I have been enjoying perusing my copy of Julie Mountain's latest 'must-have' book for those working in the early years - "100 Ideas for Early Years Practitioners - Outdoor Play" and when I was reading her 'Idea no. 18: Sticks' I was reminded of why these are such an important part of our playground and our outdoor play approach. I spent all day thinking about how we came to have a collection of sticks available in the playground and then I remembered that one summer I got a load of willow with a view to letting the children whittle with the following year. Of course the idea of storing a crate full of sticks for almost a whole school year just proved too much and we decided to put them out and let the children play with them.
We did spend time explaining to them about not pointing them each others faces or hitting anyone with a stick but honestly neither has ever really been an issue. What never ceases to amaze is that all young children seem to know that if you grab two sticks and rub them together you can make a fire - is that our caveman DNA emerging?!
|Some children have recreated a campfire and are toasting marshmallows!|
For third term we also introduce some longer sticks that require skill to carry about without tripping over them or poking people, so again we talk about holding them upright when walking about with a stick.
Each year the play can be very different with a box of sticks but each class does invariably incorporate them into their play. One year a boy had a particular stick he always played with, to all of us adults, it looked just like any other stick in the box, yet he and the other children had no problem clearly identifying this one stick as his!
The sticks are great for use in cooking in the mud kitchen as they make natural stirrers or even pretend spoons. We now have enough of a forest feel in the playground for the children to have ready access to smaller sticks if hey need them as ingredients for their cooking too.
We also have a box of sticks up in Bear Woods, our little wooded area on site that we visit on a weekly basis & it is interesting that the children play with these sticks in a different way form in the main playground: the long sticks tend to be fishing rods and the smaller ones are wands or get broken up for use in transient art.
I like to think that the children in my class can understand the book 'Not A Stick' just a little better than any counterpart who isn't allowed to play with sticks.