- Grades: PreK–K
- Practice problem-solving and creative-thinking skills
- Paper bags (one for each child)
- Area with twigs for children to collect
- Play dough
Step 1: Take children outside to the playground or another safe area with trees, and offer each child a paper bag. Encourage children to pick up small sticks they find on the ground. Explain that they can take the sticks back to the room and use them as tools. Help by pointing out sticks and twigs that they can pick up. Try to include a variety of twigs that are small, large, thick, thin, straight, crooked, bare, branched, or have leaves. Don’t let children take twigs with sharp points.
Step 2: Back in the classroom, talk about tools and explain that they are objects that help you do something. Give a few familiar examples such as tape and spoons. Tell children they can use their twigs and sticks as tools in activities around the room.
Step 3: Set up a play dough table, a painting table, and open your sand and water table. It may help to have adult volunteers watch over the children at each station. Invite children to bring their bag of twigs to the station of their choice. Then, at the tables, help children discover ways to use them as tools. For example, at the sand and water table, talk about mixing, separating, and molding. You might say, “Let’s use a twig we brought from outside to use as a tool to mix the sand and water. How else can we use it?” At the play dough table, children might use the tools to make impressions, cut, poke, and roll the dough. At the painting table, encourage them to experiment using the twigs as paintbrushes, then look together at the different patterns they make. At each table, comment on children’s actions and ask questions to promote problem solving: “Taisha, you’re using the twig to dig a hole!” “Michael, which twig do you think will be easier for painting with, the long one or the short one?” “Carrie, you poked a hole right through the play dough!”
- Monitor children’s play with sticks and twigs closely. Remind them that when they walk, their twigs should be in the paper bags, not in their hands.
- If you don’t have enough adults to supervise stations, you can set up one activity and invite three or four children at a time to explore there with the twigs.
- Look for other ways children can use the sticks and twigs as tools, for example, to play drums and other instruments in the dramatic play area for really open-ended exploration.