Reggio-inspired Materials: Mirrors

Using mirrors at home - Reggio inspired activities [An Everyday Story]

Reggio: Using Mirrors

Recently I have been getting quite a few questions asking where I buy different materials. I love that you guys are so interested in incorporating more Reggio and Montessori inspired activities and principles at home.

So what I thought I might do is add a few extra pages up the top with some of the main materials we have and where I purchased or found them.

I thought I would start with mirrors, since this is the material I am asked about most. We have a range of different mirrors, some acrylic and some glass, some long ones and some very small mosaics ones. We use them as loose parts, as backgrounds, in art activities and other discovery-type activities.

So if you’ve been wondering about mirrors, or thinking about adding some to your play areas and activities, please have a read.

I hope you find it useful. Next up I’m thinking about baskets and trays. I bought ours locally (in Australia) so if you have a stockist for inexpensive wooden trays internationally I would love to hear it.

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Mirrors

Reggio activities with mirrors and loose parts - An Everyday Story

We have a range of mirrors which I use in provocations for Jack and Sarah. You can read more about using mirrors in this post: Mirrors & Buttons – Mirrors in a Reggio-inspired Home You can use mirrors as a … Continue reading

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

The Theory of Loose Parts

The Theory of Loose Parts - An Everyday Story‘In any environment, both the degree of inventiveness and creativity, and the possibility of discovery, are directly proportional to the number and kind of variables in it.’ ~ Simon Nicholson, Architect

In 1972, architect Simon Nicholson developed the Theory of Loose Parts; the idea that loose parts, materials which can be moved around, designed and redesigned, and tinkered with; create infinitely more opportunities for creative engagement than static materials and environments. Basically, the more materials there are the more people can interact.

Think about a gallery or a museum, which exhibits are you more drawn to: the paintings on blank walls or the interactive pieces? While the paintings are undoubtedly beautiful or invoking in some way, it is always the interactive exhibitions, the ones which I can engage with physically which draw my attention, inviting me to come and experiment.

As an architect, Nicholson was talking mostly about playground and school design and rethinking the static play equipment and environments, proposing instead one incorporating loose materials to engage children’s natural creativity and inventiveness.

Small world play scene using natural materials from An Everyday StoryMuch like Malaguzzi said, Nicholson also believed that creativity was not for the gifted few, that all children are born as creative beings, curious about the world and keen to experiment and discover new things.

‘Creativity is for the gifted few: the rest of us are compelled to live in environments constructed by the gifted few, listen to the gifted few’s music, use gifted few’s inventions and art, and read the poems, fantasies and plays by the gifted few.’

‘This is what our education and culture conditions us to believe, and this is a culturally induced and perpetuated lie.’ (The Theory of Loose Parts: An important principle for design methodology, 1972)

The Theory of Loose Parts - An Everyday StoryIt reminds me of Montessori and Malaguzzi’s image of the child. If you believe the child to be inquisitive and creative, competent and capable, intelligent and whole, then you will create environments which reflect this.

‘Children learn most readily and easily in a laboratory-type environment where they can experiment, enjoy and find out things for themselves.’

I think what Nicholson is saying here is, an environment which is rich in open-ended materials and real materials,  invokes children to experiment, engage, construct and invent; invites them to tinker, to manipulate and to play.

Reggio activities with mirrors and loose parts - An Everyday StoryNicholson encourages us to think; how much of this material/activity/toy have I invented (or been invented by another)? And how much can the child invent?

We need to tip the scales in favour of the child. Leave room for the child to invent, to re-invent, to deconstruct; to be creative.

This is the theory of loose parts.

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You can read Nicholson’s paper here. I particularly like how it reflects the time in which it was written (early 70’s) and how he predicts the nature of schools in the future:

The whole education system, from preschool to university, is on the verge of changing: for who needs these institutions in their present form?

I wonder if things have changed as much 40 years later as he had hoped…

This Week…21/52

This week…

This week I saw the first cheeky tree turn its leaves red. Summer is behind us now as the winds turn a little colder, the kids sleep in a little longer and I’m feeling the urge to start cooking wonderfully warming soup again.

painting with spoons - An Everyday Story glue paint collage - An Everyday Story learning shapes circle painting - An Everyday Story Messy painting - An Everyday Story playing with coloured salt on the light panel - An Everyday Story coloured salt on the light panel - An Everyday Story activities for toddlers - magnets - An Everyday Story nature table - An Everyday Story reggio art provocations with nature - An Everyday Story nature discovery tray - An Everyday Story working with mirrors - An Everyday Story rainbow - An Everyday Story

A snapshot of our week, our everyday story

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If you feel inspired to share a moment from your week please leave a comment with your link below or pop over to Instragram and use the hashtag #p52thisweek. I’m kate_aneverydaystory. Hope to see you there.

Project 52 This Week from An Everyday Story

This Week…18/52

Reggio Activities - Exploring design with mirrors and loose parts - An Everyday Story

This week… A snapshot of our week, our everyday story ….. If you feel inspired to share a moment from your week please leave a comment with your link below or pop over to Instragram and use the hashtag #p52thisweek. … Continue reading

Lost Treasures

My grandma, who passed last year, used to have this shed in the back of her yard. It was filled to the brim with all kinds of wonderful treasures. Whenever we would visit, my sisters and I would spend hours in there playing. You see, my grandma was never really one to get rid of things, you never know when you might need them again after all.

Grandma’s shed, and the time I spent in there with my sisters, is one of my fondest childhood memories.

My dad, quite sweetly, knows this and so has set about turning his shed into a wonderland for Jack (3.5yrs) and Sarah (19mths). The other day I came across a dusty box, in it was my grandfather’s old slide collection and his, quite amazingly, still operational ancient old slide viewer. What fun!

My grandfather was quite the avid photographer and these slides, most of them more than 30 years old are like tiny little windows into the past. I had never seen them before and some of them are magnificent. This was just as fascinating for me as it was for Jack.

I set them up on the light panel so the colours would pop through. Can you believe how vibrant they are still after all this time? They were beautiful. Jack was completely enamoured by them. You might remember I gave him my old camera and so he has been interested in photos for a little while now.  This was a nice way to extend that interest further.

Just as fascinating on the OHP. I do love seeing our playroom walls projected with light.

One thing that really interested me though, that I hadn’t considered, were the baby photos. There were a lot of slides with photos of me, my sisters, my parents and our cousins when we were babies. I tried to explain to Jack that that was me when I was a baby. But he was confused, ‘No Mummy. You’re big. That’s a baby.’ 

To help him understand I set up this simple inquiry shelf in the playroom. The book Guess the Baby is a lovely little story about a preschool teacher who asks his class to all bring in baby photos of themselves. The children then have to guess which photo belongs to which child.

There’s also some small laminated photos of Jack when he was a baby, old photo albums with photos of a much younger Mummy and Daddy, the slides and viewer as well as two small hand mirrors (one for Sarah) so Jack can compare how he looks now to when he was a baby.

This little area has been a real focal point for the past week or so. Lots of quiet discovery as I hear Jack flip through the photos, That’s me. I’m a baby. That’s Mummy…and Nanny… 

Sarah’s not particularly interested in the slides but she is fascinated by the photo cards. She has surprised me really at how well she is able to recognise each person in the photo.

I’m thinking now about how I can extend this interest even further… maybe some self portraits with some small vanity mirrors. I know dad has some of those in his shed. Might be time for another trip.

I love that these photos, these memories, have been found again. I love that they are being used and explored and cherished. I love that something so old, can capture the imagination of a small boy.

I guess Grandma was right, you never know when you might need them again.