Equipment in the Early Childhood Classroom – Ribbon Sticks

The way you can measure a society’s soul is by the way that it treats its children.
Nelson Mandela

Issue No. 7 – 25th August 2005

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Inspirational Message of the Week

“If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything.”  John Wooden

Equipment in the Early Childhood classroom – Ribbon Sticks

When conducting PDs I am often asked where I get my equipment from so I thought I’d do a series of articles on using equipment and also, where to access it or how to make it.

Ribbon sticks are beautiful pieces of equipment to work with.  They look beautiful, are sensuous and the children are immediately drawn to them.  They love them and want to use them.   Encourage this creativity while using the sticks for all sorts of other outcomes as well.

They can be bought commercially but are quite expensive and difficult to track down.  I made my own because at the time I couldn’t get the quality I wanted.  For example the ribbon was single-sided satin.  Why would you do that when you can have double-sided satin?  Why would you use a synthetic ribbon when a satin ribbon feels vastly superior?  Little children are sensuous beings.  That’s how they learn.  Use only the best quality, always.  Cheaper is rarely better.

I bought 1.5 cm diameter dowel from a large hardware store.  You could negotiate a discount being an educational outlet, or one of your parents at school may have a trade discount if he’s in the building industry.  I cut it into 30 cm lengths, smoothed the edges well and sandpapered each very well.  I then put two coats of polyurethane gloss on each one to seal it, with a light sandpapering in between coats.  IT IS ESSENTIAL TO SEAL THEM TO STOP THEM SPLINTERING.

I bought ribbon of different colours ‘ all bright and beautiful ‘ in double-sided satin and cut it into 1.5 m lengths.  You need to finish one end and cut a V in the other end to stop fraying.  Put an eye screw into one end of the stick, add a swivel piece, available from fishing tackle shops, and thread the V-cut end of the ribbon through the end of the swivel.  Tie a knot in it to prevent it slipping out, and Voila ‘ you have a beautiful ribbon stick.

Make sure the children have plenty of room because you want to encourage free form movement.  When introducing them for the first time it is essential to cover basic rules of behaviour as you don’t want accidents or bullying.  They are, after all, excited to be using something different but still need to keep themselves under control.  Hand them a stick each the first time.  No-one gets to choose.  Depending on how it goes, you can ask the next time who would like a red, a yellow etc as you hand them out and only those behaving well get first choice.  This way they have become familiar with what colours are available. Allow them to feel the texture of the ribbon.  Ask them to describe what it feels like.  Ask them what their colour reminds them of.  What else is that colour?  Have them make a circle out of the ribbon to sit inside it and from there do all sorts of rhymes eg Rub-a-dub-dub, or sing familiar songs.  They are on their own boat, lily pad etc. Stimulate their imaginations.

Play some appropriate music and let them choose their actions.  Then direct the actions ‘ make a rapid wrist action so the ribbon dances along the floor like a snake wriggling fast (keep hand close to the floor for this), change direction, change hands.  Do circles above the head (helicopter).  Circles in front (aeroplane), at the side (paddle steamer).  For each action make sure you change direction then change hands. The side circle is difficult for little ones who haven’t yet worked out how to do so.  You need to show them how to move their bodies as well as their arms and that the arms don’t move vertically.  Always set them up to succeed.

Have them lay their sticks and ribbons straight on the floor and use it to jump over then hop over forwards and backwards and sideways.  Also, get them to straddle jump.  Watch this as they will tend to gallop when tiring.  It is important that they take off and land with both feet simultaneously. 


LIFE IN THE 1500’S ‘ source unknown

Houses had thatched roofs-thick straw-piled high, with no wood underneath. It was the only
place for animals to get warm, so all the cats and other small animals (mice, bugs) lived in the roof.
When it rained it became slippery and sometimes the animals would slip off the roof.
Hence the saying “It’s raining cats and dogs.”

There was nothing to stop things from falling into the house. This posed a real problem in the
bedroom where bugs and other droppings could mess up your nice clean bed. Hence,
a bed with big posts and a sheet hung over the top afforded some protection. That’s how canopy
beds came into existence.

The floor was dirt. Only the wealthy had something other than dirt. Hence the saying “dirt poor.”
The wealthy had slate floors that would get slippery in the winter when wet,
so they spread thresh (straw) on floor to help keep their footing. As the winter wore on, they added
more thresh until when you opened the door it would all start slipping outside. A piece of wood
was placed in the entranceway. Hence the saying a “thresh hold.”

(Getting quite an education, aren’t you?)


“A great presentation, most useful.”  Bev Ross, kindergarten teacher, Melbourne

Love the ideas for making the resources ‘ hoops, ribbons and tapping sticks.”  Cleonie Boyd, Geraldton

About The Author

Marlene Rattigan B.A., Dip. Ed. (ECS), CELTA

Marlene Rattigan is an Early Childhood teacher, a teacher of English as a Second Language, and from 1987-2000 was a nationally accredited fitness leader. Her background is in music education. A keen interest in motor development in children led to the creation of Kidz-Fiz-Biz which she has taught successfully for 13 years. Marlene also conducts workshops for children, teachers and parents at schools, in the community and at festivals. She has produced teaching manuals complete with audio CDs which are an extension of her ‘Kidz-Fiz-Biz’ program.

57 Henry Lawson Walk, East Perth WA 6004
T: +61 8 9325 1204 M: 0410 64 2781 E:

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