What’s an inexpensive and surefire way to support your little one’s development? Use mirrors! A mirror is a “toy” she’ll love from the get-go, and one that will grow with her and nurture that growth every step of the way.
Why Babies Love Mirrors
One of the reasons babies love mirrors is because they love faces. That’s why your infant gazes at you and enjoys books like this one, featuring (you guessed it) faces.
Your baby enjoys interacting with the “other baby” she sees in the mirror. She has no idea that the baby looking back at her is actually a reflection of herself. She may carry on babbling, talking, and laughing with this mystery child. Then, when she’s about 20 months old, it begins to dawn on her on that the reflection in the mirror belongs to her.
Mirrors are also fun because the light, shadows, and movement reflected are captivating when you’re infinitely curious about the world.
How Mirrors Support Development
Mirrors spark curiosity and motivate little ones to learn and practice skills. Let’s take a look at several areas of development where mirrors can play a supporting role:
During tummy time, a mirror can motivate your baby to lift her head, keep it up, and look around. For babies who cry in protest every time they’re placed belly-down, propping a safe mirror in front of her (more on mirror safety below) may catch and hold her interest for tear-free tummy time.
Mirrors support visual tracking as your baby watches the reflections of moving things. It could be her own body movements, the family pet walking through the room, or you sitting beside her playing mirror games.
Fine Motor Skills
Mirrors inspire babies to reach, pat, and point. When they’re able to grasp objects, playing with a hand-held mirror supports hand and finger fine-motor skills as they hold and move the mirror to capture different views of their surroundings.
All that reaching, patting, and pointing also strengthens your baby’s hand-eye coordination.
Gross Motor Movement
Mirrors can encourage babies to roll, sit up, crawl, stand, etc. simply because they want to get closer to the reflection.
Mirrors tend to catch and hold your baby’s gaze. The longer she focuses on something, the more her attention span grows.
Sense of Self
As we mentioned, around age 20 months it will dawn on your little one that the child looking back at her in the mirror is actually herself. To test this out, try the trick researchers use: Dab something on her face (like child-safe paint) and see how she reacts. If she touches the mirror, she thinks her reflection is another baby; if she touches her own face she realizes the reflection is her own.
Language & Emotional Skills
Mirrors are a creative way to use imitation to teach vocabulary, gestures, and emotional concepts.
How to Choose Safe Mirrors for Your Child
For solo play, choose plastic mirrors with fabric-covered edges. For younger infants, you can prop these up in front of them during tummy time, and older babies can pick them up and move them around.
Large mirrors at floor level (or next to the changing table) are great; just be sure they’re securely attached to the wall.
When purchasing mirrors for the crib or car, be sure they’re designed for the purpose and can be securely attached.
Lastly, to play supervised mirror games with your child, use any mirror that fits both reflections and prop it anywhere that’s convenient, and store it out of reach when not in use.