Exploring Paint on a Mirror

Oct 10, 2013

Today's activity is part on an ongoing series, Exploring Reggio with The Imagination Tree, An Everyday StoryOne Perfect Day and Twodaloo

Through observing my children in their play habits and using notes from Maddie's preschool as confirmation, I'm well aware that they both love sensory activities and painting

Using this weeks theme of mirror play, I set up a simple Invitation to Play with very limited materials. This time I wanted to see what they would make of just these materials and whether they would engage with their reflections. I thought perhaps we might work on some oral language development for my toddler, focused around face and body parts, but as it turned out, the kids had different ideas to what this activity would be about. You can see how it panned out (and all the fabulous learning) below.

I set up my invitation to play using a large mirror (that usually hangs in our hall) and some easy wash finger-paints (we used these ones). I tried to position the mirror where they would have some lovely natural light and some varied reflections.

The children dove right in without any explanation necessary. I loved watching my toddler (22 months) observing what his older sister (4 years) was doing and seeing the peer learning taking place.

I thought the children would be more interested in their reflections but it started off all about the sensory experience of the paint and applying it to the cool, smooth surface. 

The sensory experience was extended to feet as well and even a little toe painting.

"Pitter-patter, pitter-patter." There was a lot of language used throughout the activity to describe the motions that the children were experiencing. This was fabulous for oral language development and contextual understanding. 

When the mirror became to murky they asked for paper towelling and cleaned it themselves.

After painting with their hands for quite some time, Maddie asked for a paintbrush (and of course her younger brother insisted upon one as well), which I was more than happy to provide them with.

From there came a different painting experience as the brush strokes on the mirror were different. They also became interested in mixing the paints and delighted that the yellow and blue became green.

It wasn't long before they were back finger-painting, but this time, because they started with the paint already on the mirror, it meant that removing the paint made a picture or pattern instead of applying the paint.

This caused Maddie to remember when we'd had a try monoprinting using cardboard combs and requested some paper that she could print her image on. (And of course, whatever his older sister gets, he wants as well)

As we'd never tried it this way, I was delighted that she used the previous knowledge she had learnt, taken it and applied it in this situation. She was so excited seeing the first print work!

And they didn't stop at just one print.

After that, Maddie declared she was finished so Noah enjoyed some quiet time painting away and using up all the remaining paint on his own.

When he'd had enough, we cleaned up.


This time the experience didn't end up including what I thought it might, however that doesn't mean that similar experiences in the future, won't. My children both really enjoyed this activity and got so much out of it. It's one that we will definitely repeat.

Perhaps next time I will have the mirror set out the same but without any paints so that engaging with it and their reflections is all they have? From there I could add back in some finger paints or even some face paints.

I will definitely continue to provide them with more sensory experiences and chances to be creative. This seems to be an area that they both work well together with and get a lot of enjoyment and learning through.

I know that my children both love being outdoors and now that we are in Spring here in Melbourne we will get to be outside a lot more often. Perhaps next time I can combine their interests and take this experience outside. They'd love that!

Have your children painted on mirrors before?

Join us in a fortnight for another Exploring Reggio post and don't forget to check out all the other great activities from our co-hosts.

Happy playing,
Debs :)

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  1. You are one brave mama painting inside against the couch! But I love that you give your children these wonderful experiences to just be creative in their own way. Inspiring. xo

    1. Thanks Emma! I'm brave but not silly, haha, that paint has been well tested so that I know for sure that if any ended up on the couch or wall, it would come off nice and easily! If this was my children's first experience with paints etc, there's not a chance I could have set it up like that, but as they are well experienced with using paints, I can allow more trust and continue to extend upon their experiences. I do also stay close by so that we can clean as we go and to ensure things don't get completely out of control. :) x

  2. What a lovely idea... and oh how I love that last image for your boy cleaning the mirror. To me that is what play is all about... not just the cool art you made, but the entire process!

    1. I agree Kate. The experience and the learning doesn't start and stop with the beginning and end of actually making something and especially when they are little, the packing up is very much enjoyed! :)

  3. Bah, all of you have been doing mirrors post lately and I'm loving them but every time I go to the shops I can find one right. They are all ways too small. Now I'll add this to the list and go to a different show tomorrow. Painting on a mirror is really cool!

  4. I was just saying to Mr Banya yesterday that lots of mirrors are on my Christmas Wish list for the kids. He was sceptical - so I'll show him this post tonight so he can see what I mean!

  5. Excellent activity, Debs!

  6. what a cute idea! i'm totally trying this with my 2.5 year old! :)

  7. I think they didn't engage with their reflections because at this age they are so focused on the sensory pleasure of paint, the reflections went unnoticed.And who knows if they realized it wa them. When y youngest was 3 he came running out of his sisters room to tell that there was another shuie (his name) in the room there holding a ball just like him

  8. These are such sweet pictures of what I know would have been a meaningful and engaging experience for them! Thank you for sharing :)

  9. How wonderful. I am yet to get a mirror that Possum can paint on but I am really excited to try this approach. Great reflections too.

  10. So fun to explore paint on different surfaces. We've not painted on a mirror, but we have painted on glass, which was lots of fun too :-) great idea!

  11. What a wonderful post, Debs! And how cool that the activity turned into monoprinting- I have been wanting to try that!

  12. I love all the different ideas Maddie came up with and that she relied on her previous experiences and knowledge to extend this activity. I was relieved to see the final photo with the couch completely paint free :) Although I'm sure the paint must have been easy to remove it it posed any problem at all. Elise @ Creative Play Central

  13. This is all my Cammy has been doing during the past few weeks.

    It started when she was drawing with window markers on the shower screen while I was in the shower. She used baby wipes to create a print (I didn't have the heart to tell her not to waste the wipes- hehe!)

    Now she's writing on every surface- including mirrors.

    It really is a fantastic experience. Great to see your kids enjoying this side by side.

  14. Such a cool idea
    Looks like a must do paint exploration

  15. I am a toddler teacher and our project has been mirrors. We are also studying triangles and the color orange. We have a long framed mirror that we taped to a table. with masking tape we made zig zag lines on the mirror which made triangles, then we squirted yellow tempera paint on the mirror and gave them some paint brushes. They made different designs with the brushes, using their fingers and hands too. We then squirted some red paint onto the yellow and they discovered that red and yellow make orange! We let the paint dry well and then let them pull off the masking tape! Triangles! We have moved onto circles but still have the mirror with the triangle negative space. Soon we will let the children clean the mirror and go on to our circle project...Sticking different sizes of adhesive backed circles on the mirror for the to paint over..

  16. Wow! Such a great idea to let the kids enjoy art and develop the inner artistry with themselves. Also, this is a one good way letting them explore more things and kinda like a way to bond and celebrate with them. Thanks for such a cool idea! Will make sure to count it in to my fun activities' lists to do for children. Keep it going! Best, Bell Davis

  17. Lovely exploration Debs. They both look like they enjoyed it so much. R would love this.

  18. That's awesome! We did the same thing a couple of years ago, here: http://www.rockabyebutterfly.com/2011/10/painting-painting-bath.html I like how you guys made prints of your mirror paintings! So cool!

  19. Absolutely love this. I'm with Penny and need to find a large affordable mirror! :) Stat!
    I think I need a trip to Ikea...even the op shops are expensive!!
    Love this idea though and your images are divine! Playing side by side is wonderful - my girls are just getting better and better at this lately :)

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  30. Debs, what a great message! And how awesome that the practise evolved into monoprinting—something I've always wanted to do!

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