Article Type Making Art Together Making Art Together Categories Infants and Toddlers Theory and Resources

Sticker Play

Sara Ottomano

In The Art Studio, we often experiment with materials that transform a surface. Guests discover with delight the ability of watercolor to wash over a page or the way a beeswax crayon glides across paper. In continuing these experiences, we recently explored the ways in which sticky materials transform a space during our Materials Play program for toddlers and their caregivers. We played with stickers and masking tapes in a contained area (to help with clean-up) that had children and adults alike enjoying the experience.

When thinking about designing this experience as a part of the Materials Play program series, I wanted to explore the sensory experience of sticky things. The action of removing stickers from their backings is a practice in fine motor skills and playing with stickers on a variety of surfaces allows you to discover the subtle differences between each type of stickers.

To being this exploration, I first gathered the sticky supplies, deciding to use colored masking tape in the primary colors, as well as a colorful variety of stickers, labels, and self-adhesive foams cut into smaller shapes.  With the multitude of sticky color choices, I decided that the surface they were going to attached to should lack color. That way, the toddlers and caregivers could experiment with placing their colorful stickers on either a black or white surface.

After collecting the stickers and getting excited about the sticker variety as I hoped the toddlers would, I then stepped back and considered the perspective of an adult that would be cleaning up after this sticker exploration. How should I set-up the space to invite sticker exploration yet contain the stickers to a certain area of the room? In talking with my fellow Art Educator, she mentioned a 2011 installation for the Queensland Art Gallery, Gallery of Modern Art entitled The obliteration room that was created by artist Yayoi Kusama. In the installation, Kusama designed a room filled with white furniture and walls that visitors were encouraged to cover with a variety of colorful stickers. At the end of the installation, the room was almost completely covered with colorful dots, a visual representation of the people who had come into the space and interacted with it.

Inspired by the white surfaces within the installation and the way that the stickers show people’s interaction within the space, I decided to cover our lower toddler table with black and white paper as well as create an organic shape on the ground with the same papers and masking tape. This provided a finite space for sticker exploration but allowed for people to place stickers in places they might not get to normally put them, like on the legs of a table or on the floor.

After seeing this in place, I realized that folks would only get the experience of placing their stickers on a paper surface. So to diversify this experience, I placed black and white plastic objects on the table and floor. The plastic objects included paint palettes, cups, and glue holders.

Before our guests arrived, the colored masking tape was placed onto the plastic objects.

Below are some close ups of how the tape was placed. I had some looped back onto the plastic and others touching the paper on the paper-covered floor, encouraging folks to discover how the tape interacted with a variety of surfaces.

As guests arrived, I handed each a transparent cup filled with stickers and encouraged them to put them onto the black and white areas. The first attempts to place them were tentative, some only putting them in a small area, but soon they began to explore the whole area.

Some enjoyed layering the stickers, seeing how certain stickers created mounds while others lay flat.

Others enjoyed the experience of placing white stickers on a white background and watching it “disappear” onto the paper. Others experimented with placing the white stickers onto colorful backgrounds, making them visible again.

It was a very collaborative exploration with adults joining in placing the stickers alongside their toddlers. One family group used the tape and stickers to create a creature with ears that hung from the table top.

Another family group was introducing their toddler for the first time to stickers. The pure joy and amazement with placing the stickers down on the paper and sticking the tape to itself was visible on the child’s face which re-reminded me of the amazing quality that stickers have; the ability to stick to something else without using any glue or visible adhesive.

Overall, this experience was enjoyed by guests of all ages. Some caregivers helped peel and hand stickers while others joined in to place the sticky substances down. The toddler’s had a varied experience as well with some preferring to place one sticker and move on to a different project in the room while others spent well over half an hour carefully placing the stickers.

At the end of the end of the exploration, we simply un-wrapped the table, took up the paper from the floor, and recycled it. I hope this exploration provides you with ideas on how you can explore the wonderful variety of sticky materials in your home!


Sara smiling in front of Art Studio display.

Sara Ottomano

Art Educator since 2016 at The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, Sara (she/her) is enthusiastic about helping others approach art through exploration and experimentation.