“You could play using them like a talking stick”
“You can glue things on sticks and use it as a magical wand”
“It’s good for you to use it for a walking stick”
“It could be a sword”
“You could build a tree fort. If you put a leaf on it, it becomes a magical leaf wand”
“You could tie a rope and it could be a fishing rod”
“Play fetch with a dog. Play doggy who’s got the bone”
When children play with sticks they improvise and let their imaginations take over. An everyday object supplied by nature can suddenly become a prop for endless play opportunities and learning.
Sticks of all shapes and sizes are an important feature in our resources at Kindergarten. This supply is used by the children for construction, imaginary play, gross motor activities, tools, creative arts and supporting divergent thinking.
We refer to sticks as resources termed 'Loose Parts'.
Architect Simon Nicholson coined the phrase’ loose parts’ in the 1970’s. He believed that it was the loose parts in our environment that empowered creativity.
Loose parts are items and materials that children can move, adapt, control, change and manipulate in their play. They have no specific set of directions and can be used alone or with other materials (Oxfordshire Play Association).
Playing with sticks can often be viewed with negativity from adults. In our quest for ‘keeping children safe’ it is easy to oversee the endless play opportunities which are perceived by children.
When we are questioned about sticks from parents or other teachers, we suggest introducing big sticks into play first. Our theory at Mairtown is that big sticks require lots of co-ordination and skill to move about. Large sticks can also be heavy, transporting them requires children to be mindful of their movements.
We also have ‘expectations’ around sticks. No running with sticks, and when carrying them, the safe way to travel is to have your stick at your side.
The learning outcomes of stick play far exceed the risks; sticks are used daily at Mairtown, with very few reported accidents.
Sticks can change our perception of something, thus turning a negative into a positive. The only way to overcome fear and worry around sticks is to use them.
As teachers we continue to be open to the possibilities of sticks throughout our curriculum. Sticks have moved from being a traditional outside resource to a valuable extension of the play and work which happens indoors as well.
Sticks of varying shapes, weight, sizes and textures have been offered as provocations for invention and design. Today frames and large pieces of paper were positioned alongside bowls and stacks of twigs and sticks.
Children chose to create both individual and collaborative pieces of work. The focus here is on the process of exploration and innovation. When the work is finished the canvas is cleared to allow someone else an empty space for being creative.
The best thing about sticks is that they are free and supplied everywhere in nature! Children will choose sticks over fancy toys. Give your child a stick and watch their imagination and creativity un-fold!
I'm going to finish with an inspiring (and slightly adapted) poem by Alec Duncan. We found this on the 'Flights of whimsy' website: