Eight Reggio Emilia ideas to inspire your early learning environment

Even if you aren’t working at a Reggio Emilia-inspired early childhood education and care service, there are plenty of ideas from this acclaimed approach that you can use in your own early learning environment. 

Photo by michael podger on Unsplash

What is Reggio Emilia? 

Reggio Emilia is a globally-acclaimed approach to early learning which originated in a small northern Italian town shortly after the end of the Second World War. Rather than being a formal blueprint for early learning, the philosophy serves as an inspiration for early childhood education and care services that can adapt the principles to suit their unique cultures and circumstances.  

Thousands of early childhood education and care services around the world embrace the philosophy and use the principles as defined by the founder, Loris Malaguzzi, to inspire daily learning experiences and interactions.  

How can early childhood education and care services incorporate the Reggio Emilia approach? 

Remember, educators don’t complete formal training to become ‘Reggio Emilia-certified’. Yes, they may attend seminars or workshops to expand their understanding of the philosophy, but Reggio Emilia is an approach to early learning, not a formal structure. 

Use these eight ideas to inspire your early learning environment: 

  1. A key tenet of the philosophy is that all children are strong, capable and resilient.   
    • Tip: Regularly communicate your belief that each child has a voice and is valued, capable and creative. You can also display these words somewhere in the learning environment—seeing is believing! 
  2. Every child is brimming with wonder and curiosity about the world around them. Therefore, when a child explores things that interest them, they will be more likely to learn.   
    • Tip: Set up a few different experiences on tables so that when the children arrive in the morning, they can choose their own topics for further exploration and discovery. 
  3. Children have ‘100 languages’ they use to express themselves. This emphasises the importance of giving children a multitude of ways to communicate and share their thinking and knowledge.  
    • Tip: These languages can be anything from painting, drawing and sculpting to singing, dancing and dramatic play. Ask children what they like doing and gently encourage them to try different avenues of self-expression. 
  4. Responding to children’s interests brings authentic engagement and exploration to life. Project work enables children to become deeply engaged with topics of personal interest and gives them the power to construct their own learning.  
    • Tip: Offer a variety of different resources, interactions and experiences. Focus on open-ended project work, rather than having all children doing the same experience at the same time with set outcomes.  
  5. In Reggio Emilia, the environment is seen as the third teacher. The learning spaces should have materials and tools to stimulate the children’s imaginations, foster their creativity and encourage collaboration and communication.   
    • Tip: Make your learning environment homely, welcoming and nurturing but keep clutter to a minimum.  The spaces should have plenty of natural light, a strong focus on nature and should evolve constantly to encourage the children to delve deeper into the things that interest them.  
  6. The teacher is a co-learner and co-constructor of knowledge. 
    • Tip:  Try not to see yourself as an ‘imparter of knowledge’, but rather as a collaborator and facilitator, providing guidance and support to the children as you learn together.   
  7. Nurture relationships between families, the school community and the children. 
    • Tip: Maintain regular transparent communication with families to give them feedback on how their child. Look for opportunities for families and educators to work in partnership to facilitate each child reaching their potential. 
  8. In Reggio Emilia, emphasis is placed on documenting the children’s conversations and representations so that all parties involved—the children, the families and the educators—can observe, reflect, assess and maximise opportunities to deepen and extend the child’s learning. 
    • Tip:  Use multiple forms of documentation, for example take photographs of children’s work, record conversations and display this in a way children, educators and families can continue to revisit learning throughout the year.  

A final word on how to take inspiration from Reggio Emilia for mainstream early learning environments 

Reggio Emilia-inspired early childhood education and care services offer an alternative approach to learning. Unlike in mainstream or traditional early learning environments, the curriculum is flexible and based primarily on the interests of the individual child.   

Even though some early childhood education and care services operate with more traditional structures and established curricula, there are plenty of ways that educators can be inspired by the principles of Reggio Emilia and adapt these to their own learning environments. There is no right or wrong—what matters most is that each child is given the opportunity to access quality early education that will set a strong foundation for their healthy growth and development in the future.

ECA Recommends: 

 Encountering and interoperating principals of Reggio Emilia Encounter Series

Discover and explore the principles of Reggio Emilia in this one-of-a-kind online professional learning series, developed by Early Childhood Australia (ECA) and the Reggio Emilia Australia Information Exchange (REAIE), in collaboration with Reggio Children, Italy.

Simone O’Brien

Simone O’Brien owns Treasured Tots Early Education which operates four highly successful ECEC services in Perth, Western Australia. Simone qualified with a Diploma in Children’s Services and worked in ECEC for a couple of years before recognising a dire need for a service offering families a loving, nurturing, supportive and warm ‘home away from home’. This prompted her to open her first ECEC service in Perth in 2011.

One thought on “Eight Reggio Emilia ideas to inspire your early learning environment”

    Jessica johnston says:

    Simone thankyou!! I’ve been teaching for forty years and have enjoyed engaging with many different cycles of early childhood philosophy and theory. I think you’ve interpreted Reggio in a way that is so inspiring and practical. Certainly it’s clarified how much of my own style built over all these years reflects this approach. We never stop evolving! Thanks for your great work.

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