Stick and Willow Hoop Game

If you’re the parent of a child who has been in a Wilderness Youth Project program before, then you know what we mean when we say “kids love sticks!” Chances are, you might have a few stashed in the trunk of your car, or maybe your backyard, or the garage. Well, now is the time for that stash to come in handy.

For this game, everyone will need one good stick at least the length of your arm. What kind of stick is up to you. Some sticks have special powers that allow them to flex, others might have a hook or a broken limb. The important thing is that your stick is strong and straight.



Where to play?

If you are at home, a backyard or a clear driveway will work well. Open fields or nearby parks can be great as they allow for this game to spread out. Make sure to take note of any potential objects that might become a tripping hazard or areas that might have cars or other people.

What you’ll need

The next thing you’ll need is a hoop or ring. One of the best and free resources we have for making hoops is the Willow tree that grows near almost any creek, stream, or wet area here in Santa Barbara. Willow, which is in the Genus Salix, is one of the strongest and most flexible plants. This is why it has been grown, cultivated, and tended to make baskets and for all sorts of uses. Click here to learn more about a local species of Willow.


Once you’ve located a Willow Tree, look around the base for any green, red, or brown, thin young branches. Or if you are near a creek, look for any fallen over trees that have new shoots growing up to the sky. These will be the easiest and lightest for bending into a hoop. If you have some pruning shears, those will work best for harvesting, but a sharp knife or even a rock can work. Cut it as close to the base of the stem as you can. 


Now it’s time to bend it into shape. You can watch this short video of how I like to bend my willow branches into a hoop. Warm up the branch by bending it little by little. Then it should feel flexible enough to twist how you want it too. If you don’t have access to finding a Willow tree, try other plants, shrubs, or trees to see if they can bend into a hoop. Or find another object that would work as a tossing ring.


The Game 

Here are two different throwing techniques to try: 



Single Player:

  • Toss the hoop up into the air and try to catch it back on your stick before it hits the ground. How many times can you do this without dropping the hoop?
  • Place different objects out in front of you like a rock or a stick stuck in the ground or aim for a branch in a bush or tree that you can reach. Now try to lob the hoop onto the object. How far away from the object can you get while still getting the hoop around it?

Multiple Players:

  • Toss the hoop back and forth between players. How many successful passes can you make without dropping the ring?
  • Place different objects out in front of you like a rock or a stick stuck in the ground or aim for a branch in a bush or tree that you can reach. Now try to lob the ring onto the object. Assign different points for objects that are harder or easier to get the hoop around. Keep score or just play for fun.


Try tossing with your opposite throwing hand. Try tossing with your eyes closed. Try turning around backwards and tossing. Find a second stick for your other hand. Now try to toss back and forth between your hands.


Share: What feelings does it give you to toss? And to catch? Did your throwing and catching skills improve? Did you develop any tricks or techniques?

Reflect: How could you make it more challenging? Are there any advantages or disadvantages to the stick you chose? 

Integrate :What are some other ways you can have fun with just sticks?

*Liked this game? Please send me your reflections and/or any questions or feedback. Email me at*

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