September 23, 2012

Activity Sticks...for kid activities, date nights or me time...this is an AWESOME idea for everyone!

Activity Sticks. I love this idea! I'll just get that out of the way from the start.

It's so versatile. Anyone can use these.

Looking to mix things up a bit in some area of your life? Activity Sticks may be just the thing for you. Want to try new, fun activities with the kids, but gotten stuck in a rut? Try Activity Sticks. Want to do something different for date night, but gotten stuck in the "What do you want to do? I don't know, what do you want to do? I guess we'll just go to dinner." rut? Try Activity Sticks. Want to mix up your workouts for better results and less boredom? Try Activity Sticks.

The examples I'll show here are specific to young kid activities, but you can do this for kids of any age, for yourself, or for you and your partner.

First, here's what you need: a jar or other container (I used a washed-out Ball canning jar. But you could use a cup, a mug, a small vase, a small bucket or whatever else you can find around the house.), a pack of craft sticks or popsicle sticks (I found mine at JoAnns. They came in a pack of 75 and are called "Woodsies."), an extra-fine Sharpie or other thin-tipped marker, and a slew of ideas...I recommend Pinterest for idea generation, but you can also do some brainstorming of your own, ask friends, look at books, and just plain Google it. If you're looking for activity ideas for preschool-age kids, please take a look at the activity sticks I show here, and check out my "kid craft and activities" and "kiddos" Pinterest pin boards.

Now that you have your supplies, generate a list of activities for whatever area of life you're creating the jar for...kid activities, date night ideas, me time ideas, family outings, new workout challenges, books to read, craft projects, whatever. Then use your Sharpie to write one idea on a craft stick. Repeat this until you have at least 20-30 ideas...or as many as you want. Then label your jar and put the activity sticks in the jar.

Now, sit the jar out somewhere that you will see it regularly, like the kitchen counter, and come up with a plan for when and how you'll use the sticks. My plan is to have my daughter select a stick from the activity jar at the beginning of each week, for something for us to do on a non-school day (for us, that's Wednesday and Friday) that week. That way, if there are supplies to get or preparations to make prior to the activity, we have a couple of days to work that in. Plus, it gives us something to look forward to during the week.

I recommend writing your plan in your planner, or putting a reminder on your smartphone, or whatever will keep you honest. I'm writing a reminder in my planner on every Sunday, so Portia and I don't forget to pick a stick that day; and, so I will remember to find the time in our schedule to do the activity sometime that week. Also, once you have a plan, remember that it's good to go "off plan" too. So if your plan is to do something new every Wednesday, but on a random Saturday you feel like doing something new, by all means, pick a stick and have at it!

Now, make sure you explain the activity sticks and your plan to all those involved (the kids, your spouse, whoever). Get everyone excited about the idea and ask for their input on activities to add to the jar.

As you begin doing activities from your jar, you can manage your pool of activity sticks however you want. You may want to put them right back in the jar if the activity was a hit, and you may want to get rid of it if it wasn't (remember to recycle your sticks by painting over the old activity and writing a new one on them if you don't want to do the activity again). Or, you may choose to shelve activities for a while once they've been done, and reintroduce them to the jar in a few months.

And don't forget to add new activities to the jar periodically...whenever you come across a fun idea, or on a schedule. I like to mine my Pinterest activity board once every few weeks to add new activity sticks to the mix. And don't be afraid to add seasonal activities like apple picking, a Christmas craft, sledding, or a visit to the botanical gardens. I suggest using a different color stick, a different color Sharpie, or adding a colored dot to the end of the stick to make seasonal activities easily discernible from the rest. Then, make a point to select some seasonal activity sticks during that season, and just remove those sticks from the jar when the season is over (so you don't pull out "Make a snowman" in June).

That's it! I think this is the coolest idea and it's one I hope to apply to other areas of my life, like managing my "to read" book list, putting together date night ideas for my husband and me, and selecting the next craft/activity for me...maybe I'll even do a workout jar!

This approach does two very important things for me. It cuts through the everyday busyness and forces me to do new things so we don't get stuck in a rut. And it takes away the sometimes paralyzing decision-making process. You know the one. When we can't decide what to do next so we end up doing nothing...or we do the same-old thing rather than trying something new. The activity jar cures that. And that is cool. That is totally worth it.

So go try it. And let me know how YOU use the idea.

Now, I have an alphabet scavenger hunt to set up, so I gotta go!


  1. Omg, what a great idea. Can you share some of your activities for small children?

    1. Hi Amy! So sorry for the delayed response. I thought I published a reply earlier, but it looks like it never posted. So, I'll try this again...

      The activities for the Activity Sticks can vary from something small and easy, like "Take a walk in the neighborhood" or "Color in coloring books together" to something more involved, like "Go on a nature walk at the park trails and wade in the creek" or "Make fairy gardens." And I change out our activity sticks with the seasons (and holidays...Halloween and Christmas make for lots of cool holiday-specific activities). So, in the summer we have activities, like "Go berry picking" and "Do a nature scavenger hunt" and "Wash the car," and in the winter we have things like "Build a snowman" and "Make paper snowflakes." So every few months I comb my Pinterest boards for all the ideas I've been pinning and transfer them to activity sticks.

      Since age-appropriate activities vary quite a bit from age one to age four, I could probably do a better job of giving you some activity ideas if I knew the ages of your children. So, if you'd like more ideas, please let me know their ages. But for now, here are some of the activities in our jar right now...

      - Play with the hole punch and colored paper
      - Make an outdoor obstacle course
      - Make toilet-paper roll binoculars and go hunting outside
      - Have a dance party
      - Paint rocks
      - Make a shoebox train (littles LOVE this one...they love dragging around toys in them!)
      - Make handprint art
      - Paint with herbs, leaves and flowers
      - Go on a picnic
      - Bake cookies together
      - Make ice cream in a bag
      - Clean the house (give them a dust rag, or give them a spray bottle with water and a cloth and stick them in front of a window)
      - Make your own placemats and then have a tea party
      - Build a fort

      For more ideas, you can check out my Pinterest board here: Hope that helps!!