I love using popsicle sticks. They are very versatile and easy to come by. Pick up a bunch for just a few dollars at a grocery or craft store, or just ask all the neighborhood kids you know to collect them over the summer when they eat popsicles, and you’ll get bags and bags for free. Then have fun with all these different activities!
1. Bookmarks. Give your child a popsicle stick, pull out the art supplies, and let their imagination run! Attach strings or tassels to the popsicle sticks to make them more authentic…
2. Picture frames. Make and decorate picture frames out of popsicle sticks as part of art class or an after school a
ctivity. Then put pictures in the frame. Jazz this activity up a bit by adapting it for different holidays, filling the frames with pictures and using them as holiday décor.
3. Puzzles. Give your child several popsicle sticks. Tell them to align the sticks together, draw/color a picture spanning all of the sticks, take the sticks apart again and shuffle them. To make the puzzle more challenging, they can cut the popsicle sticks in half after completing the picture. If you have more than one child participating in the activity, have your kids switch puzzles after they’re done and put together each other’s puzzle.
4. Shapes! This is a good activity to help young children explore their basic shapes. You could also use it for some simple geometry lessons (types of triangles and trapezoids, similar shapes, etc.). Attach Velcro dots to both sides of both ends of the popsicle sticks. Give several sticks to each student, and allow them to practice making different shapes by attaching the popsicle sticks to each other. Let them experiment to see what new shapes they can come up with! (Note: You can also let them experiment with the different shapes without using the Velcro dots – using the Velcro just helps the shapes stay together so they can be moved, held up for others to see, etc.)
5. Probability and Percents. This is another way to use popsicle sticks for math. Take a large collection of popsicle sticks, and paint them different colors (or let your kids paint them!). Then, when it’s math time, pass out handfuls of the sticks, and have your kids practice probability by determining what probability they have of picking “x” color, or practice percents by figuring out what percent of the popsicle sticks is “x” color. You can even add in some variations and permutation questions for older children. This activity can be particularly helpful in reinforcing these concepts for visual and kinesthetic learners.
6. Drawing lots. If your kids take turns with different chores, you can write the names of all the chores that need to be done each day or week, put them in a jar and have each of your children pick a popsicle to find out what chore they’ll do that day. You can use the same technique for choosing names for a pet, picking vacation places, deciding what movie to watch on your next family movie night, and anything else you come up with!
7. Review tools. Write vocabulary words that pertain to the lessons your kids have been studying. Distribute the sticks randomly among your children. As you call out definitions, the student with the word should hold up their popsicle stick. You can use the same idea with other subjects also – in math, for example, you could write multiplication equations on the sticks and when you call out an answer, anyone with an equation that results in that answer holds it up.
8. Plain and simple art. Give your child a popsicle stick to draw patterns on. If more than one child participates in the activity, you can have them share patterns with each other, and vote on which is the most creative, etc. You could also tell each child to start a pattern but leave it incomplete. Then have everyone pass their sticks to the person next to them, and complete each other’s patterns.
9. Flags. Give each student several popsicle sticks (7-8). They can color 5 of them red and white, and line them up as the stripes, then cut two popsicle sticks in half, color 3 of the halves blue, put them in the corner of the flag and add white stars. This would be a great idea for the 4th of July but could also be done one some other patriotic day, or when your kids are learning American history.
10. Bird feeders. This would be great as a science experiment, and can be done individually or in small groups. The simplest method would be to put popsicle sticks together for the base, and then build the walls up by layering popsicle sticks log-cabin-style. Your kids can come up with other methods as well and see which one the birds like best! Once the feeders are ready, fill them with seed or other foods, hang them in different places and observe how the birds react over a couple of weeks. Guide the students in experimenting with different factors, including where they place the feeders and what food they use, before concluding which type feeder the birds prefer, which food they prefer, where they like the feeder best, and why…
11. Puppets. Give your child a popsicle stick and craft supplies (paints, material scraps, pompoms or other fuzzies, beads or googly eyes, etc.) and let them make their own little popsicle stick puppets. After the puppets are done, let them get behind a puppet show theatre, hold up the popsicle sticks and practice their drama skills by putting on a show. This is a great way of connecting art and drama!
12. Plant labels. Is your child growing little plants in science class or as a gardening activity? Give each one a popsicle stick to put in the soil labeling their plant (they can put their name on one side of the stick, and the plant type on the other, or the plant type on one side and basic information like how many times to water the plant each day on the other…).
13. Christmas ornaments. Give your child 3 popsicle sticks. Let them color them green and glue them together in a triangle to look like a Christmas tree. They can further decorate their trees with glitter, beads or paint/markers. Put a piece of string around the top and it becomes an ornament that they can take home or put up on a little classroom Christmas tree.
14. Snowflakes. Give your child several popsicle sticks to paint white or silver and glue together in creative combinations resembling unique snowflakes…