Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Self Portraits by Children

and Co-Founder of Context Method®

Beauty is the eye of the beholder… we've all heard that saying and never is it more true than when referencing a young child.

Confidence is in the eye of the beholder… think about that.
Any individual who achieves ongoing success, sees them self in a positive light.  Even when things go poorly, when there are challenges, the successful individual is able to retrieve, remember, and embrace a positive image of them self, both externally and internally.

I visit so many centers and work with so many children, that I sometimes make the mistake of thinking I was at one site, when in fact I was at another!  This images, which I at first said were from the Sunnyside Head Start center in Tucson, Arizona, are actually from the Homer Davis center in Tucson.  The children went through the process of creating self portraits.  It's part of an overall focus on building young children who can think critically and creatively and who see them self in the larger picture of life.  One by product is academic success. 

Here's one self portrait of a child at this center.  Anamaria draws two eyes, what looks like either a mouth or nose, and the outline of her face.  What comes to mind to me is:
  • Recognition of Shape
  • Recognition of Parts of the Face

A nice first step… good job Anamaria!

Next we have a self portrait by Sebastian.  I notice definition and details in this image and I also notice a subtle expression.  What do you notice?  I wonder what the child noticed.  What kinds of things can be taught via self portraits?  Some of the more basic things could include:
  • Fine motor skills
  • Recognition of shapes
  • Recognition of emotions
The child states : "I look good, I saw a hair and some ears and the mouth and the nose."

Next is a self portrait by Citlalli.  It's important to note that it's very helpful for certain kinds of foundational skills to be addressed prior to having children creating self portraits.  However, it's also important to note that's as adults we tend to over think the structure needed for children to be engaged in creating, and in doing so, learning on many levels.

Citlalli states, "My face, I have a crown, and eyes, the mouth and hair and feet and the clothes."

From my perspective as an early childhood educator, as an artist, and as someone who has worked with these very children over the past three years, I notice:

  • a depth of details being created
  • a sense of more emotion being present in the self portrait
  • the unseen arms and hands of this self portrait seem to be implied as being behind her back
  • the self portrait is signed by the artist!

When you ask an adult a question like "Who are you?" they typically respond with their name.  If you continue by saying, "Yes, I know you're name, but who are you?" some adults might be confused.  The younger the age of the person you ask these kinds of questions, the less strange it seems and usually the response comes more quickly.  The idea that our names are simply a place holder and that WE ARE MORE THAN OUR NAME, is an empowering idea.  For me, the process of creating self portraits is a great way to start this journey with young children.

Next is the image by Yazmiliana, who states, "I have eyes in my face, a mouth, hair and nose."  I notice more details, such as:

  • defined lips
  • defined eyes
  • a sense of openness implied by the shape of arms and body
  • a realistic version of hair

What would happen if you, as an adult guide, asked a child a questions like:

  • What else do you wear?
  • What do you look like when you're eating?
  • How do you feel when you're playing?  Can you draw it?

The questions are the answers which lead to life long learning.  Ask more questions and you'll be astounded by young learners.

The following self portrait is by Catheryne, who says "I draw me.  I have a mouth, a nose, eye lashes and long hair."  Along with the addition of eye lashes, and what appear to be shoes, this image makes me wonder:

  • "What's inside the stomach?"
  • "Is that the stomach?"
  • "You look very happy, and maybe even grateful, in this picture.  Why?"

The best frameworks, such as curriculums, in the world come groups of people who have experienced and studied "actual experiences."  I would love to hear your responses to my questions above and also your questions!  Feel free to post either on this blog or on Facebook group "Living Like a Child."

For the finale, we have the self portrait by Sissy, who says "I have two eyes in my face, a face, a happy face, a nose, one hair."  The idea of "one hair" is interesting.  Did she mean a single hair from each nostril?  Those certainly look like nose hairs.  Perhaps this comes from something she has seen.  Certainly, what Sissy shows us is a very clear interest in facial gesture, which is a huge part of social emotional growth.

I hope that I was able to convey at least a small part of the joy and depth of knowledge that can be achieved, not only through self portraits, but we trust our learners enough to ask more questions than the statements we make.  I'll leave you with the two word mantra of one of mentors, Mimi Chenfeld


Live Inspired
Co-Founder, Context Method®


  1. Enrique, I love this post! You can tell so much about a child from the way he or she sees himself. My favorite may be Citlalli's with the crown! That is what I always forget to draw in my pictures! :)
    Kindergarten: Holding Hands and Sticking Together

    1. Thanks! These children, all of them everywhere in the world, are so amazing and we can remember much of what we forget as adults in working with them. Have a great week!


We would love to hear from you! Please feel free to leave a comment below....

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...