Monday, March 15, 2021

SOL21 Slice 15: Sticky situation


I am participating in the
All participants are sharing stories about moments in their lives, writing 
 every day for the month of March 2021.
Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for nurturing teacher-writers!

Stickers are so annoying.
Is there a better example of a single use 'toy'?
If you accidentally place it in the wrong place, it is dang hard to move it to the better place - they basically can't be re-used. This can be very frustrating for young children.
They are ridiculously expensive, especially if you are trying to give a group of children a bunch of stickers. They are one of the least shareable items created for a group of kids - lots of frustrating negotiations over who gets the kitty? who gets the star? who gets the one with the purple on it? Have you ever witnessed a prized sticker get unexpectedly ripped in half by a preschooler's own lesser-skilled hands? Aside from the fine motor work of lifting it off the page (or the heavy-handed and, frequently, ridiculously obeyed expectation that the adult do this work for them), what is the learning of a sticker? I guess you learn a lot about how to mend your broken heart when things don't go your way.

I never understood their use as rewards. Nothing about stickers motivates me.

There is too much high drama over stickers. 

That said, when I was teaching preschool, stickers seemed to fall from the sky sometimes, into my reaches. Sometimes families would drop off extras. Any time I attended an educational conference for early childhood, I seemed to reap streams of stickers in the conference 'goody' bag (because, I guess, every other teacher feels differently about stickers than I do). Some books come with sheets of stickers. Of course, organizations mail stickers - if only sheets of mailing labels, so that you will donate to their cause - and from a preschooler's perspective, these are stickers all the same. (Actually, so are postage stamps - kind of a funny story with the passage of time.) I recognize their allure, even if I don't share it, and I'd hold onto them, squirrel them away. If I acquired enough (an amount that wouldn't immediately result in a sharing bloodbath between 4-5 preschoolers at the writing center), I would add these as something special for the children to explore as they wrote and drew. Many children seemed to feel like me and just ignore them - yes, these were my favorite students. Ha! Just kidding. But, there were others who would sit and binge on them, covering their papers with sticker after sticker. To each, their own; whatever keeps you sane!

All of this is said as prelude: two-year-old Frog has discovered stickers. Since I am basically almost politically opposed to stickers (oh, politicians send stickers, too...), she caught me off-guard with her interest. (See the blather above.) I have created my home as my sanctuary and it was sticker-free. 

Except Frog likes stickers.

She discovered a few sprawled onto an old Boy Scout Derby Car of her uncle's. We were playing in the basement, racing cars down the yellow track I've held onto for just this purpose - grandchildren and their play. She picked up the car and began to industriously use her fine motor skills to remove the Buzz Lightyear sticker; she recognized Buzz from her pull ups. To infinity and beyond! 
Where we play . . .

I patiently (truly, patiently - none of the above bias was shared) explained that it was very hard to remove stickers, that they often break, they don't re-stick.

None of this matters to a two year old, only the task at hand matters: must remove sticker with edge of  fingernail, right now, yes, yes, yes. 

And yes, she frowned when this tiny ripped pile of sticker rot was the result. 

She moved right on to the next sticker on the car, a star, I think, not that it really matters. She wrestled with this one, oblivious to my on-going advice (?) instructions (?) teaching (?) blather (?) yes, background noise. This isn't a precise recounting of my words, but they were something to the effect of - Frog, what do you think will happen to this one? What happened to the last one? Do you want all the stickers off the car? Did the sticker break? Why do you think they are breaking?

Finally, I came to my wits and stopped chattering and just observed.

All the stickers were finally removed and Frog went back to racing cars down the road, and that was that. She had completed the task she had set out to do, despite the noisy chatter of her Nana.

Fast-forward to her next visit . . . we're in the basement again, and she finds a second old Derby car, also with stickers - and she settles into her sticker removal work. I paused her, to remind her - Frog, what do you predict is going to happen to this sticker? 

(Truly, I am mostly concerned that at some - unknown future date - she is going to erupt when the sticker breaks. I have lived through this high drama with preschoolers time and time again and it is my least favorite movie. Also, I was curious if her brain had retained the 'learning' from the last visit, the 'cause and effect' about stickers. Yes, once a teacher, always a teacher, and she is stuck with a Nana who was a preschool teacher.) 

I paused her, to remind her - "Frog, what do you predict is going to happen when you remove this sticker?" 

She looks up at me with big, serious eyes and says,

"You won't be happy."

Then she looks down at the floor, sadly - and stops removing the sticker.

I reacted quickly, "Oh no, honey! I don't care one whit about that!"

Oh my. 
I have now introduced the concept of SHAME, 

So NOT the takeaway I imagined. 

Oh my. Oh my. Oh my. 

Stammering and sputtering was about all I could do for a moment, she caught me so off-guard. I was basically reduced to a small pile of sticker rot. What a fine mess I have made.

"Next to trying and winning, the best thing is trying and failing."
- L. M. Montgomery


  1. Aw, take it easy on yourself. You definitely went above and beyond in your attempts to teach and avoid eruption. I believe the car I bought last year, when my youngest was 8, is the first one that won't have both passenger side windows absolutely tattooed with little stickers of all shapes and sizes. I get it. This was a great read - thank you for sharing!

    1. Thank you! Yes, I am taking it easy on myself - I truly found this whole experience very funny.

  2. Best line- “reduced to a small pile of sticker rot”- wonderful!
    I think Frog may be like me- I just love to pick at things. And I can’t leave a sticker on- fruit or a price sticker...maybe she wanted clean cars.
    I enjoyed all your witty sharing of your thought process and philosophy on... stickers! It takes a preschool teacher to have such passion for the subject :)

    1. Thank you, Fran! Yes, I think Frog was more interested in picking at it, discovering it, rather than actually using it. I am ridiculously impassioned about stickers.

  3. Best line- “reduced to a small pile of sticker rot”- wonderful!
    I think Frog may be like me- I just love to pick at things. And I can’t leave a sticker on- fruit or a price sticker...maybe she wanted clean cars.
    I enjoyed all your witty sharing of your thought process and philosophy on... stickers! It takes a preschool teacher to have such passion for the subject :)

  4. Oh, Maureen, you are in a stickery situation. Forgive me for giggling. I didn’t have to worry much about stickers teaching high school, but I do enjoy the paint by sticker books. That image of a preschool sticker fight and the ensuing bloodbath frightens me. It’s a worst nightmare scenario . Maybe Frog doesn’t care that she can’t remove the sticker in one piece. Maybe it’s the struggle w/ that sticker that motivates her. I’ve never thought of Pull-Ups as educational products. 😂

    1. Yes! it was a stickery situation, indeed! I hoped you would giggle. I have been giggling about it.

  5. I lvoe the details you used to describe her removing the stickers. What a fun story!

    1. Thank you! She was wonderfully focused on removing them.

  6. Thanks for sharing this funny and also vulnerable story. I think your intentions were in the right place. In fact, I really enjoyed reading your inner dialogue and conflict most about this piece.

    1. Thank you! Yes, my intentions were in the right place! It really reminded me of my teaching days, how quickly things can spiral in a whole new direction.

  7. Maureen, what a post. I love what you have learned and how you have documented it here. I had never thought so much about stickers and this effect it has on preschoolers before reading this. Wow. I'm in awe of the insight, openness and love you have poured out through this post today.