In our recent interview about rattlesnake safety with Genie Moore, walking sticks kept emerging as useful advice for careful stepping. John has long been in the habit of picking up a good walking stick on a hike, but given this renewed perspective, I thought it might be a good idea for the kids to each make their own special walking stick for our hikes to reinforce the habit.

The following is a brief tutorial on this simple activity that was fun for the kids and will hopefully make their walking sticks as important to their hikes as applesauce and gummies.


  • Long Stick(s): find one that is substantial to hold so it won’t snap easily, but not too heavy for your child to hold onto throughout your hike.
  • Paints: we used a combination of washable tempera, tempera, and tempera paint sticks. 
  • Washi Tape: to block off paint sections. 

Gather and Prepare Sticks

Kids love to collect things, so we already had a little stick collection growing at home. We happened to find this one on a little visit to Vasona Lake County Park right before we were going to start the project.

John cleaned them up by removing any pointy edges and sanded them down to avoid potential splinters.


It’s pretty much as easy as that. There’s no right or wrong way to paint a stick!

JJ decided he wanted a cheetah stick, so he painted the entire stick with yellow tempera paint, and used the paint sticks to make the spots. He was very particular with the shape of the spots this day, and tempera sticks allow for more control than the sponge brushes they were using.

Side note: recycled containers like these yogurt cups are great for art supplies and projects! I keep stacks of them within reach in the toy area. 

Bug doesn’t like a lot of help and immediately loses interest in art projects that don’t feel like his own. Then again, he also gets frustrated if his projects don’t look like his big brothers’. To help him get started, I used some washi tape to chunk the stick into sections, and then asked him to choose which colors he wanted for each section. I’d start the section off with his selection, and then he’d paint the rest. The sections were small enough to keep him engaged, and he stayed interested almost the whole time. Once the paint is dry, you remove the tape and have some nice stripes.

Meet “Cheetah Speed” and “Rainbow Speed”!