(caveat: free copies came to my house in exchange for an honest review)
I am always looking for crafts which can be done on the go: in the car, at restaurants, by the kid who gets stuck waiting at the bus stop for her brother every day, etc etc ad nauseum. Pencils/pens/markers and sketchbooks are great, but they get used up and/or lost at the most inconvenient times. Glue doesn’t travel well, at least not if you value the integrity of anyone’s hair or clothing. Puzzles always end up missing pieces, scissors (even blunt ones) are dangerous, and paper punches leave itty-bitty bits of detritus everywhere.
What is a parent to do?
Go forth and find Workman Publishing’s Paint by Sticker Kids: Zoo Animals book.
Paint by Sticker Kids: Zoo Animals is light. It is messless. It is self contained. You won’t accidentally leave half of it behind in a rush to get out the door. It will not leak in the one bag you actually like that fits all of your stuff and already has a chocolate milk stain and…
You need another reason? I will give you another: this little book is far more than mere distraction, more than a tantrum staver-offer (that is so a word); it is the educational swiss army knife of sticker books.
The Paint by Stickers projects allow children to build a whole from component parts. Which means (1) they have to have some patience and some staying power to get an animal picture and (2) the doer is introduced to the concept of bits coming together to create something greater as a sum, just as is fundamental in engineering, architecture, programming, and any other number of fields. Using stickers rather than tiny, fiddly bits requiring fine motor skills even most adults lack allows children to absorb the concept at a younger age, to make it part of the way they think inherently rather than leaving it for something they have to learn later when their little brains are less flexible.
The projects also provide number recognition and matching practices for older kids and an introduction to numbers and matching for the littles. Each shape within the larger shape is tagged with a number; the sticker that fits that spot is labeled with the same number. To achieve animal, kiddos have to locate the matching number on two different pages and be able to slot it in where it belongs which brings us to…
… reason number three to add Paint By Sticker to your entertainment arsenal: it’s am active craft which is also a puzzle. The stickers aren’t usually oriented the same way as the corresponding shape on the picture page; they need to be turned, manipulated slotted together properly, allowing kids to develop orientation and spatial skills.
And reason number four? A little more esoteric, perhaps, but this thing has Van Gogh-level, color mixing technique (yes, on top of my other geekdoms, I am also an art history nerd). During a later period in his life, Van Gogh (along with others) created color variation in their paintings not by mixing pigments but by applying the component colors beside one another and trusting the eye to bled appropriately. While the gradations in Paint by Sticker may be neither as delicate nor as subtle as Van Gogh’s, the principal applies to the variously hued stickers being placed in proximity to recreate, say, the varigated colors of a giraffe or the stripes on a puffin’s bill. Kids can expand from there to see what colors they can create when the use various shades of green crayons beside one another or lay down a blue stripe next to a red one.
Sound cool? It is. So cool my six-year-old hasn’t had much time to mess with Paint by Sticker Kids: Zoo Animals since school started but the four-year-old is all over them and it is her bus stop activity of choice when she’s marched up to the corner to await her brother’s triumphant return from first grade.
And never fear, parents: there’s one for you too!
I am finding it far more relaxing than many of the adult coloring books, which are far too intricate for my anxiety and not all calming. Paint by Sticker: Masterpieces also happens to have a couple of my favorite paintings in it. All the better for me.