Sticks are great toys….they are free, abundantly available in the outdoors, and have many play possibilities and functions. Plus, children seem drawn to them like magnets 🙂 Anyone that follows us on Instagram will know that my trio are rarely seen without a bundle of sticks, or trying to drag what is more like a tree trunk along on a hike.
When playing with sticks there is an added benefit, in that they are generally to be found in the outdoors in nature, which means they lend themselves to naturally be a form of outdoor play. This means children are then reaping all the benefits of playing in nature as well. In this post I want to discuss a little about why sticks are such an important method of play for children.
Sticks are a “loose part” toy. That means that they have no predetermined role. It is all down to the child’s imagination and creativity as to what they become, or are used for. This is important for growth and development. They can build and construct with them, role play with them, create art with them, and even use them as writing tools. They also come in lots of shapes, sizes, colours, and textures, adding to the fun. Many parents shy away from letting children play with sticks on safety grounds. But letting children take some risks is important. We have 3 main rules; the sticks do not touch people, you don’t hit anything with them, and lastly (but important for my sanity), they stay outdoors! Every stick they find is always “the best ever” and I’d have a house full without this rule. So, with these three little rules in place, a lot of fun can be had. They may still need a little help drawing the line if play gets a little exuberant, but instead of teaching children that nature is dangerous, we are teaching them it is fun to play in, and then they will have more of a desire to protect it as they are growing up. They are being able to integrate with nature more.
Other Benefits To Playing with sticks:
- It teaches the children personal space and awareness.
- It allows them to build strength and muscle (some of them are quite heavy that they shift around).
- It allows them to get dirty and “hands on” with nature, helping to build their immunity (a discussion for another day!).
- They are allowed to explore their own environment and work out what takes on which role.
- It increases stimulation and awareness for the child.
- They are using both large and small motor skills.
- And of course, they are doing a lot of physical activity when playing with them…all very healthy.
So, next time you are headed outdoors with the little people, embrace the stick play 🙂 I find it hard to not keep saying things like “be careful”, or “do you really need to carry that?”, but I try very hard and leave them to it, and generally it all works out OK. They’ve had a lot of fun, they’ve learnt a lot through play, and I am more relaxed because there have been less arguments as we’ve all been outdoors (even if I was tripping over someone’s log being dragged on the hike!!).