One of the most basic items I have in my classroom is a tub of sticks. These sticks came from a craft store and (I think) are sold for simple crafts or decorating that might require sticks. They're actual sticks, making a bit of a mess on the rug when played with, dust and pieces coming off them, but they're generally safe in the way they've been cut and that's why I purchased them as opposed to gathering sticks from the woods.
When introducing the sticks to my class, we talked about how to safely use them. It was pretty basic - the class came up with ideas like: no fighting, no poking, sticks are for building and creating, etc. And with that they were off.
Everyday the sticks are one of the most popular choices, even after introducing Legos and the dollhouse. Why? The children love the freedom of creativity the sticks offer. Just look at the different ways they've found to use the sticks in just the few days we've been in school.
As you can see, the use for sticks is only limited by the imagination! I love walking over and seeing what new ways they've come up to use the sticks. As I kneel down and listen to their thinking, I can coach into social skills like sharing and collaboration and also any literacy and math skills that come up.
Where sticks are often seen as a taboo for children, by bringing them inside the classroom and exploring how they can be used creatively, the 'stick stigma' is slowly erased. Quite simply, kids love sticks... and so do I.