On a family holiday some years ago, we visited the National Gallery in Canberra and happened upon a wonderful interactive art event for families. There were lots of different activities all over the gallery, but my very favourite was in a large room with walls showing stunning indigenous dot paintings. Below them the entire floor had been covered in simple brown cardboard, and participants were given swathes of coloured dot stickers and invited to sit on the cardboard, and just “go for it”… using the dots any way they wished to create any shapes, lines or patterns they fancied. It was so fun and such an engaging task for adults and children alike that we stayed and ‘stickered’ for ages.
Stickers are fun, and I think there's something especially charming about dot stickers. Somehow polka dots make any surface seem cheerful, quirky and bright. My favourite dot stickers are a real bargain at my local $2 shop. Packaged as bright multi-coloured sheets I buy them whenever I spot them (pardon the pun!), as they're an absolute staple in my craft cupboards at both home and work.
But did you know that stickers are more than just a pretty decoration? Children benefit from using stickers in a whole host of ways. Here are just a few…
Stickers provide a great opportunity for children to practice their fine motor skills, like a pincer grip. This is the fine motor skill we use for things like picking up small beads, using string, or sewing. Peeling stickers from their backing paper requires a very specific grasp - just the very tips of the fingers are needed to grip such a small area.
Using stickers requires two hands, each doing different tasks. They are an exercise in bilateral hand coordination, an essential skill for lots of tasks such as doing up zips and buttons, or tying shoelaces.
For some children, grasping just the edge of a single sheet of paper is quite difficult, and invites problem solving. I sometimes make it easier for them by folding back just the edge of the backing paper so that a portion of the sticker is exposed. For very littlies unable to peel you can pass them a peeled sticker ready to go, as just deciding which one to choose and where to place the sticker can be enough.
In fact, inviting children to choose the sticker they want from a sheet or strip of stickers encourages visual scanning, a pre-reading skill. Children can also begin to name colours and shapes, which makes stickers a literacy tool.
Children can decorate cards, paper plates, pastings and drawings with stickers. They can use them to label and identify things, or to sort colours, sizes and shapes. Children can even use them to trace over a drawn line, a letter, number, or their name.
Or you could simply lay a flattened cardboard box on the floor, offer a sheet of dot stickers, and invite children to just "go for it" - then be sure pop the kettle on, make a cuppa and relax for a few minutes while they are kept busy and creative!
Honestly… who knew a simple sheet of cheap stickers could be so clever?!