Outdoor Activities: 20 Ways to Play with Sticks

Inside: 20 super ways to play, create and explore with one of the oldest toys in the world – the humble stick!

When it comes to childhood toys more often than not, simple is best. Take the humble stick, for example. It’s free, can be found just about anywhere, and can transform into almost anything a child wants it to. Plus, it’s fun for us adults, too. Maybe that’s why the stick was inducted into the Toy Hall of Fame in 2008!

Sticks are a great example of a “loose part,” something that doesn’t come with an instruction manual and can be used alone or combined with other items. Sticks encourage free play and using the imagination. No two times spent playing with a stick are ever quite the same.

I know what you’re thinking (especially if you have little ones) – yes, sticks can be dangerous. Your best defense against scrapes, bumps and bruises is to teach some basic safety limits from the start. These may differ depending on the setting and the family, but should include using sticks in wide-open spaces (like a yard or park), and not throwing or hitting anyone with the sticks.

Playing with sticks comes naturally to most kids, but if you’re looking to offer your child a little inspiration, here are some ideas to get you started.

20 Fun Ways to Play With Sticks

20 Fun Ways to Play With Sticks

1. Turn a stick into a stirring spoon to mix up mud soup, scented petal potions or magic potions.

2. Collect several sticks and sort them by length, width, shape, color AND texture.

Outdoor Activities for Kids-Weaving with Sticks

3. Try nature weaving with a “Y” stick, some yarn and natural elements.

Outdoor Activities for Kids-Creating with Sticks

4. Combine with other natural elements (leaves, flower petals, seeds, etc) to create a piece of nature art.

WANT MORE? Check out these other great ideas for creating nature art.

5. Make a frame for your nature art.

6. Transform one into a magic wand for little magicians, sorcerers and witches to cast their favorite spells.

Outdoor Activities for Kids-Fairy houses with Sticks

7. Use a bunch as the framework for a fairy house or dragon cave. Larger sticks can be used to build a fort or den.

Outdoor Activities for Kids-Nature Play

8. Design a nest for backyard birds.

9. Tie on a length of fabric or ribbon to create a wind streamer.

10. Play a game of pick-up sticks. Drop a bunch of sticks of about the same length onto the ground or table. Then remove a stick at a time from the pile without disturbing the others.

Outdoor Activities for Kids-Nature Art with Sticks

11. Draw a picture or write letters, words or names in the dirt, mud or sand.

12. Use as pair as drumsticks on a tree or rock to make outdoor music.

13. Practice your shapes, numbers or letters using sticks on the grass, dirt or pavement.

Outdoor Activities for Kids-Building with Sticks

14. See how high you can build a stick tower by layering sticks on top of one another.

15. Have a pretend sword fight with an imaginary foe.

16. Paint them (or paint with them) with bright colors, pastels, water, mud or whatever else you have on hand.

17. Find a bridge over a stream or river and play Pooh sticks. Two players each drop a stick into the water on one side of the bridge, then race to the other side of the bridge to see whose stick comes out from under the bridge first.

18. Add some string to make a fishing pole.

Outdoor Activities for Kids-Crafting with Sticks

19. Get into the holiday spirit by creating twig stars.

20. Roast a marshmallow on a stick over a backyard campfire pit.

What is your favorite way to play with sticks?

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  1. My Max goes mad for sticks and it’s just such a satisfying thing to see a boy create something from a piece of wood. Lucky we live in the bush and there are sticks galore! x

    1. That sounds wonderful, Maxabella – especially the part about living in the bush! 🙂

  2. I love how sticks are a free, open-ended play toy that are perfect for children’s imaginative, unstructured play. We love to play pick up sticks and another game that we don’t have a name for: we start by laying 4-5 sticks on the ground evenly spaced, then take it in turns to jump in the spaces. Last person gets to move a stick of their choice to where their foot landed. Gets really tricky when the spacings become bigger! Thankyou for such a broad range of inspirational ideas!

    1. I love your creativity! Sounds like you & your kiddos have a lot of fun outdoors. 🙂

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