Learn how to create a self portrait collage with simple recycle bin materials. A fun and educational activity for kids that helps them explore self identity.
Hello, Joanna Walker here from The Blue Barn. Today I’m sharing a really easy and fun way to create collage self portraits that I do with both my own children and the children that I teach.
Why Make Self Portrait Collages?
Self portraits are a great way to enable children to begin to understand self-identity. Young children love to look at themselves in the mirror as their brains begin to realize that the reflection is ‘me’.
As they get older, children learn words such as eyes, nose, and ears. Self portraits present an early opportunity to introduce differences and diversity in a very simple and positive manner. This is an important discussion that shows we are all different, yet the same.
While doing this project, you can encourage children to study their eyes, noses, mouths and other facial features and talk about things like: “We both have eyes but yours are brown and mine are blue.” Or “look we both have noses but yours is a different shape than mine–but we both can smell through our noses.”
Self portraits change over time too. As children grow, they become more aware of how they appear to other people and self portraits can become an introspective way of showing how they see themselves to others.
A self portrait also allows teachers and parents to engage in conversations about diversity. By sharing our values and different appearances, we can lead the conversation to develop respect for each other’s differences.
We created these self portraits using nothing other than recycled packaging. I limited the materials to brown cardboard so the children had to use the different textures of the cardboard to create the features on their faces rather than being swayed by colors..
How to Make a Recycled Self Portrait Collage
- Cardboard packaging and tubes, etc.
- Brown paper bag
1. Draw Oval
First set up the materials and a mirror nearby.
Begin by drawing an oval face shape on a piece of brown paper or a paper bag. If the child is young, you may want to help them draw this shape. If you’d like an oval template you can use mine.
2. Cut Out Face Shapes
Encourage your child to look at themselves in the mirror.
- What do they see?
- And what shapes can they see in their faces?
- What shapes are their eyes and where are they located on the face?
Now encourage them to create a face out of cardboard. Older children can cut out some of their own facial shapes, while younger children may want to have some pre-cut shapes that they can glue on. For younger children, help them with placement: Where are your eyes? Ears? Mouth? What shape is your hair? Your nose?
Ideas for Cutting Portrait Pieces
Demonstrate a few different ways to cut and work with the various pieces of recycling to create different shapes for your face.
Cut out circles, triangles or lip shapes.
Create eye shapes from cardboard tubes.
Make curls and swirls by wrapping thin strips of paper around a pen.
Or maybe make eyelashes using a toilet tube.
Lay out pieces for the self portrait collage before glueing them onto the paper.
3. Glue collage pieces on face
Once the pieces are cut out, the children are ready to add the facial features to the oval on the brown paper bag.
If you try this with your child, I’d love to hear how your self portraits turn out!
About the Author
Joanna Walker is the creator behind The Blue Barn which offers art experiences for children, and she teaches preschool art classes part-time. She’s a mom to four children ages 13, 11, 9 & 7.
If you’d like to see more ideas from Joanna, you can check out her blog, Blue Barn Living. You can also follow her on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Her favorite place to hang out online is Instagram for the positive, supportive community of each other’s creativity– and there is SO much inspiration to be found.
3 More Self Portrait Collage Ideas
- Self Portrait Art with Little Kids (use a photo)
- 3D Cardboard Portraits (adding drawing & painting)
- Full scale self portraits (a body tracing activity for kids)
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