Cheerleaders are expert decorators. Whether it’s decorating a locker for a pep rally or decorating our eyes with glitter for competition, cheerleaders know the power of sparkle.

Which brings us to the spirit stick. A long-time symbol of sportsmanship in the cheer world, spirit sticks may be awarded at competitions and cheer camps, passed down from captain to captain, or gifted to graduating seniors. In true cheer fashion, the spirit stick is all about the glitz, and the decorative possibilities are endless. Here are some ideas to get you started!

Sound: If you want your spirit stick to add a little percussion to your cheer, start with a hollow tube, like the cardboard tube at the center of a roll of paper towels or wrapping paper. Tape or glue a square of construction paper or cardboard to one end of the tube. You can even use a bathroom cup if you adhere it tightly (and you may need to crush the cup a little bit to keep it tight around the end). Fill the tube anywhere from ½ to ¾ with beads. Fewer beads will make more noise when you shake, and more will make the stick heavier. You can test the sound by putting your palm over the opening and giving it a shake. Once you like the sound, cover the open end the same way you did the first one. For extra support, wrap the whole tube and both ends in duct tape and decorate over that layer.

Shape: Cardboard or styrofoam tubes are classic bases for a spirit stick, but if you want to do something a little more unique, consider using a different shape base. Styrofoam vases for flower arranging are cone-shaped, making them perfect for a megaphone design; or, consider fashioning a spirit wreath out of a styrofoam or wire ring.

  • For a megaphone, cover the foam form with construction paper, wrapping paper, washi tape, ribbon, or even fabric. Add peel-and-stick letters to spell out your school mascot or name. A strip of construction paper or ribbon makes for a great “handle,” and tulle or flowers can be used to decorate the top of the form.

  • For a wreath, grab spools of ribbons in your school colors. Wide, opaque ribbons taped or glued tightly around the foam shape make for a great base layer, while glittery, semitransparent and decorative ribbon can be great for volume. Start by gluing a wide, solid, opaque ribbon tightly around the whole wreath to cover the styrofoam. Then, take two or more decorative colors (medium to wide) and cut them into equal length short pieces, enough to tie around the form and still have “tails.” Tie the ribbons around the entire ring and fluff out the tails to create the wreath. A cheer bow is the perfect finishing touch.

Decorating Tools: The great thing about spirit sticks is that there’s no right or wrong way to make one. You can buy supplies at a craft store, or you can create from items found easily around your home or classroom. Here are some possible decorating tools!

Duct Tape: Regular tape is good, but for extra insurance, clear duct tape is a great way to protect your spirit stick and keep decoration in place.

Tacky Glue or Styrofoam Adhesive: Hot glue can melt or burn styrofoam or cardboard, and regular glue can quickly become a sticky mess, so these safer and cleaner alternatives are great choices for homemade spirit sticks. They can be found in most craft stores.

Washi Tape: Courtesy of the bullet journal trend, this cute decorative tape can be found in craft stores and office product stores. For extra insurance, consider wrapping clear duct tape around the finished product.

Sequin Trim: This can be bought by yardage or by the spool in fabric shops. Sequin trim can give a spirit stick bling without the mess of individual beads and glue. Affordable trims run under $5 a yard, more than enough for this project, and can be attached with tacky glue or styrofoam adhesive. 

Construction Paper: It’s an art room classic for a reason! Construction paper can be used to wrap around the stick for a solid-color base, or can be cut into shapes and letters to decorate. Affordable and available all over, and a great pick for first-time spirit stick architects to hone their decorating skills.

Scissors: Many decorations will need scissors to get the right shape or length. Regular scissors work on most decorations, but fabric scissors or foam cutters may be needed for special items. For younger cheerleaders, be sure to let an adult help you use sharp tools!

Foam Cutters: Available at craft stores, foam cutters can be used for adjusting the size of your spirit stick, changing its shape, or maybe even carving design into the base.

Peel-and-Stick Foam Letters: Perfect for spelling out your school’s initials, team mascot, or a cheerleader’s name!

Tulle, Feathers, Curly Ribbon, and Poms: Decorate the ends of your spirit stick, too! Bunched-up tulle or feathers create a fluffy, whimsical look, while a peel-and-stick curly ribbon (the kind you use to top a birthday present) is an explosion of color. Tinsel and tissue poms capture the cheer spirit. 

Beads: Craft beads may make nice exterior decoration with a little tacky glue, but they’re especially great for adding a little volume to your creation. Filling a hollow spirit stick base with beads turns a decorative baton into a musical instrument. If you can’t get to a craft store for beads, half a cup of elbow pasta will do the trick, too! Just be sure to cover both ends of the spirit stick securely.

What are your favorite crafty decorations? Do you have any tricks and tips for decorating a spirit stick? Be sure to share your favorites!