50 of the best ways to use craft sticks for learning - numbers, letters, words, counting, and so much more!
Craft sticks would have to one of my most favourite materials to use for creating learning activities for school from.
Along with my other favourites stones and cardboard, craft or popsicle sticks are cheap, easy to source and simple to store and yet you can create plenty of hands on resources from them for class or for home.
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HOW TO USE CRAFT STICKS IN MATHS
Teaching early maths concepts requires plenty of hands on play and craft sticks are the perfect material for plenty of DIY resources for math centres or busy bags activities.
Grab some small round stickers - buy some white ones and you can make them any colour, then place them on some larger craft sticks to create mini counting sticks.
Here we paired them with some glass gems to practice our 1:1 correspondence.
We used them for counting but they could be used for subtising practice too.
Swap the glass gems for pegs and you're building fine motor skills too. Or add some magnetic strips to your craft sticks to count paper clips instead.
Work on recognising numerals by pairing some craft sticks with some colourful loom bands.
Getting the correct number of loom bands onto our numbered sticks required some manipulating making it another great activity for build fine motor skills as well as number sense in the Early Years.
Working with even younger children? Why not try this simple number matching activity from A Crafty Living.
Another way to use DIY number sticks is to add numbered pegs for children to order over the dots.
They're such a simple tool but have proved to be very engaging in our independent math centres in class.
Another maths centre using the same number sticks was this DIY memory game.
We use the same craft sticks with dots but added some sticks with the numeral and number word. To play, turn all of the paddle pop sticks face down then take it in turns to turn over two craft sticks at a time to try and match the correct pair.
Of course they were the perfect tool for using to create a number line using a line of playdough. Or you can swap the playdough for a pool noodle cut into halves.
My students have sorted dotted sticks, numbered sticks and then move on to practicing their skip counting using the same resources. We used the same idea to order craft sticks with all the letters of the alphabet correctly.
My students have loved sorting and creating their own 1-120 number charts using crafts sticks.
To make them I simply wrote each decade on a separate craft stick and then like a puzzle, the children worked to reorder them.
The best part about these sticks is they can by arranged as a chart or lined up to form a longer number line.
I loved how Planning Playtime - Learning With Playing used their craft sticks to find missing numbers. Such a simple idea but lots of fun!
Learning how to count in groups and tallies? This idea from And Next Comes L Tally Mark Craft Sticks might be for you. Or Roman numerals could be taught the same way.
We've also been using ours to practice addition and subtraction problems using craft sticks and pegs.
Want to count more? Why not create your own DIY Abacus! You can find the instructions for these over on the Kids Activities Blog.
Craft sticks are ideal for exploring shape too. These 2 part puzzles were so quick and easy to create and are a great introduction to basic 2D shapes.
Young children love to create. Add some velcro or magnets to the ends of some popsicle sticks to invite your students to create different shapes.
Craft sticks are perfect for exploring patterns from the basic matching templates created by Learny McLearnerton which are perfect for building visual discrimination skills in preschoolers to DIY pattern sticks to copy from How Wee Learn.
Or steal ABeeC Preschool's idea to help highlight the number of sides different shapes have. Use Playdough to Plato's Craft Stick Shape cards to challenge your children.
CREATE LITERACY CENTRES
Craft sticks make fantastic literacy centre resources!
Working on high frequency words? Print our our FREE Say It Make It Write It mats then add a bundle of sight words and some magnetic letters. You can find the FREE printable here.
Use the same sight words stick but add pegs to build the words while developing fine motor skills too.
Ask older children to sort the sight words by alphabetical order. Each of these makes a great addition to your literacy centres or Daily 5 work work rotations
Or create your own sight word puzzles like This Reading Mama.
CVC words are some of the first children will begin to spell independently but being able to hear and produce rhyme is an important stepping stone to being able to read and spell.
This KABOOM! rhyming word game is simple and can be made easier or harder depending on how capable your readers are.
The game is simple. The children take turns pulling a popsicle from the container, reads the word then has to think of a word that rhymes.
If they make a match, they get to keep the stick. If not - KABOOM! The stick goes back into the pot.
Childhood 101 has a slightly different version called the BAM! Game which can be adapted to number, letters or words.
These rhyming word dominoes are another literacy centre activity that helps children learn CVC words whilst also focusing on rhyme. Each set has a start and stop and your students then have to find the CVC words that rhyme. This can be done in a small group or independently.
Write some word families on craft sticks to sort using CVC picture cards.
As a whole class activity, we used these vowel bundles to quickly check each student could correctly identify the middle vowel sound in CVC words. After showing one of our CVC picture cards to the class, everyone then had to hold up the right popstick to show what sound. We then sorted the cards according to the middle sound.
Looking for something simpler? For toddlers invite them to 'post' coloured craft sticks to match by adding different coloured holes to the top of a container. You can work up to matching letters.
How much fun would a few of these letters by Creative Family Fun be as puzzles that had to be put back together?
This cardboard box hack by School Time Snippets requires only a handful of materials to create.
We love using kinetic sand as a base so we can keep changing the letters around. Initially we just match lowercase letters but have been working on recognising our uppercase letters in class this term.
Alternatively Smart School House created these matching sticks by cutting larger craft sticks in half before adding stickers to each end.
You can also use craft sticks to create literacy centre activities that focus more on parts of speech or grammar.
Here my Year 1s and 2s sorted some popsticks into verbs, adjectives and nouns.
Use craft sticks to teach other concepts like subject and predicate like Teach Me Mommy.
They're perfect for teaching handwriting too. Learn With Play At Home uses this Clever Cat to teach letter formation and orientation while this cool FREE Spaceman printable is an excellent tool for getting spaces between words. You can download it from Teach Starter.
STEAM INVITATIONS TO PLAY
Frugal Fun for Boys paired craft sticks with pegs and clips to create some awesome engineering challenges suitable for every age!
Popsicle Catapults from Little Bins for Little Minds.
Make musical instruments using Housing A Forest's instructions.
FUN GAMES TO MAKE FROM CRAFT STICKS
There are countless ways to use popsticks for learning.
Make your own Playing Cards, use a photo to create a personalised puzzle, paint your own colourful Dominoes or play this popsicle matching game. Or make puppets, people or dolls from your crafts sticks to encourage oral language skills and storytelling.
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