Make Your Own Pick-Up Sticks and Work on Developmental Skills

Do you ever look around the house and think, “Why do we have so many toys??!!” 

If your house is like mine, your kids play with couch cushions, old cardboard boxes, and piles of paper, and cardboard tubes waaaay more than they play with toys.  Sometimes, it’s the simple things that are just more fun.

These DIY Pick-Up Sticks are one of those items.  It’s a homemade toy that is just so simple, it’s simply appealing.  Not only are these bright and colorful pick-up sticks fun, they are easy to make, and are used in so many play and functional skill areas. 

DIY pick up sticks for kids (and adults!) You can make these any color and using items you probably already have at home, while working on fine motor skills like open web space, pincer grasp, precision grasp and release, in-hand manipulation, and visual perceptual motor skills like eye-hand coordination, visual motor, visual scanning, and visual memory.

Making these colorful pick-up sticks is easy peasy.  Read how we made them here.  Do you know what we used to make them?  Lollipop sticks.  Yep!  A simple lollipop stick is the perfect accessory to play dough, the ultimate letter building tool, counting manipulative, fine motor workout, and a fabulous visual motor item.

Today, you’ll see how we use them to play pick-up sticks.

How do you play Pick-Up Sticks?

It is super easy to play pick-up sticks.  Dump the sticks out on a table.  Attempt to pick up a stick without moving any other stick.  You can slide, pull, tug, or wiggle a stick, but you can not move any other stick.  If another stick moves, your turn is over.  The player with the most sticks at the end of the game winds.  

Skills worked on when playing pick-up sticks:

Ohhh, this is an Occupational Therapist’s dream tool.  If you know an OT, he or she probably has a set of pick-up sticks in her treatement bag or clinic supply closet.  There are so many skill areas worked on while playing pick-up sticks!

  • Hand-Eye Coordination
  • Visual Scanning Visually scan the pile and each player can pick up only one or two certain colors to make the game harder.
  • Visual Motor
  • Pincer Grasp is encouraged by picking up the sticks.  Children need a pincer grasp for managing items like zippers, buttons, and snaps.
  • Color recognition
  • Precision grasp and release is a needed skill for fine motor tasks and manipulating small items.
  • Open Web Space Picking up the sticks encourages an open space between the thumb and pointer finger, needed for handwriting.
  • Figure Ground
  • Spatial Relations
  • Visual Discrimination

If your child loves playing Pick-Up sticks, try these modifications and ideas:

Affiliate links are included.

  1. Play with Pipe Cleaners.  The fuzzy, bendable sticks make dexterity more difficult.  Don’t move any other pipe cleaners!
  2. Play with Glow Sticks
    for a glow in the dark game of pick-up sticks.
  3. Try this set
    for a gift idea.
  4. This Melissa & Doug Suspend
    game builds sticks upward for a unique twist on the game of pick-up sticks. 
  5. Younger kids will love this Play Visions Pick Up Snakes
    with flexible snakes instead of sticks.
  6. Children that need a challenge will love this Playroom Entertainment Catch a Falling Star
    that is on a vertical plane. This game really works on the precision of grasp and release while encouraging an extended wrist. It’s an OT winner! 
  7. For more precision and fine motor fun, try Ker Plunk Game.
Make your own pick-up sticks with this DIY toy idea for kids.  There is so much leaning and developmental areas that you can work on with this simple idea: fine motor, dexterity, hand-eye coordination, open web space, precision of grasp and release, visual perceptual skills, and so many more ways!  Your Occupational Therapist will love this!

You will love to use your DIY Pick-Up Sticks like this: