How to Use Craft Sticks to Group Youth in Four Creative Ways

One of the categories we ask youth about on the NYOI is whether or not they feel a sense of belonging at their Club. When young people feel that they belong, they know that they are welcome, and they feel that they fit in and are accepted.

There are many ways to encourage a sense of belonging, including using name games to make sure everyone knows everyone else, building relationships, and leading youth through collaboration activities. One specific strategy anyone can use is by grouping young people in creative ways.

Why not just let youth form groups on their own? While that is sometimes appropriate, we want to encourage youth to work with all of their peers. It can help to make sure everyone feels like they are included. We all know how it feels to be the last one chosen for a team or group. It can also help young people get to know others that they may not normally interact with, and keeps things interesting. It’s also a way to make sure everyone has a chance to shine. Differing group dynamics may give students who normally just sit back an opportunity to lead.

So what are some grouping strategies we can use? You can find a BUNCH of them in the YD Toolbox app! In the Quick Tools section, there is a whole list of super simple ways to group members with little to no prep needed. A couple of examples are:

  • Handing out Cards: Pass out playing cards and have members group up by color, suit, or number.
  • Shoes/Clothing Color: Group members by colors of clothing or shoes.
  • Fold the Line: Instruct youth to form a line (form a line by… birth month, favorite food, length of time at Club, etc.). Have youth at one end of the line “fold the line” by moving to stand across from youth at the other end of the line. The rest of the line follows with each youth facing another youth in the line. If you need groups of four, you can fold the line twice. (Go to the app for a video!)

One of my favorite grouping strategies that isn’t in the app uses craft sticks to create groups of different sizes. This is a strategy that takes a little bit of work to create, but then you have a tool you can use over and over and over again!


These sticks have four different grouping methods on them. For this set, I have 36 sticks, since I made them specifically to use at the Club Director’s Academy. If you have more or fewer participants, then the group numbers will change slightly. But let’s break what I created down:

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One side of the stick has a number from 1 to 4. You could create groups by either having all 1s together, all 2s together, and so forth, or by instructing youth that each group must have a 1, 2, 3, and 4 in it. The first method will create large groups, and the second will create groups of four.

Also on this side is one half of a famous character duo. The instruction here is to find your partner! This could also be done with trios, and doesn’t have to be characters. I’ve done groupers where the trios were a knife, a fork, and a spoon, or peanut butter, jelly, and bread. The longest part of creating this tool was coming up with all of the duos, so feel free to capitalize on my work by clicking here for a list of the duos I used, but also consider choosing characters that your members would be more familiar with.

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The other side has colored dots to create trios. The instruction here would be to find the other two people that have the same color. I used the huge pack of different colored Sharpies to have enough variety, since I knew I wanted to make groups of three this way.

Also on this side is the name of an animal to create groups of six. (Since I have 36 sticks, I needed 6 animals. This would change based on your group size.) The most fun way to use this method is to have youth silently move like their animal and try to find the others who are moving the same way. I tried to pick animals that moved in very different ways to make it easy. All of the animals I used are in the photo.

The trick to using these is to be sure to make sure you are using the right side and sticks for your group size and strategy. You don’t want your Mario to be missing their Luigi! Plan ahead based on the number of groups you want to make and the number of participants you will have.

I hope this grouping tool is helpful! If you end up making a set, what variations could you include? If you do, or if you have another method or tool that you love, PLEASE email me at so that we can share it here. We are always looking for great ideas!

What are your best tips and tricks for creating groups? What ideas do you want to share with the Movement? Comment below or email me at!


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