Young children love to express themselves through art and creative projects. One art project that can be a particularly powerful tool for self-expression involves inviting children to create self-portraits. When children create representations of themselves, they have an opportunity to observe their own unique features and identities, and to notice the uniqueness of each of their peers. In this article, we share a few different ways to invite children to create self-portraits using a variety of different art materials.
The Power of a Self-Portrait
Self-portraits are a popular activity in Reggio classrooms and programs. When children create self-portraits, they have a chance to look at their skin tone, eye color, and all of the other features on their faces that make them special and unique! During these activities, educators facilitate supportive conversations among the children about each child’s portrait and about some of the similarities and differences between themselves and their peers. Because these conversations occur in a positive environment, they support each child’s identity formation and encourage social-emotional skills like perspective-taking and empathy.
Ann Pelo, author of The Language of Art: Inquiry-Based Studio Practices in Early Childhood Settings, adds, “When we invite children to create self-portraits, we offer them mirrors and encourage long, sustained study of their faces from this unfamiliar perspective…A self-portrait is an intimate, bold declaration of identity. In her self-portrait, a child offers herself as both subject and artist. When we look at her self-portrait, we see a child as she sees herself. The story of self-portrait work is a tender story to tell.”
Self-Portrait Activity Ideas
There are many different ways that you can do self-portraits. You might even try more than one with the children in your care, to see what new ideas and discoveries children make as they construct self-portraits with different materials. Another fun way to incorporate this activity into your curriculum is to do self-portraits at the beginning and the end of the year so that children are able to compare the two pictures and reflect on how much they’ve grown!
Self-Portraits on Canvases