Saturday, 24 May 2014

Sticks in the playground.

About 3 weeks into a new school year there is a box of resources we bring out for the first time & introduce them to the children. We wait for a few weeks until the children are more familiar with the playground & settled into the class yet while they are still in a small group of 13-14. We wait until they are more familiar with us, the staff, and until we know they are ready to listen to us when we explain the 'how' of the way to play with these resources. Every year it never ceases to amaze me how the children will fall upon this crate of sticks & incorporate them into the play almost immediately. Sticks will become a currency in the playground & it is not unusual for the children to employ one of the sand timers to ensure that turns are taken over one particular stick. To my adult eye they are sticks & all look the same but very quickly the children will learn to tell each stick apart & some will just have that special something only a child can see or feel. It is not uncommon to see sticks lying beside a seat as a child has their snack, or set up out of the way while they go to the toilet or on very special occasions a trusted friend may even get the job of minding a stick at such times. We do try to get the children to put the sticks away at tidy-up time but as with most things sometimes the sticks get left lying around the forest area. It is not uncommon to see a child searching around this area for 'their' stick when they come to play the next day. This year there is one child in particular who always has a stick in his hand & one of the others said to me one day about him "He really, really loves sticks doesn't he" and yes he does indeed. There are hardly any photos of him outside without at least 1 stick in his hand.
Not just sticks - a box of treasure!
In the past 6-7 years that we have had sticks as just another resource in the playground we have never had any major incidents with them. The children learn very quickly not to point them each others faces or hit people with them. They are rarely weapons to hurt people with anyway, they tend to be wands, walking sticks, light sabers, firewood, pens etc. We have a box of small sticks around 30cms & then later in the year we have much longer ones and the children are taught to walk about with these long ones upright.
The big sticks are just as popular as the smaller ones.
Once on a trip with another nursery I heard one of their staff say to a child "Put down that stick, it's dangerous" and before I could say a thing one of my class piped up with "Sticks aren't dangerous, you just have to be careful with them!" 
Last week I began to talk about Primary 1, to prepare the children for the move to 'big school' in September. The majority of my class are moving onto P.1 in the same school & so will get to go for a visit to their new teacher for a couple of hours in the next few weeks. As I talked to them about what they knew about P.1 (many have older siblings already in the school) they listed things they thought they might see in their new P.1 classroom - a sand tray, a water tray, Lego, books and blocks. I mentioned they would have snack in P.1 too & then we began to discuss what might be different. Suggestions ranged from - no toys to homework before my stick lover asked "Are there sticks in P.1?" I said I didn't think there were & he sighed & replied that maybe the other children had never learned how to play with them at nursery. But the sad fact is they did as the majority of our primary children do come through the nursery so they have played with sticks safely aged 3 & 4 only to never be allowed to play with them again. 
Sometimes I do worry that I am letting the children in my class do lots of things they won't be allowed to do in primary but then I realise that I am allowing them at least 1 year of risky free play that will hopefully stay with them forever & encourage them to be able to make informed choices about risks when they are older.

If teachers of older children need some ideas of how to introduce sticks & use them in the playground or lessons then please check out the amazing Creative Star Learning Company - Juliet has so many great posts on sticks.

14 comments:

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    1. Yes! I was gutted for him when he realised there will be no sticks in big school.

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  2. I let children do a lot of things they will never be able to do again in school like playing with sticks or rocks. And neither am I at peace with that fact. I am at peace, though, with how happy they are in my classroom. Is that enough?

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    1. That is so true Tom, I think if we can reconcile ourselves to the fact we are doing our best, it does get easier.

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  3. I always think its the adults that worry about children playing with sticks, but I don't think I have ever had a problem or injury with children just simply playing with a stick. I love how children will use a stick and make so many different play objects from them. A good walk always needs a good stick! Great post.

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    1. Exactly Kim, children see the potential in the stick while adults see what might or could happen.

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  4. I think you're definitely doing the right thing by letting them play with sticks! Even if they don't have the opportunity to do so in the next grade, they will have learned to appreciate it and can hopefully continue their stick games at home for a long time to come.

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    1. Thanks Linda, as Tom said in another comment sometimes we get a bit 'wobbly' about how much we are preparing kids for school or for life!

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  5. My son is currently in love with sticks. Mostly as a wand. He deosnt really know swords yet. Stick is dangerous only if you dont know how to handle them well and I would like to think that my son knows =) #countrykids

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    1. Exactly, all children are drawn to sticks, thanks for coming over to comment.

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  6. The fun of sticks, something children never seem to grow out of! I can see what a great resource they are, not only creative and imaginative play but also as a tool to allow children to start the process of taking their own risk assessments. Thanks for linking up and sharing with Country Kids.

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    1. It's great to hear someone who sees their worth! Thanks for hosting another great link up too.

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  7. That's brilliant, sticks are magical!

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