Creation Apps with 3-year olds

It’s the beginning of school and Early Years teachers (EY1) are busy establishing routines and habits to help children adjust to being at school for the first time. We are a PYP school that focuses on applying a Reggio-Emilia approach to learning for 3-5 year olds. There are many creative ways teachers engage students in play-based learning to help them explore their environment and develop mini-theses. One question that continues to arise with the younger years is:

Where does technology fit in?

Here is one way we used technology to support a unit on Who We Are:


Students are exploring Who We Are and the EY1 teachers have developed hands-on exploration activities for students to understand their physical features. Natural materials such as yarn, feathers, gem stones as well as laminated cut outs of their own features (hair, eyes, lips etc) are used for exploration and play with the physical features of their faces.




Students also had opportunities to draw themselves using a mirror. The process is neatly documented in the classroom of the various activities they did to explore their faces.

How can technology enhance this exploration?

Since the children in Early Years are new to school, introducing iPads needs to be gradual while also being mindful of research surrounding young children and screen-based technology. The EY1 team and I met to discuss a way to integrate the new shared iPads (6 iPads shared between 3 teachers). We decided to trial the creation app Drawing Pad. This app would allow us to extend the children’s exploration of their physical features through the use of tracing and matching colours of their faces.

We set up 45 minute slots for each class, where I could work 1:1 with students and introduce them to the iPad. Students were given the choice to explore the iPad with me or continue playing elsewhere in the classroom. The time for each child varied between 8mins-15mins, depending on the detail they wanted to add to their photos. Several children were keen to show others how to find the colours and trace their features.

First I showed students how to take photos of themselves using the iPad Camera app.


IMG_0734 - Version 2

Then I introduced Drawing Pad and had them use their photo as the background paper. I showed them the tools they could use and asked them to start with their eyes. I asked them to choose a tool and select the colour that matched their eyes. Then I asked if they could trace their eyes in that colour.


Some students really enjoyed the challenge of choosing the correct colour and tracing their eyes, nose, lips and hair. Others were very excited by all the different choices and preferred to pick a colour they wanted their facial features to be. Since the purpose of the activity was to introduce the iPads and allow students a chance for explorative creation, we allowed them the freedom to choose and explore.

Here is the resulting display in one EY1 classroom:


You can see the wide variety of results depending on the student and their perception of themselves.

Reflections and Next Steps:

This activity was very enjoyable for the students and gave the teachers a good idea of their ability using the iPad. For example, I realized that it might benefit them to have the Accessibility Options on so children stay in one app only, as their fingers occassionally strayed and the would accidentally minimize the app.

EY1 teachers were pleased with the how this mini tech workshop complemented what was already happening in the classroom. Students also demonstrated their confidence and aptitude with both the iPad and fine motor skills. It was also an opportunity for teachers to observe how they interacted with the device and each other as they created these drawings mostly independently.

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