For a stay at home mom, I often find myself anywhere but home. I know I’m not alone in that. Once your kids hit 3 or 4 you suddenly find yourself taking them to all sorts of activities. If you have more than one child the younger ones just get to come with. Let’s not forget all the errands of life too. Doctors appointments, haircuts, grocery trips. These are all necessary, but they can result in waits and lines. I need easy no-prep activities for busy on the go families.
I don’t like to waste these moments, and I don’t want my kids to just sit around bored and looking for trouble. Add to that I have three kiddos and enough stuff to lug around. So basically I want something small I can fit in my purse that gives me several fun options to entertain my kids while they learn something. It isn’t impossible. I have two words. Craft Sticks. Here are 6 ways craft sticks can keep your kids busy when you are on the go.
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Why Craft Sticks?
This is a reasonable question. I mean, why did I start carrying craft sticks around with me? Honestly, it was convenience. I had a bunch of them on hand, for crafts, and found they are a great way to do some basic learning activities. I started including them in the mystery tinker bags I brought out with us for their versatility and because they are cheap.
We only bring toys out that I don’t mind if they don’t come home. You never know when something will get ruined or lost. And the activities I use to entertain my kiddos tend to attract other kids. This is great, the more the merrier. But I don’t want to be worried about things being broken or left behind. I want to be that mom that has other mom’s backs. If another child is playing with us and is having a hard time ending the play I want to be able to leave something behind. So craft sticks fit the bill. Oh, and they fit neatly into a small purse. Seriously, they are an amazing on the go toy.
You only need about 6 craft sticks to make any letter of the alphabet. Oh, sure the curvy letters are a bit, well, angular. But you can still tell what they are. I make the letters for my two-year-olds and have them tell me what it is. Sometimes we go in alphabetical order, but sometimes we just jump around. This is important for one to one letter recognition. That means your child knows the letters for what they are, not just as a part of the long alphabet chain.
Older children can make the letters themselves! Start with writing a letter out on a scrap of paper so they can model it. As they get better and better at that you can have them make the letters just from memory. If you feel like completely filling your diaper bag or purse with sticks you can practice spelling out whole words.
Try this fun letter learning activity! Perfect for train fans.
You can make all sorts of shapes with craft sticks. Except for circles, I’m still working on that one. But triangles, squares, rectangles, pentagons. The only limit is how many sticks you want to carry with you. Again with younger children, you can make the shapes and have them name them. As your child gets better at this have them make the shapes. Add a contest element to the fun by challenging your child to make as many shapes as possible with the sticks you have.
(Learn more about making shape stick busy bag activities here: Shape Sticks for Preschool)
Counting is so easy with craft sticks. I have found that they provide a really great visual representation of number values. You can easily count out the sticks, up and down, to demonstrate numerical values. It is also really easy to practice one to one recognition of numbers as well by pulling out various numbers of sticks. Even little ones can practice pulling out the number of sticks you ask for.
Looking for more counting activities? Try these with Mega Bloks!
Basic addition and subtraction are much easier to understand with a visual representation of what you are doing. And sticks are perfect for that. You can easily add and subtract and have your child help you. This is a good activity even for two-year-olds. True, they might not be able to reproduce what you are doing, but they are learning.
Another fun game for older children is to demonstrate the different ways you can add numbers to get the same result. For example, you can get to 4 by adding 1+3, 2+2, and 4+0. Same with larger sums. The point of this is again number literacy and understanding that there is more than one way to reach a sum.
Practice more math skills with just a deck of cards! Learn how!
The sticks I carry around are a bit small, but they still make for great drumsticks. Drum on the floor, your knee, or hit the sticks together. Create rhythms and have your child repeat them. Count out beats together. Or just rock out. Learning music increases intelligence in all fields. It increases math understanding and reading comprehension.
Want more rhythm play? Make these super simple musical instruments at home!
If you have a little engineer let them build with these sticks. The little sticks are a bit harder to build with, but that just makes your child think harder. Can you make a little house? Can you build a bridge using other objects you find with you? Creative problem solving is happening with this challenge.
You don’t have to work too hard to come up with fun and educational activities to take on the go. We all lead such busy lives, we have to squeeze in quality learning time where we can. And I have found if I challenge my children mentally when we are out they are more likely to stay engaged and not find ways to get into trouble. You don’t need to spend a ton of money or bring a bunch of stuff with you either. Ten sticks wrapped up with a rubber band and my kids can be entertained anywhere. I bought a pack of 150 for a dollar from the Dollar Tree. If we lose them or break them, I don’t care. If we attract other children over the play and they want to keep going when we need to leave, I can leave the sticks behind without worry.
These are just a few ideas. I know there are so many other fun ways to utilize this simple thing. Learning and fun go hand in hand, and that happens on the go. What can you challenge your children to try next?
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Thursday 10th of January 2019
I also love popsicle sticks for toddlers! My LO is 16 months old, and I bring 12 sticks in a small empty disposable water bottle in my backpack. It's not only great for all the things you mentioned, but also makes a great musical shaker, and she loves dumping them out and putting the sticks back in the bottle (motor skills) and I can count with her how many she's holding and how many are already in the bottle. I also put dollar-store mini-pompoms in the water bottle, just to mix up the activities, and add colour naming and sorting activities. Again, it's okay if some get lost (And she's really good about not putting them in her mouth).
Thursday 10th of January 2019
Sara, that is awesome! Those are perfect on-the-go activities. I love things that are easy to pack and versatile. I keep a small bundle of craft sticks in my purse at all times too. Sounds like you are creating wonderful fun for your toddler!