Buttons and Mirrors: A Lovely Combination

Age: The twins are 26 months actual, 24 months adjusted.

Hello, friends! Today I thought I would share a simple exploration that I set out for the twins one day last week.  We have all been under the weather with a nasty cold, so I was trying to keep them busy while we were cooped up indoors.  Inspired by recent reading on the Reggio Emilia early learning philosophy, I decided to try incorporating mirrors into the activity to introduce another dimension to their exploration.  I first saw buttons and mirrors combined in play in this post on An Everyday Story; it also has a wonderful explanation of the use of mirrors in Reggio-inspired environments.

Exploring with Mirrors at Twodaloo (www.two-daloo.com)

The set-up was simple, although I did not get a chance to snap a photo before the twins got up from their nap.  I found two mirrors that I had in storage (they are glass but I was supervising them carefully; the twins were actually very gentle with them), a container of assorted buttons, and two wooden trays with small compartments.  Each child had a space with a mirror, a wooden tray, and a clear cup full of buttons to play with.

Exploring with Mirrors at Twodaloo (www.two-daloo.com)

Both tots immediately sat down beside a mirror and poured their cup of buttons onto its shiny surface.  The buttons are an eclectic mix so they spent lots of time picking through them, examining their different shapes and sizes and exclaiming over ones that caught their interest.  I tried to just sit back and watch, only commenting when they spoke directly to me, so I could take notes on their language production.  Sydney quickly discovered that her cup contained several matching pairs of buttons, which she promptly declared were “eeeyings” (earrings) and began modeling for me.

Exploring with Mirrors at Twodaloo (www.two-daloo.com)

After modeling a few pairs of earrings himself, Will decided his time was better spent sorting the buttons into the compartments in his tray.  When the twins began showing signs of tiring, I introduced a new element; a mound of natural play dough.  I didn’t add any color because I didn’t want to compete with the buttons, and my little ones sure didn’t seem to mind!

Exploring with Mirrors at Twodaloo (www.two-daloo.com)

Exploring with Mirrors at Twodaloo (www.two-daloo.com)

With this simple set of materials I was able to observe many things about my children through their play.  I saw lots of symbolic play- wearing the buttons as “earrings,” pretending to feed the buttons to their balls of play dough, feeding themselves with buttons shaped like tiny spoons, “sniffing” buttons shaped like flowers, etc.  I saw some rudimentary math skills that I hadn’t been aware of…both twins have been rote counting (sometimes correctly, sometimes not) to ten for a while now, but Sydney found a pair of little bows in her button pile (you can see them above if you look closely) and handed them to me, saying, “Two bows, Mommy!”  This tells me that not only is she learning the words for numbers, she is beginning to understand the concept of numbers, too!  I heard lots of great descriptive language, not only colors, which we have down pretty well, but words like “shiny” and “bumpy” and “tiny” all used spontaneously.  I also heard them use the word “same” in the correct context (talking about button pairs), which I had never heard either of them use expressively before.  You can learn a lot when you shut up and listen, eh?

Toward the end of their play session, I put the camera down to get down on the floor and play with them.  We settled into a rhythm where I would select a button, roll it into a ball of play dough, and then let the twins find the button inside the ball.  It was funny; even though it was a simple game, and more often than not they would see the button I was rolling into the ball (or even choose it for me), they were always so surprised and excited to find the “treasures.”  I love seeing their little faces light up with excitement!  Pinching the small buttons out of the play dough is a great fine motor workout, too.

I do feel that the mirror added a new depth or dimension to the twins’ play- it allowed them to see their buttons and play dough creations from new angles and engaged them longer than I think they normally would have played with this particular set of materials.  I definitely plan on continuing to incorporate mirrors into their play activities!


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  1. Great post and lovely ideas! I’m now following you on Google+ and I’m visiting from Mom’s Library at True Aim Education.

    Tina – American mom raising 4 kids in South Africa (my youngest just turned 5)

  2. Hi! Found you on Chicken Babies blog hop. This is a great idea and my 16 month old loves mirrors. Unfortunately she is still in the habit of putting things in her mouth, but I bet this would work with bigger buttons. Thanks for sharing! Now following via G+.

  3. Stephanie, you are obviously such a great mom! I love how you notice all the new and amazing ways that your twins are playing and learning. Love this actvity and love this post! :)

  4. Looks like a lot of fun! Thanks for sharing at Mom’s Library!

  5. what gorgeous mirrors. I have to try this with Goblin.

  6. Pat Morger says:

    I love your ideas and the fact that you spend so much time observing your children! I have a granddaughter that is just turning three and a grandson that is 18 mos. I have always done sensory activities with them and these are wonderful new ideas! Thank you! Pat