Notable suggestions for how to play with a stick

EducationToy IndustryDanceEntertainmentSchoolsLisleJohnny Cash

A stick is more than a simple piece of wood. It's "an endless source of make-believe fun," according to the National Toy Hall of Fame, which recently added the stick to its list of honorees. "Sticks can turn into swords, magic wands, majorette batons, fishing poles and light sabers," according to the Toy Hall of Fame, at the Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, N.Y.

The stick doesn't need an electrical outlet or batteries and doesn't come with an instruction manual. It is simply fuel for a child's imagination.

Because this is high season for encountering the now-noble stick and its potential for fun, we asked some creative adults how they used sticks in their childhood play.

"I can see myself in my backyard doing my one-woman show of 'The Nutcracker,' with a stick as a wand when I danced the Sugar Plum Fairy. Sticks also made good staffs when my brother and I played Ninja Turtles."

-- Maliwan Diemer, dance curriculum supervisor for the Chicago Public Schools Office of Arts Education, which offers an in-school ballroom dance program

"I used to make switchblades with sticks attached by rubber bands. You pull one stick back parallel to the other and then release it. We never hurt anybody, but we thought we were really cool. We also cut notches on a big stick and then would run another stick across the top of it like a Cuban percussion instrument."

-- Lance Guest, actor who plays Johnny Cash in "Million Dollar Quartet" at the Apollo Theater in Chicago

"When I was a small child, I would take sticks and mud and rocks to create my own miniature houses and little cities for my trucks and toys. When I got older, I would take sticks to build forts and camp out in them."

-- Bim Willow, willow furniture-maker who created a 20-foot-tall raccoon den out of sticks and branches for the "Animal Houses" exhibit that runs through Nov. 15 at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Ill.

"My dear friend and I used to climb to the top of this play structure that was a pole with tires on it, and stick pieces of sticks and bark into the crevices and pretend they were switches and nodules and buttons on a fantasy rocket and that we were astronauts."

-- Kelly Kaczynski, artist whose installation "Olympus Manger, Scene II," exhibited last year at her local art center, was made out of two 16-foot-tall skeletal wooden "mountains"

"When I was a kid, some friends and I spent a day making a sidewalk cake outside with sticks and leaves and rocks, and then we took it into the kitchen and mixed it with eggs and flour and made a huge mess and my mom thought it was funny. We played Poohsticks [a game invented by Winnie the Pooh in A.A. Milne's "The House at Pooh Corner"] all the time. You drop sticks upstream and watch them come out under the other side of the bridge to see whose stick wins. My husband and I still play it when we take our dog for a walk in Harms Woods."

-- Margaret Frisbie, executive director of Friends of the Chicago River

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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