Trusting in Exploratory Play: First Experiences with Glue

With the toddler art group on hiatus until we are able to find a suitable place to hold it these wintery months, I decided to step back to look at Greysen’s art experiences. What mediums has she used, and what has she not? The list of haves is considerably shorter than the have-nots. So, where to begin? Since we have a few new art mediums that came under the tree, I thought about what things we had not tried yet. I wondered if she may be ready for glue.





Initial experience with materials are about exploration – a time for children to touch, taste, smell, examine, and/or listen to a material, discovering its various properties in the process.


I was eager for Greysen to get glue on her hands, as I imagined it offering the most opportunities for her to understand what glue can really do. Initially, I had several ideas of how to introduce the glue to her but in the end I decided to go with what I usually do when I’m not sure what I’m doing.


1.Keep it Simple.


Rather than giving her glue and collage materials for gluing, I decided to only offer her glue and something on which to spread it. I put the glue in a small glass bowl so that she could see the glue and easily grab it should she want to.


2. Start with the familiar.


Greysen is used to painting with liquid watercolor from glass jars, so I gave her glue in the aforementioned glass bowl instead of the squeeze bottle it comes in. I also gave her a brush and a dark piece of paper to contrast to the white of the glue.


3. Let go of my agenda.


Maybe she’ll learn something about glue, or maybe not – we’ll see. I had an idea of what I hoped she would learn about glue – that it adheres two separate things together, but what was she interested in learning about it?


4. Allow time for exploration


I was admittedly very curious to see how Greysen would approach the glue. I wanted to show her how glue works and how it differs from paint. I stepped aside and watched her play.


Let the Gluing Begin

Glue really drips! I guess I knew that, but it was not at all in my mind as one of the things that I would have chosen to teach Greysen about would I have taken the lead in this play.


She brushed the glue like paint for some time, always going back to letting it drip. After a while a happy accident occurred – she just so happened to glue a sheet of paper to the wax paper.




She kept gluing, and I continued to sit and watch her play without commenting.


Before long, paint wound up all over her hands. She made no comments while feeling the drying glue on her hands, but her face said it all.


This was unexpected.


Distracted by the dry glue on her hands, she stopped gluing. She spent some time picking at the crackling glue on her fingertips. Eventually, she confessed, “sticky”.


The following day I showed her the paper she had glued and pulled at it a bit, thinking she may notice it was stuck to the wax paper. Instead, she ran her fingers over the dried clear glue. AGAIN, I had not thought about the fact that glue looks and feels different when its dry.


Greysen took her learning into her own hands. I feel obligated to offer her the glue in a different ways, and really have no clue on what to do next. Any ideas?


I take comfort in the possibility that perhaps all she needs is some more glue to really explore this medium again.


As Greysen grows she is becoming ready for new toys, art materials and experiences. The curriculum coordinator in me is so eager for her to try new tools and materials. Every now and then, this excitement gets the best of me and leads me to have expectations of where her learning may go. However, in reviewing the pictures of Greysen’s gluing experience I was surprised to see how much of her learning was about some of the properties of glue that I had not expected her to learn about. I’ll try to remember this next time.



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