Making Faces: Playdough Self Portraits

Exploring Reggio Series

This post is part of the Exploring Reggio series with:

The Imagination Tree | Learn with Play at Home | One Perfect Day | Twodaloo


Exploring Reggio - Making faces - An Everyday Story

This week we are sharing some ideas for using a mirror to enhance your child’s play.

We use mirrors a lot, everyday even. You’ve probably seen activities using mirrors around a fair bit recently. I think it is really great that more and more children are being offered the opportunity to play with and explore mirrors. Something so simple, so inexpensive and so easy to come by really can change an activity entirely, taking our children’s play in new directions, sparking new levels of creativity and provoking new questions and curiosities.

Exploring Reggio - Making faces with playdough and loose materials - An Everyday Story

Exploring Reggio - wood chips - An Everyday StoryTake some blocks and place them on the table. Now place a long mirror behind those blocks and see how that one mirror changes the child’s play. When I first added a mirror to our block area I noticed a dramatic change in how Jack and Sarah played with the blocks. They watched themselves build, considered what their buildings looked like from all directions and added blocks to the front as well as the back of their buildings.

When you’re setting out an observational art exploration, pop a mirror underneath the subject to reflect light back onto the subject as well as draw the child’s attention to the underside of the subject.

Or just like with the blocks, place a mirror up against the wall behind a small world scene. The mirror will brighten the space and creates a sense of openness, as the blank wall has now been replaced by the small world being reflected back to the child.

Mirrors are common place in Reggio and Reggio-inspired classrooms. And too in Reggio-inspired homes like ours. The Reggio Emilia Approach places enormous value on the role of the environment for creating an inviting, engaging, beautiful, comfortable place where children feel secure and where their insatiable innate curiosities are nurtured and encouraged.

Exploring Reggio - Loose parts - An Everyday Story For this exploration I gathered together some interestingly textured materials along with some natural playdough as a sensory base. The wooden trays came from a thrift shop but you can use any tray which allows the child to comfortable see all the materials available to them.

I often use kitchen tiles, in this case the tile is a nice smooth work surface for the playdough. Now you’re ready.

I had noticed that when Jack is drawing or creating in some way, his faces often have very little details; usually eyes, sometimes a mouth, rarely a nose and never ears, eyebrows or eyelashes. I thought this exploration might encourage him to think about the features on his own face and recreate them using the playdough and the gathered materials.

Exploring Reggio - Playdough faces - An Everyday Story Exploring Reggio - Playdough and loose parts Exploring Reggio - Reggio inspired activities for toddlers - An Everyday StoryJack and Sarah used the materials in their own way, making their own discoveries and creating their own designs. It was interesting watching Sarah as she piled beads and woodchips and flowers onto her playdough, talking all the while about eyes, and mouths and noses.

Here’s a short video of Jack and Sarah as they played. You can see how Sarah interacts with the mirror, moving her face around and scrunching up her nose. You can also hear her talking about different facial features as she creates.

We’ll have another Exploring Reggio post in a fortnight. In the meantime, why not pop over to my co-hosts and see how they used mirrors to enhance their child’s play.


12 comments on “Making Faces: Playdough Self Portraits”

    • Kate

      Thanks Courtney 🙂 Yes I remember reading about Silas’ interest in faces. That was a wonderful ongoing exploration that you did together.

  1. juliemeseha

    Kate, another beautiful example of why I love to read and hear and hopefully implement a reggio-inspired home. I would like to know if you ask the children a question before they sit down at the table/provocation. For example do you just lay out all the materials and mirror and then wait for them to come up to the table with out saying anything. Or do you say something to the children along the lines of “can you make a face?”…what do you do/suggest?

  2. Stephanie @ Twodaloo

    What a beautiful invitation! And what a treat to be able to watch your little ones in action- Sarah reminds me so much of my twins. I need to start incorporating more videos in my posts!

  3. Lydia Fos

    Sara is so cute. My 3 year old daughter almost always includes round colored cheeks in her face drawings. Don’t know what drew her attention to it but it’s pretty cute. I also noticed that we often talk only about the basic features of our faces – eyes, nose, ear, mouth – and i started making it a game to ask her the less commonly talked about parts like chin, forhead, eyelashes, ear lopes, wrinkles…she is getting new vocabulary ane at the same time wonders what these funny new parts are.

    • Kate

      Thanks Debs. I raided mum’s bead collection. She’s quite the hoarder collector 🙂

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