your child to throw sticks at. This will help improve their hand-eye coordination and depth perception.

Let’s celebrate the wonder of sticks and all the opportunities they offer for learning, growth, and endless fun! Engage with your child in these activities and watch their imagination and skills flourish.


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