Hammer Time – Tree Stump Geometry

I found that a lot of my students (including my own kids) really like to play with the wooden geoboard I made a few years ago. It’s similar to a skip counting circle, using yarn to connect to each peg around the wooden circle. The kids like to make different shapes with the yarn, and I often set it in a basket in the peace or reading area for relaxation.

Since we are outside so much, I thought it’d be fun to make a giant one on one of the tree stumps where the kids could make various shapes and designs using colorful yarn, string, and beads. This turned into a fun lesson called Tree Stump Geometry. I love how we were able to use practical life skills, math, and art all in one lesson…

Yet another example of the beauty of progressive education.

So, we grabbed our child-size tool belt and started on our new, colorful project.

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  1. child-size leather toolbelt
  2. child-size hammer
  3. child-size protective eyewear
  4. medium-size nails
  5. light-colored permanent marker (I used gold so that it didn’t show after the nails were hammered in)
  6. multi-colored yarn or tough string
  7. beads


Find a spot on the tree stump where you’d like to begin spacing dots where the child will be hammering the nails. I had the child use her finger length to place each dot. This is a good time to use another student as team work.

 Have the child place the first nail on any dot to begin…. and start hammering.

 Once she’s finished with the first nail, she will move on to the next dot. I will have already demonstrated how to use a hammer and nail, and also the technique to drive the nail in more efficiently. We found that using shorter but firm taps instead of long-distance whacks worked better.





I often ask the child(ren) to stop and survey their work after a few nails. This helps them to assess their work so far and also to take a breath.








Once all of the nails are in, you can clean off the surface of the tree stump (or leave it be). Somehow throughout the process objects find their way on and around the tree stump… interesting.







  Now for the artsy prep part. Choose the color of string/yarn you’d like to use, or perhaps you have already done so. You can just go with one color, or do like we did and go with two or three. I feel like this depends on the age, because looping large amounts of string around a tree stump has it’s frustrating moments! Tie one end of the string around one nail. Then repeat another color around the opposite side of the tree trunk.

 We used about 2-3 feet of string from each color because it will need to be wrapped repeatedly from one side to the other.

 Now the child can start to wrap the string around the nails. Most kids find they can make a star – or something that looks like it.

 Keep wrapping until all of the string is used up. They can step back and admire their work. The child may need a helping hand to unravel the string to do another design.

 This next design they decided to string beads.

 This was pretty clever because they found that they could move the beads back and forth on the string once it was all put together.



This design we added a third color: turquoise!

 Added another bead or two…

 And I think her final product turned out to be pretty amazing!

For older kids, you can take pictures of designs you’ve made yourself then have the child repeat the same design by looking at your photo.

See my previous post on making an ornament rack using the child-size hammer




About Miranda

* Pisces. Eclectic. Indigo. Mother. Wife. Teacher. Herbalist. Scientist. Fantasy. Outdoors. Ocean. Crafty. Dreamer. * Found out more in the About section.

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