Mirror, Mirror, on the wall

Have you been enjoying sensory play at LEAP? Sensory play is a major component of LEAP, and we love incorporating it wherever possible. From smooth flax seed in the sensory bin to jingle bells at music, toddlers can use their senses to explore and play. While little ones are rapidly developing all five senses, sight is one of the first ways that babies and toddlers interpret the world around them. Mirror play and light play are great ways to engage the sense of sight!

We use light in various ways at LEAP. While we’re at Children’s Zoo, we have the added benefit of natural light flooding the building. We also use light tables at the loose parts station. Paired with scarves and gems, the light tables offer LEAPers a chance to experience light up close and safely. Light play helps toddlers develop an understanding of colors and translucence, from bright to pale and see-through to opaque.


Mirrors are often added to the imaginative play area (who doesn’t want to see how they look with butterfly wings?). Mirrors provide babies and toddlers with the opportunity to develop self-recognition. Being able to recognize oneself is not only validating, it also leads to body awareness and spatial awareness – two important life skills! You can see these skills in action at the sensory bin where little elbows are constantly jostling for space.

Mirrors also lend well to conversations about emotions and expression. Mirrors provide a social context for developing emotions. How do you know when another person is feeling sad? Placing a mirror in a “timeout” or “cool-down” area can help toddlers connect their feelings of frustration to the tears and red cheeks that they’ll see in the reflection. Sharing mirror time and looking at expressions together can also help toddlers make connections between emotions and response.

Want to spruce up your mirror and light play at home? Try some of these ideas!

  • Put a mirror in your outdoor play area – Seeing oneself in a mirror surrounded by nature is a wonderful way to build connections with the natural world. Plus, there’s an added benefit of light play when sunlight bounces off the mirror!

  • Use window markers on your windows – They’re washable, we promise! Designing on a window creates a beautiful display of colors and translucence. Or use the markers on your mirror – draw silly masks, frames, or scenery to add to your play!

  • Try glow-in-the-dark paint – Glowing fluorescent paint is an additional step in light play, plus it can help little ones feel more comfortable in the dark. Not sure where to start? Add 1 tsp. of vinegar, some fluorescent paint, and dried pasta into a Ziploc bag. Shake, shake, shake! Let it dry. Find a dark room, then thread the glow-in-the-dark pasta onto some yarn!

  • Add handheld mirrors to your child’s play space – We recently added small handheld mirrors to LEAP and we love them! Toddlers can carry them from place to place and use the mirrors to expand their exploration.

  • Paint on mirrors - We have flat, paper-sized mirrors that we add to LEAP stations. These mirrors are a great substitute for painting on paper! Toddlers can watch themselves create a masterpiece, and the paint wipes away easily.

Have you tried mirror or light play recently? We’d love to hear about it!