Using light and mirrors to enhance teaching and learning by Linda Thornton
9th February 2017
Investigating light and using mirrors are wonderful ways for children to make connections in their thinking and understanding across all areas of learning. Children can explore these resources as quiet solitary activities or enjoy the excitement of a shared experience with others.
As they explore the equipment and resources children will develop a wide range of skills which are important for active learning to take place:
- Communication skills of speaking, listening, discussing and recording.
- Social skills of cooperation, negotiation, following instructions, behaving safely and leadership.
- Practical skills including observation, using all the senses, manual dexterity, fine motor control and hand eye coordination.
- Reasoning and thinking skills including questioning, speculating, inferring, problem solving, recognising similarities and differences and reflecting.
A light box or a Mirror Exploratory will provide a creative learning environment where the children can arrange and sort materials, discover their properties and look carefully at their detail. By using mirrored equipment children will develop mathematical understanding of large numbers, position, repeating patterns, symmetry and counting.
Sheets of acetate and clear plastic can be drawn and written on and illuminated from below; coloured translucent plastics can be overlapped and colour mixing experienced. Small world play scenes can be created on light boxes or on mirrored equipment, encouraging children to use open-ended materials in their imaginary play. Including a light box or panel in your setting will widen the opportunities you provide for the children to broaden and use their ICT capabilities.
Be aware of health and safety considerations
Introducing more unusual pieces of equipment into a setting means that practitioners need to be fully aware of any health and safety considerations.
Light boxes should be CE marked to comply with IE safety standards. It is not recommended to make light boxes unless they can be submitted to the same external rigorous safety checks that are required for electrical goods used in education establishments. All electrical equipment should undergo an annual portable appliance test (PAT) carried out by a qualified electrician. Liquids should not be used on the surface of light boxes and panels unless they are in tightly sealed containers. For safety reasons, leads from equipment should be secured to the floor and where possible placed adjacent to the power source to avoid trailing leads.
In order to stay within health and safety guidelines it is recommended that acrylic safety mirrors should be used in early years settings. Any wall mounted mirrors should be installed following the manufacturer’s safety instructions.
Where to buy
For more than fifteen years Reflections on Learning has pioneered the development of a wide range of resources and equipment to help early years settings extend young children’s learning and development through using light and reflection.
You can find a wide range of high quality light boxes, light panels, mirrors and mirrored equipment and accompanying resources including dark dens here.
Reflections on Learning also have a free Light Panel Users Guide written by Linda Thornton which has 150 ideas for using a light panel and can be downloaded free of charge here.
Book your tickets to Linda’s seminar on Saturday 4th March about the Reggio Emilia approach, looking at the key drivers of its philosophy – the image of the child, creativity, the importance of space, time and relationships and the value of documenting children’s learning.