Home #Makerspace: Natural Material Sculptures & Glue Gun Safety

Rachelle Dooley of TinkerLab is one of my go-to arts blogs and one of my favorite small-person maker-educators.  She has a fantastic book, Tinkerlab: A Hands-On Guide for Little Inventors, and blog, TinkerLab.  She recently posted a skill building tutorial for glue guns in small hands.  Check it out here.

My boys and I took her idea and moved it over into the “Dad” realm.  We used natural materials, stone, sticks, bark, and some scraps from a recent rocking chair repair to create some “rock gardens”.

According to my sons, dragons eat the rocks that grow in rock gardens.  And if dragons derive energy from rocks breaking apart, that means they have somehow created controlled nuclear reactors in their stomachs.  Which is the start of a Hollywood Sci-Fi movie script, and if it’s not, it should be.

After the jump, check out a few tips and safety pointers for glue guns at different developmental levels.

Quick Tool Overview: Glue Guns

I have two types of glue guns, “big kid” high-temp and “little kid” low temp.

Low temp glue guns work great in little hands, cost less than $5, and the glue sticks to most craft activities.  Kids learn and practice coordinating fine motor skills (pinching motion with trigger) and gross motor skills (getting the point where they want it).  It also promotes strong spatial awareness because the glue gun can create three-dimensional objects.  Kids also continue to develop their “shop-sense” and awareness of others and self by keeping the hot end on the work, not themselves!

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Low Temp Glue Gun, roughly 4″ across. via Wiki Commons

Young children are usually ready for the glue gun when they begin writing upper-case and lower-case letters clearly, or demonstrate mastery and control of scissors.  Most kids are ready with close supervision about 5 to 6 years old.  If the student has difficulty with the trigger, I scaffold hand-over-hand instruction, or have the student point the gun and I press the stick gently to help get the glue out.  Small, light gloves can minimize accidental burns.

Having a glue gun holder helps kids keep a tidy, safe workspace.

Low-temp glue can be smeared around by hand without 1st degree burns if you are careful.  Kids skin is much more sensitive.  Do not allow kids to touch the glue purposefully.

At about fifth/sixth grade, responsible makers are ready for the “big boy” high-temp glue guns.  High temp glues come in different formulations for different purposes and melt at a much higher temp, about 300 degrees.  This glue will cause 2nd degree burns and really sting someone.  Students must have good “shop-sense” to graduate to this level.  Luckily, very few projects truly require the holding power in a high-temp gun over a low-temp gun.

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Big Boy Glue Gun, via Wiki Commons

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