Mirrors & Buttons: A Reggio-inspired Activity for Sarah

One of the first things I noticed when we started going to our Reggio-inspired playgroup was the use of mirrors. Not just in the dress-up corner but in all corners of the room, on the tables with the activities, on the ceiling, behind plants and down low on the walls. They looked beautiful, but with all things Reggio, they had to have a purpose. Everything in the Reggio-inspired environment is carefully considered.

Then I started to notice the children interact with the mirrors. They move beyond admiring their own reflection in different funny wigs and start to see how different objects appear when reflected in the mirror. They start to use objects differently, they use the mirror as part of their play and their inquiry.

In the block corner, suddenly another side is visible, the children will look at what they are building not only from the front but also as it is reflected in the mirror, you can see them thinking as they consider this other dimension to their play.

When a mirror is offered as part of an art experience, say underneath a lump of clay, the children work differently than when the clay is placed on a tile. The mirror becomes a part of what they are creating, I have noticed Jack making joining towers as he called them, using small pieces of clay and then the reflection to make the two towers join.

Mirrors aren’t unique to Reggio though, you will often find a low mirror in Montessori infant environments, but I haven’t seen them used in the way that the Reggio Emilia Approach does; as another tool to encourage depth of inquiry. A simple pouring/transferring activity takes on a whole new dimension when you add a couple of acrylic mirrors. I mentioned recently that Sarah (15mths) has been very interested in mirrors and her reflection lately.  She is intrigued by how mirrors work; how she can manipulate things in the mirror, especially her own face.

I don’t set up activities for Sarah everyday, I like to encourage both her and Jack (3.5yrs) to create their own play, but when I do I usually like it to be more of an experience than an activity. Something which inspires her to play freely, to wonder and discover with no particular steps involved or intended outcome.

This activity was just some buttons, glass baby food jars, a small glass bowl and mirrors. Sarah watched as the buttons dropped onto the mirrors, tried to look underneath each button to get the one in the mirror, and watched her reflection as she scrunched her cheeks and poked out her tongue.

You could see her trying to figure things out as she reached for the reflection of the small glass bowl. ‘Why can’t I reach this?’ Then she picked up the bowl and the reflection disappeared, Sarah did this a few times, picking up the bowl and putting it back down again.

They’re always thinking aren’t they? Investigating, trying different things. Their drive is innate.

You can see why Reggio and Reggio-inspired preschools use mirrors so often, they truly do add a whole other depth of inquiry. I bought mine on sale from Education Experience, you can also get them from Discount School Supply if you’re in America.

Sarah tends to lean on them so I would recommend the acrylic mirrors but if you have older children you could use glass. I noticed in Wheel & Barrow the other day that they had some nice round glass mirrors which I may be tempted to get soon.

So, put a mirror underneath or behind the next activity you do, or low on the wall with some toys and see how your child responds. Try not to draw their attention to the mirror, just let them discover it and see what they do.

Then let me know how you go. There’s a speech bubble up the top if you wanted to share. Thanks xx

14 thoughts on “Mirrors & Buttons: A Reggio-inspired Activity for Sarah

  1. Kate, This is fantastic. I love learning more about the Reggio approach and I love this use of mirrors. What a fun (and easy) activity.

    • Thanks 😀 I really like with Reggio (similar to Montessori) that the activities often are very simple; open-ended and simple. Maybe adding one different thing, like the mirrors, to an activity that Sarah already enjoys. This is my understanding of a provocation, simple changes, maybe a new book, or some new paint colours, sometimes a whole activity, yes, but usually small things that encourage the child to look at things a little differently or investigate something a little further.

  2. We love mirrors here too! I am just having a hard time sourcing them for a reason I don’t understand!
    Reggio really is more and more appealing to me as time goes by. I think it offers the best of many worlds.

    • I think you’re right, the more I learn about Reggio the more I see that it has all the things I love about Montessori; follow the child, respect, independence, capability, child-sized materials/utensils, beauty, order that sort of thing, as well as a strong focus on discovery and learning through art, pretend play, music, nature….it really appeals to me too.

    • This was one of the first mirror activities I noticed at our playgroup. It’s so amazing to see how differently the children work when there is a mirror underneath, or a tile, or fabric. There really is a lot of thought that goes into extending an activity and thinking of familiar materials in different ways. It’s very inspiring.

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  5. Hi, I found your blog yesterday and love it! My girl is couple months younger then yours so I can find lots of inspirations for her.
    I love the mirrors (already ordered one!) Im just worried to give my 13 months old such a small objects like buttons. she still puts everything into her month. What’s your experience with playing with small objects? Do you find it safe?
    All the best

    • Sarah still puts everything in her mouth, that is how she explores a lot of things. I actually think this kind of sensory exploration is very important. She has never choked on anything. Of course I am with her when she plays with small things like buttons or marbles. However a gentle reminder to take the item back out again and she pops it out. I wouldn’t leave these materials out for free exploration, but when I am with her, I am more than happy to have her explore most things.

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