The Reggio Emilia teaching philosophy is the belief that children are highly capable learners with extraordinary inborn abilities, potential, strength, and creativity. We, as teachers, focus on the process of learning by leaving worksheets behind and surrounding our kids with opportunities to explore—encouraging questions, hypotheses, and analyses.
Reggio philosophy views the learning environment as the “third teacher,” as it inspires children to discover and communicate with their surroundings. Of course, any place—and every place—can be a learning environment. What could one look like in your home? It should be inviting, light-filled, and organized, and include materials for tinkering and creating things. Learning environments are not static, but open-ended, allowing for movement of furniture and objects, and incorporating your child’s interests.
When you notice your child is interested in a certain subject, create an entire space dedicated to that interest. It can be left up for days, weeks and even months. This allows children to delve deeper into their play and curiosities. Train tables topped with acrylic mirrors add fascination. Light tables encourage your child to look at items through different lenses. Canopies can be a pirate ship one day and a cloud the next. Chalkboards and frames on the wall highlight interests and excitement.
Bring materials of all kinds into your playroom, not just toys. Elements of nature like rocks and driftwood, tools from various careers such as a real stethoscope, sensory buckets filled with different materials like shells and pasta all provide hours of imaginative fun. Play scarves and silks in the dress-up box may serve as super hero capes today and as hot fire pits tomorrow. Rocks could be piled into towers or become obstacles on a road. A tree branch representing a rain forest one day could be used as a balance beam on another day. Boring, set-aside materials do little on their own but they can be ANYTHING in the hands of a three-year-old. _
Lisa Monette is the director of the Merage JCC Early Childhood Learning Center and a contributing writer to Kiddish.