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Some of us walk by them and check ourselves out, some of us can’t stand looking at ourselves in them, but they are EVERYWHERE in our culture today…Mirrors. In one way or another, especially as a young child, we are fascinated with mirrors and the brilliance they bring to the world. They can make a room seem bigger or brighter. Mirrors can bend light and create beautiful prisms. They can keep your baby’s attention for HOURS. Mirrors can even make your baby smart!
Invest in a baby-safe acrylic mirror like this one that can provide entertainment and enrichment for you and your baby that never gets old. Can’t afford a baby-safe mirror? No problem! Use tinfoil, an adult mirror (both with adult supervision!) a spoon, a window in the evening, anything that causes a good reflection! Our little red mirror shown is similar to this pop up mirror for tummy time.
Babies can benefit from mirror exploration in these 5 different ways:
Mirrors a great way for your baby to explore.
Your baby will see things move in the mirror and try to touch them. They will start to see the “other baby” in the mirror and with more exploration and self-recognition skills they will learn that it is their reflection.
- Have a bin filled with silly hats and scarves that the baby can take out and explore with in front of the mirror
Mirrors help your baby develop self-awareness.
As babies look at themselves and their loved ones in the mirror, they start to build self-awareness of who they are and how they are different from others. Jacque Lacan, the French psychoanalyst calls the 6-18 month period the “Mirror Stage”, a period of self-recognition. You can play games with your child in the mirror to strengthen this skill;
- Point to baby and say baby’s name, point to adult and say adult’s name (Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa, Dog, Cat…)
- Point to body parts of baby and label them while they can watch you in the mirror (head, shoulders, knees, toes, ears, mouth…)
- Show baby pictures of themselves, saying their name. Then point to them in the mirror saying their name.
- Place sticker on baby’s nose. Does he reach for his reflection or for his own nose to remove or touch it? As your child develops, they will realize that the sticker is on their own nose: self-awareness!
Your baby can strengthen visual tracking skills using mirrors
Mirror play can build large and fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and visual tracking skills. As they watch themselves or you do different things in the mirror, they have many opportunities to watch from two perspectives.
- Blow bubbles in front of the mirror, baby can reach for them as you blow and look for bubbles in the reflection
- Shake and throw scarves to music in front of mirrors. Can your baby visually track where you are shaking a scarf?
- Spray water on the mirror and stick foam shapes to the mirror. Invite your child to pull them off and stick them back on.
Mirrors help your baby build vocabulary
When you make silly elaborate sounds into the mirror using big expressions, babies love to imitate you.
- Sing simple songs together in front of mirrors (and by simple…it could just be “Bababababoooboooboo”…seriously. Babies go ballistic for that stuff, and it’s really good practice for them.)
- Enunciate really well in front of the mirror…anyone in drama/theatre growing up? Yeah, all those weird vocal exercises you did, time to pull all those back out again.
You are reinforcing social and emotional development in your baby when you play with them using a mirror
Ultimately, babies love mirrors because they love human faces! From birth the thing your baby sees the most is faces…mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, cousins, aunts, uncles, those lovely, but snatchy old ladies from church. Watching your face helps your baby learn how express emotions themselves and gain access to skills needed in interpreting other’s emotions.
Mirror play can be enjoyed by baby him or herself, but it is most enjoyed with a loved one. This promotes trust and relationship building. Your baby is taking the first steps in acquiring social skills needed for life when playing with you in the mirror!
- Copy your baby’s faces and emotions. Then make some faces yourself, see if your baby tries to imitate them.
- Make an emotional face, and then label it for your baby. (sad, happy, shy, scared, joyful, thoughtful…)
- Laugh together!
My favorite thing about using mirrors in our play is that I get to see Max’s reactions to toys or my expressions. I get to watch him learning first hand as I have him sitting up against me and bring new experiences to his attention. Before he could sit up on his own, we used mirrors or window reflections in our play every day just so I could see his first time response to things he had never seen in his little lifetime.
What kind of activities do you do with your baby? How could a mirror enhance our baby’s learning with those activities? Please share some of your fun ideas with me!