Q&A with Stick-lets Founder Christina Kazakia
We’re always excited to come across businesses that share our commitment to getting kids back outdoors and connected to nature. One of the most exciting examples in this space is Stick-lets, a company that sells simple, reusable silicon connectors that turn sticks you scavenge outdoors into fantastic building materials. Their tag-line - “because mother nature misses us” - gets us every time! We’re thrilled to include Stick-lets in the Wonderkin Tree Box, and to have the opportunity to learn more about the company’s founder, Christina Kazakia…
What is your favorite outdoor childhood memory?
My front yard and back yard at my childhood home in New Jersey were magical. Our home was located on a hillside in front of a densely wooded area. Our yard made the best Slip’N Slide and sledding slope! Many laughable injuries occurred there. But I also recall hours spent with my friends exploring the trails, random tree houses, fortresses, and spare car parts in the woods behind our homes. It's a good feeling knowing much freedom and trust I had as a child. This unstructured time outdoors was priceless. Oh – and my friend's treehouse was the perfect spot for eating candy and telling each other forest stories.
What inspired you to found Stick-lets?
This invention was born during my graduate industrial design thesis at the Rhode Island School of Design in 2011. The goal of this year-long project was to find ways to reconnect urban children with nature through play. I was inspired to go this route because of my childhood experiences and every adult I spoke with shared fond memories of their childhood outdoors. My research uncovered that fort building was a common interest and I realized today’s youth also love to build forts, or hide-outs. Nature-deficit disorder and the benefits of outdoor exposure were hot topics when I was in grad school so this inspired me even further to design a tool like Stick-lets.
What sets Stick-lets apart from other toys out there on the market today?
We make our users go outside to find one major component of the toy: the stick! Stick-lets aim to be as open-ended as possible. In other words, we don't provide many constraints for the builders unlike other toys which simplify the building process for children by providing all the elements. The benefit in providing only the flexible joints is that each build can be unique. It can be tiny – for forest friends and fairies – or huge – a hideout for the entire family. The sticks gathered from the great outdoors allow for new creations and opportunities for problem-solving while encouraging outdoor play and exploration.
Take a moment to brag about the Stick-lets - what’s the one accomplishment that you’re most proud of?
Besides having a toddler and infant while trying to run a business? Ha!
I'm most proud of my interview which appeared on Guy Raz's NPR podcast, How I Built That, which follows their main series How I Built This. I approached them with the idea of securing a Stick-lets advertisement, but instead, they said they wanted to interview me because I had an interesting story (you can check it out here, after Steve Case’s story) I'll be attending NPR's How I Built This Summit in San Francisco this October. Stick-lets will be in everyone's gift bag!
What’s one pro tip you’d offer parents looking to spend more time outdoors with their children?
Community, routine, and simplicity are key. Find a green space within walking distance to your home which your child(ren) enjoys exploring and find a few families in the neighborhood whose children are of similar age. Plan some weekly (or daily) play dates. Having a network like this encourages both the parents and/or caretakers and children to get outside. We have a wonderful community where we live and over time some parents arranged informal nature playdates a few times a week at the same time, same place. We leave our toys at home and head to the green space where we know we’ll find our friends and adventures. We always return home covered in dirt and with a few nature treasures in our pockets.
Finish this sentence: "Spending time in nature makes me feel…”
…like everything is going to be OK.
Visit www.stick-lets.com for more information, and to order your very own Stick-lets!