Reggio Emilia Approach

"Learning and teaching should not stand on opposite banks and just watch the river flow by; instead, they should embark together on a journey down the water. Through an active, reciprocal exchange, teaching can strengthen how to learn."
—Loris Malaguzzi, founder of the Reggio Emilia Approach

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The following principles of Reggio Emilia inspire our curriculum:

Basic Thoughts

  • Education is viewed as a system of relationships; its purpose is to work and live more thoughtfully.
  • The learning process is important. . . more important than the final result. The less thought that is put toward the final result, the more result we actually observe.
  • Children are given the time to experiment, to make mistakes and readjustments, to laugh, and to complete a task to satisfaction.


  • Children come first. Everything in the environment centers around them and evolves through them. Classrooms are created to keep a trace of each individual child's presence. This provides the realization that his work is appreciated, and he is powerful and appreciated.
  • Learning environments are set up to dazzle children's senses and invite curiosity and discovery. When adults find themselves in environments that are beautiful, soothing, full of wonder and discovery, they feel intrigued, respected and eager to spend their days living and learning there. Aren't these the very feelings we want children to have?
  • At the heart of an environment that fosters creativity is an ample supply of open-ended materials and an organization of space that invites involvement, independent of the teacher.

Community Learning

  • Classes work upon establishing a sense of “we,” a sense of community and connectedness. Children are able to feel the strength of people working together, learning that groups accomplish more than one person working alone. Purposeful work allows children to contribute to the needs of the community and care for one another.
  • Difficulties are viewed as welcome challenges—looking at things from different points of view, arguing, sharing, and talking.
  • Children's ideas, suggestions, and questions are instrumental in shaping the process of curriculum planning. Instead of presenting a ready-made solution, formula, or answer from a theme-planning book, teachers assist in the pursuit of ideas as children investigate and express. Children are learning to think!
  • Teachers observe and listen to children, rather than talking and demonstrating. Both the learner and the teacher are learning and teaching.
  • As teachers document developmental milestones, an opportunity is created for adults to see that part of the life of a child that is often invisible.
  • Teachers seem to be alert for creating exciting moments/occasions that will surprise or delight the children. This is a place where surprises can happen and an unplanned, unbidden event can change the course of the day!
  • Parents and neighbors of all ages are seen as part of the community of learners. It is essential to build a system of relationships based on respect, reciprocal confidence, and trust.

Loose Parts

Caroline has an idea to create a waterfall; she places a long, blue silk scarf over large hollow blocks.
Rhys then uses window blocks to construct a village.
Andrew places a lantern in the middle of the town—“a lighthouse to help the ships.”
At the waterfall’s base, a riverbed on salmon-colored silk emerges with pine cones, acorns, and driftwood.
​Bryce creates an overpass with arches and roads running underneath.
The small world turns into a larger world!

​Many of us question the conventional wisdom of providing children with sophisticated toys. As you have probably noted, children are often more interested in the packaging than in the toys themselves! Once a child has mastered the key function of an object—pushing the button to make a figure pop up or climbing a ladder, for example—she is ready to move on.

An ambulance or plastic peas remain the same items as intended by the toy manufacturer; no imagination is required. If, however, a child is given tree cookies, he can transform them into race cars, airplanes, tower supports, sushi, or spaghetti.

What are “Loose Parts?”​​​

  • Alluring, surprising, beautiful found objects that children can move, manipulate, control, and change while they play.
  • Objects which can be carried, dumped, lined up, combined, redesigned, taken apart, and put back together, and stacked in almost endless ways.
  • Items with distinctive sounds, interesting textures, varying weights, and multiple colors.
  • Materials with multiple outcomes and no specific set of directions.
  • Imagination boosters! A stone = A character in a story. An acorn = An ingredient in imaginary soup. A stick = a fishing pole. A spoon = A stirring concoction, a magic wand, OR a balance beam for snails.
  • Encouragement for children, parents, and teachers to reuse, renew, and recycle.
  • Not merely intriguing materials with play potential. . . but an overall educational philosophy!

Loose Parts Promote Development in Multiple Domains

​Physical Development:

  • Small parts like shells, stones, and corks help children to develop small muscles and hand-eye coordination.
  • When children can manipulate their own environments and take risks, they are less likely to have accidents and get into trouble.

Social-Emotional Development:

  • Loose parts are developmentally inclusive. Children of all ages, abilities, skill levels, cultural backgrounds, and genders can use them successfully. As children choose and control the materials being used, they cultivate a sense of power.
  • Play with loose parts improves relationships and self-confidence, increases collaboration, negotiation skills, and conflict resolution.

Cognitive Development:

  • Loose parts encourage critical thinking, creativity, language development, number concepts, classification, spatial relationships, and problem-solving—highly-valued skills in adult life today!
  • By continually rearranging loose parts, children create settings which match their own skills. They seldom become bored.

The Hundred Languages of Children

No way. The hundred is there.

The child is made of one hundred.
The child has a hundred languages
a hundred hands
a hundred thoughts
a hundred ways of thinking
of playing, of speaking.

A hundred, always a hundred
ways of listening
of marveling, of loving
a hundred joys
for singing and understanding
a hundred worlds to discover
a hundred worlds to invent
a hundred worlds to dream.

The child has a hundred languages
(and a hundred hundred hundred more)
but they steal ninety-nine.
The school and the culture
separate the head from the body.
They tell the child:
to think without hands
to do without head
to listen and not to speak
to understand without joy
to love and to marvel
only at Easter and at Christmas.

They tell the child:
to discover the world already there
and of the hundred
they steal ninety-nine.

They tell the child:
that work and play
reality and fantasy
science and imagination
sky and earth
reason and dream
are things that do not belong together.

And thus they tell the child that the hundred is not there.
The child says:
No way. The hundred is there.

—Loris Malaguzzi
Founder of the Reggio Emilia Approach
(translated by Lella Gandini)


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