Todd and I are admirers of wooden toys, so it’s only natural that we let our boys play with sticks. I don’t believe that sticks are caca (as I often hear parents at the park say as they swat their child’s hand away from the stick that they are attempting to grasp) and I’m not really that worried about eyeballs getting poked out, as one mother suggested I should be a few weeks ago at the very same park. Of course I understand and appreciate that sticks pose a certain risk of injury while playing (everyone has a horror story to share), but so do other toys. Owen has had his finger crushed by a boxed remote control car that I couldn’t turn off and Colin nearly choked on a Matchbox Car tire several years ago. Kids fall off scooters. They throw sand. They trip while playing tag. They break their arm while playing house (as I did in Kindergarten). They crash riding toys. They slam their fingers in jack-in-the-box lids. They bonk heads while wrestling. Playing is risky business! But it’s worth it.
Playing with sticks not only provides a child with a tactile connection to Nature, but sharpens fine and gross motor skills and provides them with the opportunity to use critical thinking and problem solving skills. When Colin and Owen are building out in the forest, they do so with a goal in mind. Sometimes I might not understand their “game,” but they play with intention. Additionally, lifting logs, pulling branches, and climbing trees builds physical strength and confidence.
Through playing with sticks, Colin and Owen have learned much about self-control and following rules. They understand that they need to look completely around them before swinging a stick or breaking a branch. They know that under no circumstance should a stick touch another person (or living creature). They remember that they are not to dismantle a fort while another person is inside of it. These things were taught warmly and firmly, and occasionally reinforced from experience (which really is the best way to learn).
Sticks can be anything.
While playing outside in the woods this morning, Hudson began laughing hilariously. I turned to see what was so funny, and found him watching and imitating the dog!
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