As if meant to be, this activity was born when I stumbled on three, tidy bundles of sticks left out on someone’s stoop. One man's trash became my treasure. "Oh, what the kids could make with these!" I thought. To make good and sure kids would feel engaged and in charge of the making, I decided to shroud the whole business in mystery. First, I attached a cryptic, yet inspiring note to the stick bundles. Then, I hid them under some trees in the park. Once we were outside, we “stumbled” on them, read the note, and the kids naturally started talking about what to build with them.
Ultimately, the kids produced a long set of train tracks and chug-a-lugged up and down the line. After a few round trips, some defected with part of the tracks to build anew. It could have gone on and on, and we've repeated this activity with kids as old as 10, inspiring shelters, bird's nests and even a swing to be shared equally by fairies and ninjas (a compromise which reflects the split interests among the building team). It has yet to fall flat, and, thankfully, both sticks and kids’ ideas are in virtually limitless supply.
By inviting kids to take on this open-ended challenge, giving them access to nature's endless materials, and granting them the freedom to design, test, redesign and build, you give them the perfect chance to develop creativity. Once they are inspired, kids also have to practice persistence in order to actually make something out of a pile of sticks. Whether you have a group or it's just you and your child, this activity invites kids to share their thinking. Nurture communication skill development and imagination as you discuss juicy topics like how these sticks got there, what they could make and how, and what to do when they hit a roadblock.