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The Reggio Emilia Approach to Children's Education

 Our kids, whether at school or at home, never stop learning and developing. So what should we as parents do when faced with summer vacation or winter break? How do we support this neverending acquisition of knowledge and life experience? Do we force them to sit at home and hit the books? Surely, no parent or child would agree to that… Do we just let them run wild? That doesn’t sound right either… There is a third option, though - A unique and interesting educational approach that can enable us to continue the educational process in our home in a different way, one that children will easily connect with, and it may raise their imagination and curiosity much more than anything else you’ve tried until today. It is known as the Reggio Emilia approach, and today you’ll learn why and how it can be used to raise curious children who like to think for themselves.

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What is the Reggio Emilia approach?

The approach was developed during the '60s and '70s and derives its name from the Italian city where it was developed. A local teacher named Loris Malguzzi, who specialized in psychology and became an educational leader, is considered the father of the system, and he promoted it not only in the small community of the city of Reggio Emilia where he lived but also throughout the region, and from there to all corners of the world.

This unconventional educational approach is so fascinating since it focuses on the child - on the natural curiosity with which they were born, and on the joy of their honest discovery when those who advocate for it call to harness these qualities for the development and education of the child. Instead of learning from a board, solving theoretical exercises and memorizing information, the child learns through involvement, experiences, creativity, and conversation. Instead of a rigid curriculum dictated from higher-ups, it is the child who sets the tone and raises the areas of interest they wish to study. Instead of a teacher who talks to the class and dictates the material, the teacher acts as a mentor who accompanies the children in the learning process and helps them.

The basic principles of the approach:

  • Children can put together their own curriculum - children are motivated first and foremost by their interest in every detail of the world. If we as parents recognize this fact and use it, we can help them understand, experience and learn about the world in a unique way that will help each child develop in their own right.
  • Children learn their place in the world through interaction - the Reggio Emilia approach places great importance on social sharing, encouraging group work and developing their knowledge and education through communication with one another.  
  • The child's environment is also their educator - a child learns from his/her environment no less, and perhaps even more than he/she learns from his/her parents and teachers. Creating an environment that encourages creativity and nurturing, an environment in which the child can learn and play will significantly increase the amount of knowledge they can acquire.
  • The adult is the guide - the Reggio Emilia approach is based on the fact that the child is the leader of the educational process, but the adults in his or her life - parents and teachers - should be responsible for their guidance and guidance in the path they choose to take.  
  • Children have different ways of expressing themselves - children often use many tools to express themselves, their thoughts, and their feelings. The Reggio Emilia approach focuses on encouraging children to expose their entire range of expressions and learn how to communicate not only through words but also through creativity and play.
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How to use the Reggio Emilia approach in educating your children

As you’ve seen, this educational approach is quite different from what we’ve thought till now about raising and educating children, but it has gained many fans in Italy and around the world. Today, there are classrooms, schools and educational institutions that follow it, as well as teachers and educators who take this approach independently. But because this approach is so open, and places the child's experience and natural environment as the best school, it is much easier and recommended to implement it at home, on holidays and also during school hours. Here are 4 different ways, based on the principles of the approach we presented, with which you can do this:

1. Encourage curiosity and wonder

Children like to ask questions - but instead of providing them with simple answers and excusing them from confronting the topic themselves and the need to delve deeper into the subject, arouse their curiosity to develop out of the box ideas and answers. Even a simple yet puzzling question, such as "Why is grass green?" can help you take your child on a journey of exploration. Instead of answering with a dry, one worded answer, encourage them to come up with ideas and ask them back: "Why do you think the grass is green?" From here you can develop the conversation into a serious discussion or an amusing conversation, and from there to innumerable creative ideas in cooperation with your child. Create works of art that use grass, encourage them to write a short story based on their ideas, or even make up a song together. By acting as mentors and counselors, and exploring the issues your child shows interest in, you can help them explore the issue in a comprehensive, satisfying, and substantial way.

2. Be mentors that your child can trust

Connect to your child on their journey of exploration and encourage them to explore the many perspectives of our world, to ask questions, to wonder about the meaning of things, and to express genuine curiosity. In an educational institution where educators follow the Reggio Emilia approach, teachers guide students by asking questions and raising interest in children's awareness. To implement this at home, you as parents can follow the inspiration model presented by the approach. Show your children different music styles, different cultures, foods from different cuisines, places to explore and interesting things to do. As soon as something stimulates the child's curiosity, let them lead the conversation further and deepen the subject. Through nurturing learning and acting as faithful and devoted mentors, not as dry gatekeepers of knowledge and information, you will allow your child to explore and think about the world around them.

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3. Let your child take the reins

Know that children tend to focus on the things that interest them, so let them lead in matters of study and conversation between you. Instead of forcing your child to adhere to a rigid, routine curriculum set by educators, try giving them the reins and allowing them to explore the topics and interests that interest them and can encourage their curiosity and commitment. For example, if your child is a fan of dinosaurs, trains, or dogs, try to give them experiences related to these subjects: take them on a train ride, take them to a museum dedicated to dinosaurs, or join a dog training class - do whatever you can to develop their curiosity and want to research.

4. Support multiple forms of expression

Children express themselves in multiple ways: whether through games, through art or through conversation. Therefore, limiting their expression to speech and writing alone can limit their potential for development. In schools and classes that adopt the Reggio Emilia approach, children learn to express ideas in a variety of ways: not only speech and writing, but also music, art, movement and dance, with the understanding that by using many means of expression, children can develop a deeper and more complete understanding of the world they live in. It is important that you understand that at home, too, your child has a variety of ways to express themselves, and you must not stop them from doing so, but rather the opposite - allow them full access to their tool of choice when it comes to self-expression (even if it’s messy or a little noisy) to help them benefit from learning methods tailored to this exceptional approach.
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