Playing Poohsticks and Raising Children

Playing_Poohsticks_Title“Let’s visit the bridge and play Poohsticks,” I suggested to my husband.

We were out for a walk after nearly a week of monsoon rain in Northern California.

We could hear the seasonal creek rushing from two blocks away.

“That creek won’t be high enough,” my husband laughed. But we peered over the barrier anyway.

It reminded us of raising children and we felt a little younger ourselves.

What are Pooh Sticks?

Poohsticks is a simple game Winnie the Pooh himself  invented and described in The House at Pooh Corner.

I hadn’t been raised in a Pooh-reading household, so I only encountered the game while reading to my own children.

We tried it the next time we crossed a footbridge over a body of flowing water.

The young boys found a substantial twig–though not a branch–and tossed it into the river.

They turned around and walked to the other side.

Whoever’s twig came out from under the bridge won.


Cheap, easy, entertaining and they played it over and over and over whenever we had free time on a bridge over flowing water.

We’ve played it all over the world.

(It’s gone a little upstream, now, and there is apparently an International Competition. But we’ve lived happily without knowing).


Checking out a potential game spot

Poohsticks in Washington

To the delight of our three sons, we moved to our own quarter-acre wood in Washington State when they were still young.

It came with a creek!

Tall cedar evergreens crowded our little forest and provided many twigs–though often a piece of shaggy bark served the purpose as well.

The water ran year long but wasn’t very deep–though there was the year they stumbled on a salmon beating its way far from Dyes Inlet.

I bought them washable tennis shoes three days after we moved to the property. They clearly would spend plenty of time in the creek bed.

We put a cedar plank across the deepest pool: Poohsticks began and they taught the neighbors with gusto!

(We also had a memorable cub scout event where, using a page from Curious George Rides a Bike as a template, the boys made paper boats and raced them down the same stream. Perfect!)

Poohsticks in Alaska

On a camping trip in Alaska, the boys taught the game to their Connecticut godbrother.


Who won?

(It’s true, I went camping in Alaska with my husband, father-in-law and four boys under 11. Anything remotely fun was game).

In some obscure village, we three adults watched four boys race back and forth dropping their sticks in the water.

Shouts of triumph rose each time, though the four year-old seldom won.

They used strategy–where to place the stick, how big a stick, which current moved quickest–and ignored the astonishing scenery and native culture.

I’m pleased to say other tourists stopped to watch and even egg them on.

Poohsticks Today

We didn’t drop any sticks yesterday–the creek bed was too overgrown.

But we remembered the happy shouts of boys who have grown up into a fast moving world.

One is a diplomat, one a machinist, the oldest a project manager and the baby a college professor.

They all know from experience how to watch the currents–whether in their job, their computer programs or their world.

They’re careful where they drop their hopes.

It wasn’t just Poohsticks that taught them–but the joyful memory of playing together helps.

We, and society, have Winnie the Pooh and his silly old bear game to thank for that.


Poohsticks and childhood–thanks to a silly old bear. Click to Tweet

More life lessons gleaned from Winnie the Pooh. Click to Tweet

A simple game with lifelong lessons: Poohsticks. Click to Tweet

Denizens of the Hundred Acre Wood demonstrate how to play:

Interested in Oswald and Biddy Chambers? I’ll be telling stories about the amazing ways God led me through the writing of two books about them, starting in my January newsletter–one story a month for 2017, free.

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