Kids Play with Anything #10: Child’s Play with Sticks

A child’s play with sticks is nothing to shake a stick at. Around the world, kids play with sticks, another example of how kids make a toy of anything. The humble stick and how kids use it in their play may make us wonder why we invest in toys.

play with sticksAlthough we might cringe, kids do and will play with sticks. There is no doubt that play with sticks involves risks. We need to monitor the situation so kids can stay safe while they learn how to manage risks.

Sticks can be used for a variety of actions, like walking, stirring, digging, splashing, reaching, dragging, and making marks. A stick is a sort of magic wand unless it’s a fishing rod, lightsaber, galloping horse, bridge across an alligator-infested swamp or anything else kids choose.

best play is natureSpeaking of bridges, a stick bridges the real world and that of the imagination. It’s both a real, natural item as well as a fantasy one. A plain, ordinary stick might scratch a road for cars in the dirt, or it may vanquish a fierce dragon. It might be a home for a tiny bug, or even harder to see, a magical fairy.

A stick not only encourages the imagination, it also challenges and strengthens ordinary muscles and coordination. In a way, it’s an extension of an arm, so kids have to learn how to move it and themselves. Holding a stick is quite sensory. The bark may be rough or smooth, and not only is the texture different, so is the weight, depending on the length and thickness of a stick.

Two sticks can tap out a rhythm or a secret code. A child’s play with sticks may also encourage lots of language, as kids talk and explain.

play with sticksStick play can be controversial, not only because of the risk of being hurt. This is a story I’ve written about before:

Yes, some kids will turn a stick into a gun. This kind of play is controversial. One little boy who wasn’t allowed toy guns at home was playing with one at a friend’s. When his parents came, he reassured them “I’m pretending it’s a stick.”

Despite the risk factors, child’s play with sticks is empowering. Kids can choose from an unlimited amount of possibilities how they play with sticks. A stick is passive until the child’s action makes it come alive. Do you allow stick play for your child?