© 2015 Jules

The Optimal Popsicle Stick Width

In my work with teenaged youth, I run into a very serious set of concerns.  The paramount issue of my Wednesday last week revolved around popsicle sticks.  Let me back up and set the scene for you.  Each spring, just before school lets out, my high school youth group hosts a surprise breakfast to welcome the incoming freshman class.  We get all the kids up really painfully early on a Saturday morning (6am) and drag them to the Youth Center at church for breakfast and games.

It is my job to organize the entire event, but I feel the most pressure when it comes to selecting games.  I begin my planning months in advance.  I take a soft-poll of some of the students asking what are their favorite sorts of games.  I take notes on the things they hate and what they love.  Then I head to the Holy Grail of ideas and planning: Pinterest.

I scour the site for epic youth games and start a huge pin board of all my favorites.  Then I narrow the list to a dozen contenders.  My final refining of the game list is done with my youth staff because of their vast knowledge and expertise in all things teenager!  Here are the key criteria for picking the perfect youth group game:

1.  Duration-pick a game that’s too long and they will loose focus, too short and you are stuck with the dreaded “dead time” in an event.

2. Difficulty-if it’s too easy they won’t get engaged, and if it’s too hard they get defeated and stop trying.  This is like walking a knife edge with hormone/insecurity ladened teenagers.  I am not kidding when I say that I spent ten solid minutes in a single aisle at Wal-Mart studying their vast array of popsicle sticks.  They have short and skinny popsicle sticks, big and fat ones, flimsy ones and colored ones, massive ones and numbered ones.  I needed popsicle sticks for a game that required students to clench said popsicle stick between their teeth and then stack 12 sugar cubes on top of it without letting any of them fall.  I had to factor in the sugar-to-stick size ratio and multiply that by the dexterity it takes to place the cubes cross-eyed and subtract the ego points they would loose for this awkward feat.  Panic nearly ensued.

3. Tradition-some games should be passed down from generation to generation.  Like kickball or kujabe can can, some games age like a fine wine.  Some games should be deemed cruel and unusual punishment and officially banned from the United States of America.  Like popping balloons with your butt.  Or eating a piece of bubble gum out of a pie tin full of whipped cream.  No one likes those games, they even have the potential to scar kids for life. ( I speak from experience.)

4. Fun-The game has to entertain.  This could be achieved through sheer brute force, like tug-of-war over a pit full of jello.  Disgusting feats are fun too, like playing ultimate frisbee with a dead octopus instead of a frisbee.  Absurdity also entertains, like offering kids a dollar to eat an entire stick of butter.  (There’s always one kid who will take you up on the offer.)  Sometimes the simplest things are the most fun.  I have seen kids at the height of competitive fervor trying to blow a ping-pong ball off the opposite end of a table.

I am happy to say my popsicle stick selection proved worthy! It even resulted in an old-fashioned stand-off between two girls who got their 12 cubes stacked at exactly the same moment and then had to hold their pose until the other let their cubes fall. (Pictured below is one of our leaders taking on the challenge!)  It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it.  I love shaping young lives!

Maddy rockin the cubes

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