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21 Princes Street, Kensington, Whangarei, New Zealand

Phone: 09 437 2742

Email: mairtown@nka.org.nz

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Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Exploring portraits: Why do we have a face?

Recently some of our children engaged in a self-portrait activity. Set up on a table was a mirror, some paper and black pens. I invited them to carefully look at their face in the mirror at all their beautiful features. After having a good look they then started to draw what they could see.

All the children started by drawing a large circle for their face and then they moved onto the eyes, nose, ears, mouth and their hair. We talked about some of the finer details that they could see, like their eye brows and eye lashes, and they then proceeded to draw these. The children were very proud of their portraits, as was I. They concentrated really hard during this activity and thought a lot about all the details and how they could add these to their portrait.


It was really interesting observing the different features that stood out to the individual children. Lali was very focused on her freckles while Toby made sure that he drew all his teeth. Mila thought carefully about drawing her top knot, leaving it till last to do. Penni-May observed that she had lovely nostrils, Franchi was sure she needed to draw ‘kissy’ lips while Aurelia concentrated on her pig tails.

As the children drew their pictures I asked them the same question, ‘Why do we have a face?’
This provoked their thinking and the responses were delightful and real. They all had similar themes as to why we have a face.
“We need a face so we can eat with our sharp teeth. It can look at people because people need a face so we can use our eyes to see Joel and Puss Puss and Inca and Juno and me. We have lips to put lip balm and lipstick on.” (Franchi) 

“We have a face so we can talk and we talk to our Dad’s because we have to laugh at Dad. This bit (she touches the top of her head) is our brains. We have lips so we can kiss and we have a nose so we can sneeze.” (Mila)
“Otherwise we won’t see where we are going and we have ears so we can hear people. Our teeth chew food because then we will get healthy, but no junk food. That’s bad for us so our mouths shouldn’t eat that.” (Toby)
“We have a face so we can breathe and eat. When I look at my face I can see little spots, look I have one freckle! Our faces are all different. Mine has one freckle, but yours (Zair’s) has so many, they are all over your face!” (Lali)

“You use your face to look. If you don’t have eyes you might trip over. A nose smells. You have ears to listen. Everyone’s face is different.” (Penni-May)

“I like to look with my face at my bunk bed and at my clothes. I like to use my ears to listen to music, Elsa and Anna music. I also like to see sparkly shoes with my eyes. I like to eat cake with my mouth and teeth. My face does quite a lot of things.” (Aurelia)

“These self-portraits are windows into the children’s identities. Their details tell us how the children see themselves and what they choose to emphasis in their drawings about themselves.”
-Ann Pelo-

A few days later I invited the group of children to make a clay model of their self-portraits as an extension of this experience. I had a copy of their drawing to look at during this process. They all carefully moulded a ball of clay till it was the shape of a head. When it came to using the clay to make different features of their faces I offered ideas and role modelled different techniques. Some of the fiddly bits like lips and eye brows challenged them, however they kept on trying till they managed to get them how they wanted them to look. The children also thought a lot about what the side and back of their heads would look like. Using clay as an extension of this activity helped them transfer their thoughts and ideas around their self-portraits from 2D to 3D which is an interesting concept to contemplate.

“Clay work can be a language for exploring and communicating ideas. Like drawing, clay work enables children to make their ideas visible – but in three dimensions”
-Ursula Koble-

Now their wonderful works of art are on display in Kindergarten. They are of great interest to others and have already inspired other children to explore the concept of portrait drawing and clay modelling. The children are very proud of their work and so they should be.






Noho ora mai rā,

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