Making a journey stick is such an easy, fun outdoor craft to do with the kids – and a great low-cost way to have some fun family time.
It’s just one of the fun nature projects in my new book, ‘A Year of Nature Craft and Play’. There’s an activity for every week of the year and it includes fun crafts, gardening, games, art and science experiments – perfect for inspiring kids to get creative with nature and explore the amazing natural world.
We learnt what a journey stick is and how to make one at our local nature reserve, which is part of the Wildlife Trusts.
What is a journey stick?
A journey stick (also known as a story stick or nature stick) is essentially a memento of a nature walk, featuring items collected whilst on the walk. These might be things like leaves, twigs, flowers, feathers, or anything else natural that you find along the way.
The history of journey sticks
I’d never heard of journey sticks before, but apparently they’ve been around for a very long time. Native Americans and Aboriginal people used them to track their journeys and tell stories about their travels.
Items collected on a journey would be tied to a large stick in the order that they were found. Symbols could also be painted or carved onto the stick. Each item on the stick would help to build up a picture of the journey, including things such as natural features, weather and adventures. The stick would then be used as a prompt for the retelling of the journey upon return, and also as a way to navigate the trip in the future.
It’s not hard to see why journey sticks make a great nature activity for kids, is it? They’re perfect for when you want to keep a walk interesting with some nature play, and you can also use them to introduce lots of discussion about nature and how to take care of it.
How to make a journey stick
To make a journey stick, you will need a few basic supplies.
Younger children can use a piece of cardboard with double sided tape attached to secure their items to the card. Older children can make a journey stick the traditional way by choosing a stick and attaching items to it using string or wool.
With all nature activities, you need to be mindful of protecting your surroundings. Make sure you spend a couple of minutes explaining this to children before you start, and only collect things that have fallen to the ground.
This activity really appeals to kids; it involves hunting, collecting, comparing with other children, as well as the opportunity to get creative with the stick design. We found lots of different items with a variety of shapes, colours, textures and sizes.
A Wildlife Trusts Ranger was on-hand to help us identify each item we found. If you were doing this on your own, it would be nice to have a nature spotters book with you to help with identification.
By the time we finished our walk we had two lovely records of the nature we’d seen along the way.
Some ideas for creating your journey stick
Here are a few ideas for questions you could explore with children while making your journey sticks.
- Do you want your journey stick to have a theme? For example, a colour, all flowers, all leaves.
- How long does your stick need to be? Think about how long your walk is!
- What senses does each item stimulate?
- What is the story that your journey stick is telling? Let your imagination run wild!
A journey stick is such a great activity to do with children during an outdoor trip. It keeps them busy, helps them learn about nature, and provides them with a memento to take home. You also need very little in the way of preparation; just some string or sticky cardboard, depending on which type you’re making.
Since we learned how to make journey sticks, we’ve repeated this fun nature craft again and again, building up a little gallery of journey sticks from our nature walks. We really like being able to compare journey sticks from each season, and each one always prompts some lovely reminders of fun family days out.
The Wildlife Trusts have a nice visual guide to making a journey stick here:
More nature crafts for kids
If you’d like to explore some more nature crafts for kids, take a look at these fun projects:
- Homemade bird feeders
- Natural noughts & crosses
- Twig-wrapped flower pots
- Leaf printing
- Painted rocks
- Miniature gardens
Do you think you’ll have a go at making journey sticks on your next nature walk?