Sunday, 31 May 2015


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.

Sometimes it is easy to forget how much the sticks are just part of play now at our nursery and it's only when they have to be taken away that it becomes apparent just how much the children do use them. Last week, we had children visiting from one of our partner schools we put all the stick away. If children are not used to playing with sticks that is when accidents will happen plus it is just too hard for staff not used to stick play to grasp their use in such a short time. While the children played outside waiting for their friends to arrive, some began to search about for the box of sticks, that had found one or two lying on the forest are and now they need more for their game, I have to say they were not pleases when I explained they had been put away that day and hey fell upon the next morning as if they were the most precious resource ever invented!
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.


  1. Hooray for sticks! They are a wonderful addition to an outdoor play environment, a garden or an adventure walk.
    We have a lovely collection of sticks in our shed, all from special walks and ones my daughter has collectes, we always end up coming home with them.
    I like how you can introduce safe rules in a play setting also, not pointing sticks or hitting anyone as well.

  2. Sticks are a staple in childhood play, thank goodness they are found all around the farm here and children are naturally drawn to them. We use them in craft hour too, I am finding so many creative uses for them. I love the way you just place out the box and then leave the children to design their own games with them, a great way to learn. Thank you for sharing with me on Country Kids.


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