Personalized Puzzle Sticks for Preschoolers

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I have always loved Popsicle stick projects.  Somehow, incorporating them into an activity in the classroom made whatever we were doing seem like fun and not work.

They're pretty inexpensive, too.  You can usually find them at the dollar store (although these are a better deal at Amazon)  and even if you spring for some fancy colors , they're still an affordable craft supply.

I've got all sorts of ideas floating around in my head for projects to create with Gv when she gets a little older and this is one of them.   We had a few birthday and Christmas presents to get recently and I decided to go ahead and make these as well as another stick activity set for some special preschool-aged gals who were on our list.

I prefer to make personalized gifts for others because 1)  We have a very limited budget and making a gift often saves us some money and 2) I think homemade gifts are more, ahem, personal than just buying some random thing at the store.  I enjoy getting gifts like this myself and feel it means so much when someone takes the time to create something just for me.

I'd seen a holiday craft idea somewhere where you could glue a picture from a magazine onto a few craft sticks and then cut the sticks apart again to make a simple puzzle.  I liked that, but wanted to take the idea a bit further and sneak some learning into the activity, as well.

I decided to draw letters onto the craft sticks and then include a set for each letter of the girls' names.  They could arrange the sticks to make each letter, then arrange each set to build their name.

You could use this idea for anything - the alphabet, sight words, numbers and math facts...there are so many possibilities.

First, get a bunch of craft sticks.  I really liked the fancy colors for these gifts, but plain ones work, too. 

Next, arrange 5 sticks and put some painter's (or masking) tape over them in an "X" shape:

Turn them over and figure out where your letter will go (practice on scrap paper first):

Use a permanent marker (easier than paint, although paint would work, too) to draw your letter onto the sticks:

Remove the tape and you're all set.  I set mine out on the porch to de-gas for a couple of days and get rid of the marker smell.

Since I used one color for each letter, it's obvious as to which sticks go together to make each letter.  If you are using plain sticks (or have more than one set of a color), then you can label the backs of the sticks with matching symbols, letter, or numbers so that it's easy to tell which ones go together.  Having a bunch of sets stored together would make for a great sorting activity, too!

Can you think of any other great puzzle ideas for these craft sticks?  I'd love to hear - leave a comment or email me at lisahealy (at) outlook (dot) com. 

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