The Reggio Emilia Approach: Hundred Languages of Childhood

Have you ever heard of the Reggio Emilia approach to education? It’s a fascinating philosophy that sees children as incredible communicators, expressing themselves through a myriad of languages beyond just words. Rooted in the post-war era in the small Italian town of Reggio Emilia, this educational philosophy has garnered worldwide attention for its profound respect for children, its emphasis on creativity and exploration, and its belief in the multitude of ways children express themselves—what is often referred to as “The Hundred Languages of Childhood.”

The Reggio Emilia Approach

The Reggio Emilia approach was born in the aftermath of World War II, during a time when a group of parents in Reggio Emilia, Italy, collaborated with educator Loris Malaguzzi to create a new kind of early childhood education for their children. They aimed to build an educational system that valued the child as an individual, capable of constructing their own learning through experiences, relationships, and interactions with the environment. Unlike traditional models that prioritize rote memorization and standardized testing, Reggio Emilia places children at the center of the learning process, recognizing them as capable, curious individuals with unique perspectives and talents.

Central to the Reggio Emilia approach is the image of the child as strong, capable, and full of potential. Unlike traditional educational approaches that see children as empty vessels waiting to be filled with knowledge, the Reggio Emilia philosophy views children as active participants in their own learning journey.

The “Hundred Languages” of Childhood

At the heart of the Reggio Emilia approach is the concept of “The Hundred Languages of Children,” a metaphorical idea that children have countless ways of expressing themselves beyond words.

Imagine your child having a hundred different ways to express themselves. That’s the essence of Reggio Emilia’s philosophy—the belief that children communicate through diverse languages. From painting and sculpture to art, music, movement, and more, children possess countless languages through which they explore, interpret, and make sense of the world. These languages provide a rich tapestry for children to convey their thoughts, emotions, and ideas. In the words of Loris Malaguzzi, the founder of the Reggio Emilia approach, “The child has a hundred languages, a hundred hands, a hundred thoughts, a hundred ways of thinking, of playing, of speaking.”

Key Reggio Emilia Principles

  1. Child-centered Learning: At the heart of the Reggio Emilia approach is the belief that children are natural-born learners, driven by their innate curiosity and interests. Rather than imposing a rigid curriculum, teachers act as facilitators, observing and responding to children’s inquiries and discoveries. This child-led approach empowers children to take ownership of their learning, fostering autonomy, motivation, and a love for exploration.
  2. Project-based Learning: In Reggio Emilia classrooms, learning unfolds organically through long-term, interdisciplinary projects inspired by children’s interests and questions. These projects serve as vehicles for deep inquiry, critical thinking, and collaboration, as children delve into topics that spark their curiosity. Whether exploring the lifecycle of butterflies or investigating the properties of light and shadow, children engage in hands-on experiences that promote problem-solving skills, creativity, and a deeper understanding of the world around them.
  3. Capturing Learning Journeys: Teachers document children’s learning processes through photographs, videos, artwork, and written observations. This documentation serves as a tool for reflection, assessment, and communication with parents and children.
  4. Environment as the Third Teacher: Reggio Emilia classrooms are thoughtfully designed to inspire curiosity, creativity, and collaboration. Natural materials, flexible spaces, and open-ended materials invite children to explore, experiment, and engage with their surroundings. From cozy reading nooks to outdoor gardens and ateliers filled with art supplies, the environment serves as the “third teacher,” shaping children’s experiences and fostering a sense of wonder and possibility.

Since its inception in the 1940s, the Reggio Emilia approach has gained recognition and admiration worldwide. Its principles have influenced early childhood educators and policymakers across the globe, inspiring a shift towards more child-centered, holistic approaches to education. The Reggio Emilia approach celebrates the child’s uniqueness and encourages them to express themselves in many ways. It values their voice, curiosity, and potential, creating an environment where they can thrive and grow.

In a world that often prioritizes standardized testing and academic achievement, the Reggio Emilia approach offers a refreshing perspective—one that values the unique capabilities, curiosities, and voices of children. By embracing the concept of “The Hundred Languages of Childhood,” this approach celebrates the diversity of human expression and recognizes that every child has the right to be seen, heard, and valued.

Want to know more about the Reggio-Emilia curriculum? Come see for yourself how our Montessori and Reggio-inspired curriculums work at our Villa Montessori preschool in Polaris.

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