It's Not A Stick!

When kids learn how to navigate risks, they enjoy great experiences & learn how to keep themselves safe. To help kids learn to manage risks, this week at Tinkergarten Anywhere we’ll introduce the “#1 toy of all time”—sticks! We’ll discover how to explore sticks and stay safe.

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The Guide

Step 1: Watch the Tinkergarten Anywhere "Stick Around" video lesson.

Hop into your Tinkergarten dashboard to watch the "Stick Around" video lesson. Kids can watch how Meghan and other explorers stay safe as they imagine all of the things their sticks can do and be, then get inspired to enjoy their own stick play!
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Step 2: Gather a few materials:

Step 3: Introduce the #1 toy of all time—sticks! 

Hold up a stick and announce that this is NOT a stick. Turn the stick into some other object and use it in a way that will help to reveal what it is. (A plane flying in the sky, a giant drinking straw, a shovel in the dirt, etc.). Invite kids to guess what your are imagining your stick can be.

Step 4: Give the “stick talk.”

Let kids know that sticks are marvelous tools for play, because they can become anything we can imagine them to be! Then, set a few guidelines for how we can use sticks in ways that keep everyone safe. You might say something like, “Sticks also need lots of space to become whatever we want them to be. So, when we play with sticks near other people, we need to make sure that we can play with sticks in a way that keeps EVERYONE safe. Can we make sure that our sticks do not touch other people’s bodies?" Read here for more helpful language grown-ups can use to help kids manage risks.

Step 5: Enjoy and support stick play. 

Enjoy imagining, playing and exploring with your sticks. Model different ways to use sticks in your outdoor space and try out kids’ ideas, too! Turn stick play into a game and take turns imagining and guessing what your sticks can be. Need ideas? You can also use these printable Stick Play Cards with prompts for different ways to use and imagine with sticks.
As needed, give gentle reminders to give sticks space from other people. Young children learn through repetition, and we can expect that wee ones may need lots of reminders to give sticks space from others. You can also redirect by modeling another, safer way to use a stick or by saying something like, “I wonder what would happen if you used your stick to dig the soil over here.” Older kids may also choose to play in more collaborative stick games. As kids play with you or with other kids, you can remind them to check in with their own bodies and with others. An important part of learning to manage risks is learning to recognize and stop when it feels too risky and/or when others communicate that it feels too risky for them.

Step 6: Extend Play.

Try some of these ways to spark even more stick play:

  • Build a Fire DIY Activity—Use sticks to build a pretend campfire and enjoy using sticks to roast pretend food. To introduce fire safety, demonstrate how to use twine or rocks to make a "circle of safety" around the fire. Learn more here.
  • Add Objects—How does the play change when you combine other materials with sticks? What can your stick be or do when you add leaves, ribbon, twine, mud or forest putty?
  • Go Fish DIY Activity—With just a stick and a piece of twine, kids can create their own pretend fishing experience at any time and in any outdoor space. Read here to learn how to create a simple fishing tool that is sure to spark imaginative play.

Why is this activity great for kids?

This activity is all about noticing risks and managing those risks in ways that help kids grow and stay safe. It often feels easier to protect our children from danger by avoiding it. But, when we model how to talk about risks and decide on ways to manage risks, we not only give kids the chance to enjoy a marvelous experience, but we help them see how you can manage risks for the long haul! 

Exploring the endless possibilities of what sticks can do and be is also a super exercise in divergent thinking. Kids will also use problem-solving skills as they explore how to play with their sticks in ways that keep themselves and friends safe.

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