Every year, youth organizations have recruiting events to help bolster the membership. For groups that work with the younger crowd, this means dividing time between informing parents about the organization and making sure the children are having fun. One of the best ways to allow for a good discussion with parents and provide fun for the children is to have a youth activity.
The activity needs to be simple enough for the child to be able to accomplish it, but not so simple that they become bored right away. Also, in many cases, the activity needs to span a wide range of ages. In my case we often had to find things that would please children from ages 6 to 11 plus any other siblings that came along for the visit. The best activity that I have ever found are Stick Blasters.
Also known as stick grenades or stick bombs, stick blasters are a simple, fun toy that are easy to make. In my youth I can still remember summers where we could play outside until the streetlights came on and flagging down the ice cream truck as it trolled down the street. If you had some forethought as a kid, you would save the stick from the ice cream until you had enough to make your own stick blaster. Then you would go outside and play with them all day.
The stick blaster in these instructions uses five sticks. I have seen designs that use four sticks and six sticks. I think the five-stick design is the easiest to make.
I like this as a recruiting activity because:
- Children as young as six can learn to make the toy and then spend the next 30 minutes happily playing with it while you talk to the parent.
- The older children in your group who have made a stick blaster before can actually teach the younger ones how to make them, freeing up adults to supervise or talk with new parents.
- Sticks are inexpensive and everyone can take a set home. This provides a memento of the fun times they had at their first youth meeting, encouraging them to return.
You can buy craft sticks just about anywhere. This package of 60 sticks was purchased at a local dime store. You can buy them for less in larger quantities. The cost to send five sticks home is about 25 cents for each child. I find that the thicker sticks work best even though they are a little harder to assemble. Most of the sticks that I have seen say that they are approved for play by children 3+ years old. This particular package says they are safe for 8+ years. It is a good idea to check the package to make sure you have sticks appropriate for the age group. It is also highly recommended that at least one adult in the group is supervising the youth activity to make sure that it is safe.
As mentioned, we start with 5 sticks to make the toy. If you have colored sticks like these shown you can give them out in any color combination that you want. If you have natural wood sticks (not colored) you could also provide markers for the children to decorate their sticks as part of the activity.
Constructing the stick blaster starts with a single stick. Pick a stick and lay it down on the table as shown. Once you get good at building these you can build them in your hand.
The next stick is added on top of the fist stick and angled to the left.
The third stick is added on top of the other two. This time the stick is angled to the right. Note that all three sticks meet together at one point. The stick in the middle is at the bottom of the pile. This is important to the successful construction of this toy.
Take a fourth stick and add it so that it is over the two outer sticks but under the middle stick.
The fifth stick is installed in two parts. Part one is to put it under one outer stick and over the middle stick. It is a good idea while you do this, to press on the point at the bottom where the first three sticks meet to keep them from coming apart. If you are doing this in your hand then you would be pinching the first three sticks together where they meet at this point.
The final step is to bend the fifth stick down and then slide it over and behind the other outside stick. Once this is done, the sticks will hold each other in place. You may adjust your sticks so that the ends are just barely meeting, making this a more fragile toy.
The fun part now is when you throw the sticks in the air and they fall to the floor. We usually held our meetings in a school gym, so there was plenty room to let them fly. Once they hit the floor the sticks will disconnect (especially if you adjusted them so they were only meeting at the very edges) and the release of the spring tension causes them to explode into a pile of individual sticks again ready for reassembly and another throw.
At one meeting, I was talking with a new child who came to see what were were all about. I asked if he wanted to lean how to make a stick blaster. He said yes, so I showed him how to put it together. When we were done I could see the look on his face that said ‘Big Deal.’ I said, “Now, watch this,” and threw the toy up into the air about 10 feet high. When it hit the ground and exploded into a bunch of pieces, his reaction was “Wow!” and he rushed over to get his sticks and make his own stick blaster to throw again.
This is a great way to break the ice with children and give them something fun to remember about your group. Try it and let us know what you think of our recruiting activity.