How do we support children with their sense of identity? Preschool may seem too young to bring up such a big lifelong journey, however around three, children start to recognize their individual identity, as well as begin their journey navigating through social and group dynamics. It is an ideal time in their lives to help them feel safe, build up their self-esteem, and help them feel like they belong and are welcomed into a group. Equally important is to try and teach them how to support and show compassion to their peers. As I said it is a lifelong journey, but in addition to what families do at home, preschool is an ideal environment to help these little ones establish a positive sense of self.
Some of the ways we address the concept of identity is through drawing self portraits. It is a fun way to teach the anatomy of the face as well. I sit with the children and talk about the features of the face, and how each face is unique and special. We also talk about how the face shows different feelings and emotions, and before drawing the children spend some time looking at their faces and exploring the different expressions they can make; funny, silly and excited, sad, and angry. It is hysterical watching them interact with their image in the mirror.
Exploring the boundaries of reflection
I love seeing all their different expressions.
After some time getting to know their faces in the mirror, the children set to work drawing their portraits.
It is impressive to see their drawings after we spent time talking about what features are on the face and where they are located. Their drawings all of a sudden have features that may not have been there before, such as eyelashes, cheeks, teeth, eyebrows, different shaped noses. Watching them dialog through their drawings what they are noticing is an incredible part of this portrait activity.
Later their portraits were displayed with their photographs.
Here are some of the comments made by the children when they were asked what they liked about their drawings and themselves:
C.F: "I love my hair and eyes. I love the inside of my eyes, the little black circles."
F.M.: "I love how my forehead is made because my skin is really beautiful."
KC: "I love my belly button and my eyes because I love drawing them"
L.S: "That is a crazy mouth I made. It's paint on my face. I also love my eyes and my hair and the dot of glue on my face."
R.D: "I like my eyeballs and would like to take them out and put them back in and eat them. I like my hair and my nose also."
M.A: "I love my sister and being a sister, oh and my coat and my hat and gloves."
S.G: "I love building castles and my eyes, I wanted to draw myself funny."
P.B"I love my hair."
R.F. " I like my hair too, and my legs."
E.K: "I love drawing and my picture."
Z.M: I like my laugh and I like the Spring."
N.R: " I love playing with my babies and my cars and I love my heart."
R.H:" I like my legs, my hair, and eyes and my chest and arms. I like my drawing."
V.C."I love mommy."
J.P."I drew my picture for mama."
J.G: " I love me."
G.G. "That was my mommy, G.G. and daddy. That is mommy with a baby in her belly."
R.H. "It's me and I like my necklace and wiggly tooth."
Z.Y. "I like me."
E.B.N " I like my teeth
C.J "I love that I drew a flower in my hair."
Part of their identity exploration was also looking at how much they have grown. Their baby pictures are displayed in the hallway and they first had to guess which baby picture was their's. This was fun as well as trying to guess which baby picture was a friend's picture.
They are so little, yet they have changed so much in 3, 4, and 5 years. I love hearing them talk about themselves as babies, because they approach the topic like they are adults talking about their own babies. We also spent some time talking about what they can do now and what is different about them from when they were a baby. They then sat down and did a portrait of themselves as a baby. It was interesting to see how many of the little details that they put in their self-portraits were missing when they drew themselves as babies.
E.K" This is me as a baby and it's cool." NR: "I love my picture of me as a baby and I love my baby brother."
R.F" I was only a little tall, 6 I think."
S.G" I like TSO."
P.B: I like the hair, the feet and toes, and the mouth, and the eyes, and the mouth."
Here are some thoughts that the children shared about their baby pictures and how they have grown and changed:
KC: "I was little, now I'm big cause I eat healthy food and exercise. I can run now because babies cannot walk."
L.S: "I got bigger and bigger and now I have 20 teeth. I got a little bigger, and a little bigger, and a little bigger, and then I got this big and now I'm done."
RD: "I was tiny little and now I am four, and I'm going to get real big."
E.B.N "I growed up and have curly hair now."
C.J: "I grew up and my clothes were small when I was a baby."
G.G. " I was a baby in April and turned curly hair in mommy's tummy."
R.H " I am not a baby anymore because I have hair now."
C.F: " I changed in the picture because I wore a bib, but then I grew some teeth and little tiny fur, and long hair and some nails."
T.M. "I was skinny when I was a baby and now I am big and am 4 years old. My teeth were up in my mouth now they are down in my mouth."
F.M" My eyes were like shut and my smile was straight. I got this big and my head is tall and then I grow up. I'm growing like fast, fast and that's it!"
Z.Y: " I use to climb up stairs when I was a baby, but when I growed up, now I can just walk up them."
F.F: "Since I was a baby I think my hair has grown and I think I'm very creative and play legos and my hands are very awesome!"
R.G-H:"I grew so I am big now and talk. I don't cry and not sleep like when I was a baby because I am big now."
A.C."Milk and orange juice and fruit help me grow. I'm a big girl now, not a baby anymore so I don't cry anymore like a baby."
S.S" When I was a baby I looked SO good, but now that I am big I look So cute. I have big hair and a big mouth, but I had a little mouth when I was a baby. I had flowers in my hair and it looked awesome!"
K.M: " I'm a big girl now and play with my brother a lot."
K.K: "I'm big. When I was a baby I looked like daddy because I didn't have hair. I'm bigger now and can talk, see."
Z.M " I have hair now and I can sit and walk."
J.P."My hands are different now and they can play."
S.G.:"Now that I am big and not a baby anymore I can play and paint and get snacks!"
J.G:"Mama hold me when I was a baby."
We also spent some time doing figure drawings. Again we talked about the anatomy of the body.
I sometimes forget that these little ones don't always know all the names for body parts, such as hips, waist, elbows, ankles, and so it is fun asking them what they know and taking time to tell them the correct names. My favorite was "kneel" for knee.
I felt like I was in one of my past figure drawing classes, the children were so focused on the person they were drawing, and our models were very serious about their job.
As one would imagine, their drawings were simple gesture and stick drawings, and were perfect for capturing the poses and their friends.
Of course it was also a fun day of standing and flying on the tables!