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