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Reggio Emilia Approach - the Wonder of early Learning

on Mon, 30/05/2011 - 23:14

Reggio Emilia is a town in Emilia Romagna, a province in the North of Italy. A famous food region, since they make the balsamico vinegar and the parmerggiano cheese. Besides the food, Reggio Emilia is visited every year by thousands of childhood experts, coming from all over the world. I was one of them last october 2010 when I got the wonderful oppurtunity to dive profound into the so called Reggio Emilia approach.

I visited several infant - toddler centers / asili nidi (0-3 years old) and preschools / asili (3-6 years old), talked to the educational staff and shared opinions with my collegues coming from 29 different countries! 

"Reggio Emilia’s in depth studyweek was a wonder of learning to me."

What is so special about their approach?

Looking at it from my point of view, as an expert in play, movement and creativity, I was struck by the way they look at children in general. You have to know that I didn’t go to Reggio Emilia to study the architecture and interior design of their educational centres, neither for the way they are integrating recycled material inside their classrooms, or the intense use of an atelier with many experts bringing their knowledge inside. 

I went to Reggio children because they see the innate strength of every child.

The educational projects from Reggio are based on the image of a child who has enormous potential and who is the subject of rights. The aim of the project is to promote children’s education through the development of all their languages: expressive, communicative, symbolic, cognitive, ethical, metaphorical, logical, imaginative, and relational ('hisorical and cultural notes-brochure Reggio Emilia'). 

The silent world of the little ones

I am on a mission just as Loris Malaguzzi was (the founder of the Reggio Emilia approach and Reggio Children). Like this master of education I am finding my way inside of the silent world , the world without words of the little ones 0-2 years old. Then there are also my meetings with the rich world of excitment of the preschoolers. I do not model the children in the way that I think is good for them, but I let them BE inside of a safe environment that we create together. The beautiful thing about my playshops is that there is no good nor bad in any of the actions that you undertake as a child, just be the way you are. This doens’t mean that children can do whatever and don’t take repsonsability for their actions. Ofcourse I have to talk to them if they are hurting themselves or if they hurt the others and ask them what it is that they want to do or why they are the way they are. 

My learning point in Reggio Emilia was how to read the (body) language of a child. 

“Children are born speaking , and speaking to someone”, an expression of Malaguzzi in “the little ones of silent movies”. The fact that the spoken word (words made of sounds that we can identify and interpret) is lacking at birth and does not arrive for many months to come, does not hinder children’s vital, insuppressible, and eager search to build friendship. The words then that will eventually be spoken are not the result of a sudden event, but come from all the time that children were interacting with their environment, their relations with the world of adults, with things, events and with their peers. I would call it children at PLAY with all that what is around them. 

So we are coming closer to my area. 

Playing in a Reggio Emilia way

There’s a lot happening during playtime. Little ones are lifting, dropping, looking, pouring, bouncing, hiding, building, knocking down, and more. Children are busy when they’re playing. And, more than that, they are learning. They are learning key scientific concepts, such as what sinks and floats; mathematical concepts, including how to balance blocks to build a tower; and literacy skills, such as trying out new vocabulary or storytelling skills as children “act out” different roles. Play is the true work of childhood. ('')

What happens to children at play when they are left free? When we adults are not telling them what to do or showing them our example to copy? Everthing happens when you really step back! First of all the children show you - the adult- how full of expectations you are and that they do whatever they feel to do. 90 times of hundred the children’s actions are completely different from that what you thought that they would do. Most of the times the children are NOT reacting at all, they need their time to feel the proposal you are making them. They are so called SLOW KIDS, children observing, trying, doing with that what is, just the way it comes up in them. 

For example yesterday I made an egg salad with my toddler-group (3 years old). I was so happy at home putting the mayonaise inside of the bag. Being sure that they would love to experiment with that. “Leda, can you tell me what this is? (showing her the mayonaise)” “That is toothpaste she answered me. Adding more info: you see it is white inside”. You can understand that she decided not to put the “toothpaste” on her nice boiled fresh painted easter-egg. No way!

Children do and act from their heart, sometimes slightly imposted by parents, that’s why it is so wonderful to work in mommy and me groups. Mothers see immediately why their children are acting in a certain way or they are surprised that the children do not act the way they thought! I only always remind them that everything is well, the child is creating it’s own style. That is okay!

In my workshops of play, movement and creativity I encountered always in one way or another how children distill and lift everyday objects out of ordinariness. How they take us by suprise and offer us opportunities for new ways of seeing, new thinking! ('browsingthroughideas, Reggio Children'). That’s why I choose to keep on creating settings for magical playtime with infant - toddlers - children alone, or together with their parents. Because (free) play makes the body stronger, the head smarter and the heart happier.

Look for more impressions of playing in a Reggio Emilia style in my Galleries:

Gallery > 'The Reggio Emilia approach in my work'

Gallery > 'Reggio Emilia style at home'


Special Thanks to Arthur Jansen Advies bv. who sponsored my participation.

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