Home-Made Games from Recycled Materials: Pick-Up Sticks

Hope everyone enjoyed making Tangram puzzles. If you thought that was challenging, wait until you try this week’s easy-to-prepare game made from recycled materials and everyday objects found around the house. So put down that hand-held device or game controller and get ready for this week’s Home-Made Game: Pick-Up Sticks.


20-50 sticks are needed
Pick-Up Sticks is a game of skill with many names. In Japan it is called Mikado. In Britain it is called Spilikins. In America it is known asPick-Up Sticks, or Jackstraw, but in Ancient China, it was called Chien Tung and it was not for fun and games. In 12th century China, Chien Tung was an oracle practice where a handful of bones or ivory, with one designated as the “Emperor Stick,” were scattered and reading the fallen “sticks” would reveal one’s destiny. Through the centuries, the supernatural aspect of the practice lost its hold to the popularity of gambling, bones and ivory were replaced with wood and plastic, and the practice of this simple game of sticks became a favorite throughout the world.

Let them fall!
Simple and challenging is the best way to describe pick-up sticks. Played with two or more people, a bunch of about 20 – 50 sticks are dropped and allowed to naturally fall into a tangled pile. One at a time, each player will attempt to remove a stick from the pile without disturbing any others. If you cause other sticks to move, your turn is over and you do not receive a stick. The person who collected the most sticks wins.

Pick-Up Sticks can easily be played at home using everyday items and recycled materials. The following is a list of things that can be used.

Playing with everyday items found at home:

Pens and pencils, Paint brushes, Toothpicks, Skewers, Crayons


Grabbing stray sticks is an easy way to get ahead in the game.

Playing with recycled items:

Old wooden chopsticks collected from the numerous nights of eating Asian take-out are great for this game. Collect up to 20-50 wooden chopsticks – the more the better! Gather some friends and let the sticks fly. To make the game more challenging, use markers or paint to create color group. Assign each player a color and the first person to collect all their color sticks wins! 

Do you have a version of this game? Or did you try it out yourself? Well, we want to know! Send us a photo of you and your friends and family playing and we will post it on our facebook!


  1. This used to be one of my favorite games when I was a kid!


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