Nearly every day, one of my boys will end up collecting a few sticks on the way home from school. There’s an alley way on our school run that always seems to have so many, and they are drawn to them like magnets! Since they collect so many, we decided to put them to use in some of our crafts and had a fun stick painting session after school.

Painting the sticks makes an interesting change from painting on paper, card or the more commonly found art materials and they loved the challenge of working with this different texture.

We’ve been spending a lot of time on clapping out syllables lately with the younger boys (I will explain what this is and the benefit), so our initial idea of making the sticks into musical sticks naturally morphed into making them into syllable sticks.

Syllable sticks a fun way to clap out syllables, and a great way to use up all those sticks that the kids have collected!

What is clapping out syllables?

Clapping out syllables helps children to develop their phonological awareness. This means learning to hear, understand and process the sounds in words and this is a basic skill that’s needed before they are ready to move on to sounding out words and blending.

The major difference between phonological awareness and phonics, is that phonological awareness is focused only on the sounds – not on letters or print, whereas phonics is all about connecting those sounds to particular letters or groups of letters.

A couple of my children have speech and language difficulties. One often reduces the syllables down to a shortened form when talking (for e.g: “nana” instead of “banana” ) and playing games with clapping out the syllables can help to correct that and form better habits.

Another of my children is working on getting these skills down to give him a better basis for moving on to learning how to read. Regardless of speech and language development – clapping out syllables can be a fun way for children to get to grips with how words are made up of different sounds and syllables.

How to clap out syllables

It is pretty simple, you just take a word and split it up into it’s syllables and then give a clap for each one. Just be aware that this is working on syllables not letters or sounds – so dog would be one clap for “dog” not three claps for d-o-g. This is not an activity for blending, so d-o-g will come later.

A couple of examples just to be sure it’s clear

  • el-e-phant (3)
  • cat-er-pill-er (4)
  • mum-my (2)
  • cat (1)

So normally, you would just clap these out with your hands but since we had the sticks we decided to make these as an alternative. We still clap out with our hands on other occasions, but what kid doesn’t like to bash some sticks together!

painted rainbow sticks

How to make the syllable sticks

You will need:

  • Any sticks picked up from the park, on the school run, wherever!
  • Coloured paint
  • Paint brushes

For my children, the smaller sized sticks worked better to keep them focused on clapping out their words. If you use very large sticks – it might be too tempting for them to start using them as weapons.. just sayin’ (or is that just my kids?! surely not..)

We use this washable paint (UK/ similar one for US) and it works absolutely fine on sticks.

A rainbow or stripy design can look more effective – since sticks are brown if the kids mix all the coloured paints into a brown sludgy colour, it’s not really going to show up! So encourage them to wash their brushes in between colours

Painting on the sticks adds a great nature and sensory element to the activity of painting, and also required quite a lot of concentration from the boys to cover the small area on the sides of the sticks.

IMG_3053Once you’ve finished painting, leave them to dry and then you’re all ready to clap out your syllables – using sticks! You can use them for general noise making and as a simple DIY musical instrument too of course.

making music with sticks

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