Exploring Shapes and Patterns on a Mirror Box

Make a DIY mirror box for exploring with shapes and symmetrical pattern-making in a creative maths activity!Playing with shapes and symmetry on a mirror box

Welcome to the first in our new series about Exploring Reggio philosophies and ideas. This is a bi-weekly, on-going series being published alongside some creative friends and educators who write at the following sites; Learn with play at Home, An Everyday Story, Twodaloo and One Perfect Day. Read our introductory post to the series which explains the thinking behind what we are doing.

Exploring Reggio button

For our first focus we are looking at mirror play. Reggio classrooms often use mirrors on the walls and in other places in the environment, including on table tops and in conjunction with light tables and a whole range of open-ended, free materials. They add an extra dimension and increase the learning and exploratory opportunities with objects and faces placed near to them.

Exploring with loose parts in a mirror cube

For this activity I used 3 acrylic mirror tiles (see this Reggio inspired baby play post where I give more details about them) and turned them into a simple, DIY mirror box, using strong masking tape to stick them together along the edges.

Exploring shapes and symmetry on mirrors

I set this mirror box out alongside two boxes of our wonderful, open-ended wooden Spielgaben toys, and left them for the girls to explore and use in any way that they chose.

[Read our full review of these fantastic, creative play material here and find out how you can order your own, hand-made set. They are, without question, the best quality and designed educational toys I have come across in my many years of experience in teaching and playing with children!]

Playing with shapes and symmetrical patterns in the mirror

I loved watching their faces as they first placed the shapes onto the bottom mirror tile and saw them reflected not once but twice in the adjacent mirrors. They noticed that there were now more of them, and were keen to count out how many they could make appear each time. They tried moving them to different positions to see if that would make any difference . Counting the real objects was easy, but the challenge arose when they tried to count the reflections, and Cakie realised she had to resort to pointing to what she could see, instead of touching.

She noticed that some shapes could become others if placed right on the mirror line join, such as a semi-circle becoming a circle and small triangle turning into diamonds in the reflection!

Playing with shapes and patterns

We have already experimented with making symmetrical patterns [in a previous activity using natural materials] so the concept of mirror imaging was familiar to them. By using the mirror box with the extra mirrors, it increased the lines of symmetry and created  some unexpected patterns, so proved to be a great next-step activity to build on previous experience. This would be great for older children in a classroom or homeschool context too. I love the idea of using it for practising making multiplications in an extremely visual way!

It was exciting to be able to make 4-sided  shapes by using just one rod!Spielgaben materials on a mirror cube

Cakie wanted to make a face so used the different sized circles for eyes, the semi-circles for ears and mouth, triangle for the nose and medium length rods for hair. I love how she positioned it near the centre of the box to create 4 fantastic refections all around. They had a   great giggle about this and both made lots of faces for quite a while afterwards.Making faces on a mirror cube

They played with the Spielgaben resources for a long time in the afternoon and returned to it the next day, revisiting the same ideas and adding other objects that interested them. Most of their absorbed periods of play resulted in elaborate collections of pieces, laid next to each other or stacked in towers like blocks, which is one of their favourite ways to play.

Adding a vertical dimension increased the excitement and changed the play even more. It would be great to come back to this using the wooden cubes and spheres to see how the play develops further. I would also like to introduce some natural materials such as shells, pine cones and pebbles.

Playing with shapes on the mirror box

Cakie: 5.1

Pop: 3.6

Bean: 1.7

Please check out the lovely variety of mirror play prompts on my blog partners’ posts:

Painting on the Mirror, Making Play Dough Self Portraits, Painting a Starry Night on the Mirror, Exploring Symmetry with Blocks

Don’t forget to come back in two weeks time to see the next in our Exploring Reggio series!

[This post contains some references to resources which were sent to us for review]

24 comments to Exploring Shapes and Patterns on a Mirror Box