The other day during our regular office lunches, my colleagues shared stories about their children’s first encounters with their own reflection in the mirror. I was fascinated by the different reactions.
At roughly 18 months, Elinor’s favourite game was to play peek-a-boo with her reflection. Every time she saw herself in the mirror she giggled with delight, whereas Hannah, at the same age, started to cry every time she saw herself in a mirror.
Putting myself in a little person’s shoes, it must certainly be a mind-blowing experience to slowly realise that there is a ‘you’ and an ‘I’. My colleague Hayley’s son Alfred was very suspicious of this phenomenon and thoroughly checked behind the mirror to ‘catch’ the little boy that regularly appeared and disappeared.
It might be surprising that self-awareness and awareness of others can be learned in a STEM context. When we look at STEM as a tool to explore and make sense of the world, it becomes clear that every aspect of life is linked to a STEM subject. In one of our recent Human Body workshops, we discussed children’s fascination with differences and similarities between themselves and others: ‘I have dark hair and my friend Tom has blond hair.’; ‘Leon gets scared during a thunderstorm, just like me.’; ‘Nina is not afraid of big dogs but I am terrified.’ Noticing that people feel, think and act differently is an important milestone in becoming considerate, empathic and self-confident individuals.
A wonderful way to enhance children’s awareness is to let them draw portraits of each other using a sturdy plastic surface such as sign holders.