Sticks on a background

Pick Up Sticks! 5 Super Thrifty Outdoor Crafts for Kids

Five Ways for Your Kids to Have Fun that Sticks

Right outside the door is an endless supply of materials that will provide your child with hours of unlimited entertainment, just add an eager mind, a bit of time, and some energy—(things I’m sure your children have plenty of) and your child will have the recipe for a day of creative fun outside. Here are five things to do with sticks.

Ready, set, explore…

1. Take to the High Seas 

Ahoy! Are your kids ready to set sail on the giant puddle that has formed in the backyard? Or in the stream at the park? Making little boats is a great way to have an adventurous and creative afternoon on the water, and the result is a lovely little vessel for small creatures and your child’s imagination to sail away on. Our Cork Boat DIY Kit allows kids to add their own sticks and use corks to add to the buoyancy. This ship will delight young mariners and kids can make additional docks and rafts by looping several sticks together to create a flat plane. See which ones sail the fastest or can carry the most cargo. Set a course for adventure!

2. Stick Creatures

Sometimes your kids will find a stick that has a distinct shape or perhaps even has just the right forks and angles to look like an actual stick figure. But assembling these sticks with glue can be a little frustrating and not always successful. Enter Terra Kids Connectors. These are like nature’s helpers or the nuts and bolts needed for stick play. With our connectors, your child can make dragons, robots, princesses, and wild animals. Add some pine needle hair, berry eyes, and mossy skirts, and it’s amazing what a pile of sticks can become! Note: If you happen to have some clay around, a bit of clay makes a great head for their stick person. Clay has the advantage of being easy for stuff to stick to—such as pine needles for hair or pebbles for eyes—all things that will make your child’s stick person unique and life-like.

3. Painting with Sticks

Long before pencil boxes were filled with nice yellow pencils, people used sticks for writing. Sticks are the great grandparents of the pencil. All that’s needed is a nice pencil sized stick with a decent point. Once your child has found this “twig pencil,” they can dip their twig into paint or create a berry ink from crushed blackberries. To make more of a paintbrush effect, they can add bristles using a range of natural materials, such as feathers, pine needles, pussy willows, or evergreen branches. Each particular type of bristle will create different textures in the painting. To attach the selected bristles, for example, feathers, kids can place the tips at the base of the stick, then wrap a small piece of pipe cleaner or thin wire around the tips of the feathers and the base of the stick many times so that it is secure.

4. Nature Weaving

Not only are sticks great for boats, creature building, and pens, but they are also perfect for making wild weaving looms. Wild weaving is a type of weaving that can change through the seasons as different plants and vines can be woven into the stick loom. For example, in the summer, kids can gather wildflowers and leafy vines; and in the fall, they can weave with golden vines and autumn leaves. First they’ll need to find a strong, healthy stick with a nice fork in it. Then they can take some string or yarn and wrap it across the width of the fork. Keep wrapping until the length of the fork is covered with lines of string. Voila, they have a loom. Next, they can gather a variety of natural materials and become master nature weavers!

5. Painted Walking Sticks

Having a walking stick for a family hike is a great way to stay balanced on rocky terrain and when your kids have one, it helps them to keep the pace. But the best part of having a walking stick is actually right at the beginning—finding a stick that’s just right. The one that’s not too tall or too bendy but that fits your hand and helps with each uphill step. (This process can also keep your kids distracted on long uphill hikes.) To make this stick even more special, once the hike is over, have your kids bring it home and add some paint. The sky's the limit on design choices, but by wrapping the stick in masking tape in various patterns and then painting between the tape, a wildly colorful walking stick will emerge, ready for the next romp through the woods. Note: For another colorful walking stick project, have your kids try wrapping a stick with brightly colored yarn which has the added bonus of making an extra soft place for their hand.

Stick with It!

So as you gather the limbs from a long winter or from after a windy night, pile them up for your kids to peruse and use to create. Playing with sticks is an age-old activity that encourages imagination, develops motor skills, engages kids with nature, and fosters curiosity and exploration. So don’t be a stick in the mud! Get out there and gather some of nature’s play things with your kids and watch as they transform nature’s craft material into all kinds of treasures.

*Adapted by permission from Muddy Boots and Other Childhood Adventures by Liza Gardner Walsh and published by Downeast Books.

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