An Innovation – Not Electronic – Supporting Flexibility and Children’s Rich Language

Some technological innovations harness the power of electricity to connect people energetically to other human beings and their wisdom. Some technological innovations support people physically so they can move successfully and smoothly through their mental and physical responsibilities. The order yet flexibility created by the innovative adhesives invented by the 114 year old Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company (renamed modernly The 3M Company) help make my home, and my early childhood environment accommodate the dynamic changes  happening each day with young children.

3M’s Richard Gurley Drew thought beyond the usual uses for glue when he combined it with other materials to invent masking tape, which could cover the woodwork of a wall to protect it from wet paint and be removed with no residue or damage to the wall; and cellophane or Scotch tape, which was clear, and could be used to keep a taped package looking pretty.  Creating tape using adhesives which maintain their stickiness even when stored outside of a closed container was very innovative.  Post-it notes are also a most convenient way to leave someone a paper note, since their adhesive sticks to surfaces, releases without damage when pulled off, and re-sticks to another surface.

However, what has really worked are 3M’s Command Products, where a sticky tab can be used to mount objects to a wall, and then the tab pulled to remove them with no damage to the wall. Likewise, objects can also be stuck to other surfaces, such as a cup of pencils to a desk to keep it from sliding. These tabs can be used to hang pictures everywhere, unlike in the previous generation when someone might have been afraid to pound nails into the wall for fear of ruining the wall. And, working in conjunction with 3M’s tabs are a large variety of wall hooks, and even containers which can be used for storage, which are mounted to a wall in a bathroom or other room.  Something up to five pounds can be hung, held to a wall or other surface by the adhesive on these tabs, removed anytime without damage, and re-affixed to another surface

The freedom to hang pictures and containers on any wall at any time without fear of making a mistake, or changing one’s mind, or putting something up “crooked” allows for a very changeable early childhood environment. Containers affixed to walls and tables store children’s art or writing materials. Within the last few years, 3M has applied its Post-it Note adhesive to a bulletin board, where items can be hung and removed from the bulletin board covered in Post-it adhesive multiple times, and children’s art or announcements to parents can be changed every day, easily.  My early childhood environment has four of these 3’ by 4’ bulletin boards. These materials support the language rich, print rich environment provided for the young children in my early childhood program, as the children’s language expressions provide a “window into human nature” (Pinker, 2011). “Human beings communicate in countless ways, making use of all of their senses, touch, taste, smell, and especially sight as well as hearing” (Ong, 1982, p. 46). These rich experiences facilitated in the flexible, dynamic classroom, which children can use and negotiate independently, while communicating in some of their “hundred languages”(Edwards, Gandini & Forman, 1998) stimulate their natural ability to acquire rich thoughts and language (Levinson, 2003).

Innovators rise above the crowd because of their willingness to not only see problems which need to be solved, but to see failures as potential successes. The story behind the Post-it Note illustrates this:

In 1968, a scientist at 3M in the United States, Dr. Spencer Silver, was attempting to develop a super-strong adhesive. Instead he accidentally created a “low-tack”, reusable, pressure-sensitive adhesive. For five years, Silver promoted his “solution without a problem” within 3M both informally and through seminars but failed to gain acceptance. In 1974 a colleague who had attended one of his seminars, Arthur Fry, came up with the idea of using the adhesive to anchor his bookmark in his hymnbook.

Innovative offerings for a variety of adhesive products allow more innovation in my classroom and life!

15 Brilliant Things You Can Do With Command Hooks

My 3M Command Hook Fix

The Hanan Center: Helping You Help Children Communicate

Playing with Words 365: Educating, Inspiring, Empowering


2 thoughts on “An Innovation – Not Electronic – Supporting Flexibility and Children’s Rich Language

  1. Paula. I like your innovation without the use of technology. For my study I want to look at clinical supervision. It’s a collaborative way of working with teachers that does not use technology.


    1. Hi Abby! It seems like there is so much electronic technology all around — everywhere, in everything. It’s amazing, but not the only kind of tool. Clinical supervision sounds like a wonderful topic. I could use, for myself and my early childhood staff, someone to teach us, and then observe and give us feedback while we are doing the real work!


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