How, when and why to teach your toddler stickers
Toddler Stickers: Is every second pin you are pinning about easy activities for your toddler using stickers? But you don’t exactly know where to get started or if this kind of activity is even beneficial to your toddler?
Stick around (pun intended)!
Stickers are the best! They fill my 2 year old with delight, they are a quick low prep, low cost activity that can keep him entertained for a decent chunk of time, they are an easy travel activity and if that’s not enough they are great for fine motor and cognitive development.
Why teach my toddler stickers?
In what ways do stickers boost toddler development:
1. Stickers open up an opportunity for play for toddlers
While using stickers can boost so many crucial areas in toddler development , the most important thing in my eyes is that you open a new door for play.
In the beginning while “learning” stickers it may seem a bit forced but once your tot has learnt how to do stickers *boom* they have a new way of expressing themselves, delving into imaginary worlds and experiencing mastery of a skill.
2. Stickers help toddlers develop Pincer Grip
Remember how your child healthcare practitioner asked if your baby can pick up small food like a pea? What they were trying to find out is if your baby (somewhere between 8-10 months) has developed a pincer grip.
Pincer grip is the ability to use the thumb and forefinger in order to pick up small objects. It is the precursor to good pencil grip later on.
The act of peeling off, lifting and sticking a sticker uses and strengthens pincer grip. It’s a great way to practice because it also requires that your toddler uses the tips/ pads of his finger therefore teaching him a refined pincer grip.
3. Stickers support toddler development of Bilateral Coordination
Ever felt like your right side of your body is not communicating with your left side? I feel this when trying to reverse park (especially with loud attention grabbing toddlers in the back).
This ability for the left and right sides of our bodies to communicate with each other and produce controlled and organized movement is called bilateral coordination.
Bilateral coordination is so often at the root of why children struggle in school. Its required for so many activities- think riding a bike, climbing a ladder, holding paper while cutting, stabilising a page with one hand while writing with the other.
Holding paper while peeling off the sticker is a great way to incorporate fine motor ( movements using small muscles of forearm, hand, and fingers) bilateral coordination.
4. Stickers boost toddler Cognitive Skills
Cognitive skills are the core skills your brain uses to think, pay attention, learn, read, remember and reason. Yip, what looks so simple on the outside is actually developing your toddlers brain.
He is learning sequencing of an activity- first you lift the sticker then you stick it. It will prepare him for more complex sequences like building LEGO models or understanding a story as a whole.
He is also learning organizational and spatial skills when he decides where on the page he should stick the sticker. Yes, in the beginning that will probably be on top of the previous sticker but as he develops more skill you will see that he is able to stick inside a circle, follow a pattern and by the end of the toddler years match complex stickers to hidden objects (like the Melissa and Doug seek and find pads).
Stickers also use and improve visual searching skills. “Where’s the lion sticker?” . They also create great opportunities to learn new vocabulary and practice naming.
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When can I start introducing stickers to my toddler?
As soon as they understand that stickers are not food- this generally happens between a year to 18 months.
How to get started with stickers
You will need:
- Big round stickers
- A plain piece of paper
Make sure the sticker sheet doesn’t have a skeleton (that white sticker outline sheet that is on the page). It makes it harder to peel off the stickers so it’s best to take it off first.
Its best to give your toddler only a few stickers in the beginning so that they will feel that they finished the activity and were successful. For this reason and also because it’s easier to hold- I always cut stickers into strips instead of giving the entire sheet. A strip with about 3 stickers will be a good place to start.
At first it’s really about teaching your tot how a sticker works- first lift, then move to page, and finally stick sticky side down.
You may even start without a page. Sticking a big sticker on your or your toddlers nose or arm- naturally he will try to take it off and have a little giggle while doing so.
Stickers onto a big ball is also a fun way to learn stickers and get moving. Just let your tot case the ball while trying to pull off stickers.
When you do get to practicing on a page it’s best to be a little hands on because this is quite a complex movement and activity for your small toddler to learn.
You can half lift stickers so it’s easier for your tot to pull off. Then help direct your toddlers hand towards the page and position the hand so that the sticker is sticky side down.
Expect this activity to take a maximum of 10 minutes.
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2. A Little bit more challenging:
Once your toddler understands how to use stickers and they are fully able to do the big stickers independently ( in other words: they can hold the sticker paper while lifting the sticker and successfully stick it down on the paper), you may want to challenge him a little more. This normally happens somewhere between 18 months to two years of age.
First off, go down to medium sized stickers and stickers that have more complex shapes (like a car instead of just a circle).
I would still peel off the skeleton of the stickers and cut the sticker sheet into strips of about 8 stickers.
I do this because although your toddler may be able to do all 30 stickers that are on one sticker sheet, they can become bored easily. By breaking the activity into more steps (“finish the strip with the blue stickers and then you get the green”) you are helping your toddler increase their concentration and making the activity a little more interesting.
At this point your toddler will still need abit of supervision while doing stickers (incase they need a little help) but they should be able to sit and play stickers while you are nearby. At this stage stickers are great for entertainment while at church or in a restaurant.
Sticker books are also valuable for this stage because it’s no prep for mamma and the stickers are always really fun.
To boost cognitive skills you may also want to try getting your toddler to place stickers in specific places. For example: inside a rainbow, as a border of a page, alone a curvy line. You can do this by drawing circles to show where each sticker should go or a line that stickers should be stuck on.
You can expect that playing stickers can last for over 20 minutes if your toddler is in the right mood (OK “right mood” is a hard one for most toddlers! The point is to know that the activity can possibly be 20 minutes but it might also be a miss day and it is all finished in a few minutes).
3. Onwards and Upwards
Once you feel like your toddler is fully independent with sticker books and medium sized stickers you may want to think about finding more interesting and challenging sticker activities.
Expect to start thinking about this around the 2 and a half mark.
Now you can move down to those itty bitty stickers as well as giving a full sticker sheet. You may still want to peel off the skeleton of the stickers if it bothers your tot.
Once your tot has mastered sticking stickers into specific places (on a line or over a dot) you can get really creative. Try sticking stickers around a drawn shape or numbers, stickers along a curved line on a huge pieces of poster paper stuck to the wall.
Try challenging your toddler to stick stickers in color sequences. Start with two colors and increase the number slowly. For example: a border of a page with red and blue stickers.
This is a great time to boost visual skills using seek and find type sticker books.
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Remember you are teaching your child how to do stickers not to check off a developmental score card BUT to open up a new opportunity for play.
So do this activity when everyone is fed, rested and happy, and don’t worry if they don’t “get it”… it is at minimum a few minutes of connection time with mama.
The age groups mentioned here are general norms. Your tot may get to these stages a little earlier or later, that’s ok.