MY TOP TIPS TO KEEP STICKER TIME IN LINE
At first, letting your kiddo play with stickers might feel like a surefire way to wind up with tiny shreds of Peppa Pig covering every surface in your home, but that doesn’t have to be the case. With the right tools up your sleeve, stickers can be a great way to help your little one build up their hand-eye coordination, gross and fine motor skills, attention span, intentionality, imagination, vocabulary, and more!
Photo credit @galinkazhi
HELPING LITTLE HANDS
When you’re first starting to introduce stickers into playtime, do as you would with anything new: model how it works! Before your little one can start to really engage on their own, you can show them what stickers are all about. While they’re sitting near you, grab a sheet of paper and some stickers and get sticking! Let them watch as you peel stickers off the backing, drawing their attention to what’s going on with some reinforcing language like, “Ooh, look at that. See how the sticker comes off the paper? Wow, feel how sticky it is!”
Choose stickers of things your kiddo is already drawn to like animals or faces to help keep their interest and consider their hand size when selecting sheets to make sure they’ll be able to grasp each one without squishing it. Show them how to place the sticker onto the paper, and let them use their hands to press it down until they get the hang of it on their own.
Your kiddo is going to be naturally curious about where stickers go and what they’re for. Help them understand by incorporating them into art time, keeping them with other art supplies, and playing with them in the same area you do other crafty activities. As they start to get more confident in their abilities, remind them what’s okay and what’s not through clear boundaries. As their hands start to wander, guide them back to your approved sticker-friendly zone, and remind them “Stickers only go on the paper (art table, etc.).” Similarly, if they try to put stickers into their mouth, gently but firmly tell them, “No. No stickers in our mouth.”
Just like when setting boundaries with any activity, you always have the option to pull the activity away (or remove your kiddo from the situation) if they’re struggling to understand or follow the boundaries that have been set. If this happens, remind yourself that the whole thing is a learning activity and this is one of the objectives. Do your best to stay calm, let them know once again that “That isn’t how we use stickers,” as you take them away and place them out of reach. Allow your kiddo to be upset if this happens, as the learning process can be confusing and frustrating while providing them with reassuring language, an alternative item, or encouraging them to self-soothe with a preferred activity.
MORE STICK FOR YOUR STACKS
If you can find a set that interests your kiddo, window clings are the superhero of stickers. By replacing a portion of your sticker stash with window clings, you’ll improve playtime by a long shot. Because window clings work just like stickers, they allow your little to add a new activity to their repertoire that they’ve already mostly mastered. Giving you a fraction of the frustration and mess, window clings bring your kiddo the fun of stickers in a reusable, cleanup-friendly format. Wet a surface and layout your clings so your mini can choose to stick away as they please.
You can also use regular stickers on laminated paper (either some that come from the packaging from another item or some you laminate yourself) to make reusable sticker sheets. If you make your own, use printed or colored pictures created by you or little as a background for them to create one. As their understanding increases, talk to them about what’s going on in the pictures they’re making to transform sticker time into an open-ended storytime.
Use stickers as a more traditional educational activity by including letters, colors, numbers, etc. in your sticker collection. Point to each picture as your kiddo places it, or encourage them to find certain stickers to work on naming objects, spelling with letter stickers, identifying colors, etc.
I recommend not using stickers of food items until you’re confident that your kiddo understands the difference between real food and play items that might seem like food such as fake fruits/veggies, toy baby bottles, food colored Play-doh, etc.
For littler ones just getting started, peel away any backing to make it easier for little hands to grab stickers off the sheet without getting tangled in a sticky mess.
If you do peel off the backing, repurpose it to use as a fill-in coloring sheet/stencil! Stick it onto another blank paper and let your mini scribble away. Depending on the type of paper, you may be able to peel it off again after they color it to reveal their inside-the-lines masterpiece!
Written by: Kyri from @themillennialnanny. She has a degree in counseling and a career in clinical physchology. Nowadays she works as a personal coach, nanny, and runs The Millennial Nanny.