Reggio Emilia is one of many different parenting styles which pop up when searching on the internet. You might come across really technical articles which leave you feeling overwhelmed or vague articles that leave you feeling confused.
To help, we’ve laid out the core pillars of Reggio Emilia parenting and some simple, stress-free ways to weave it into your daily life. This approach has influenced our Koru Ethos and the values our company stands on. But remember, there isn’t one ‘best’ method to choose and it’s not possible to be the perfect parent. Being a parent is hard – so go easy on yourself!
What is the Reggio Emilia approach?
The Reggio Emilia approach was developed after World War II by pedagogist Loris Malaguzzi. Collaborating with parents in villages around Reggio Emilia, Italy, this approach is an educational philosophy which centres on preschool and primary education.
It takes a student-focused and constructivist approach to learning. This means children don’t learn by passive instruction, but rather through active experience and social discourse. The Reggio Emilia approach provides opportunities to construct new understanding and knowledge while combining new information with what they already know.
3 Pillars of Reggio Emilia
The three main pillars of the Reggio Emilia approach are:
- The learner
- The instructor
An appreciation and respect for the learner is central to the Reggio Emilia approach. It believes a learner possesses rights, is an active participant in the construction of knowledge, and is a social being. This means:
- Thoughts and ideas of the learner need to be taken seriously and must be listened to. They possess strength, potential, and competence.
- They should be active participants in their own learning process. They should not passively receive information. The Reggio Emilia approach believes children are natural researchers – they question, predict, observe, and reflect.
- Knowledge and information is socially influenced and created through relationships.
In the Reggio Emilia approach, the instructor collaborates and is a co-learner with the child. There is mutual participation in exercises and projects.
They are there to guide and facilitate learning without imposing ideas. This means that instead of giving ‘the answer’, they provide the tools needed to reach the learner’s goal. A key part of this approach is acting as a researcher – the instructor observes, documents and reflects on the learnings of each child and adjusts where necessary.
The final pillar is knowledge. Knowledge is believed to be socially constructed through child-child, child-adult relationships and sharing ideas. Learning does not have an endpoint and is instead dynamic. Comprehension of knowledge and the interpretation of knowledge varies by individual, groups, and social contexts.
This approach believes there are multiple forms of knowing. With this in mind, children are encouraged to display their ideas and understandings in multiple languages or modes of expression. This could be through writing, sculpting, or even dancing. By using multiple mediums, the learner is able to come up with new, ‘out of the box’ ideas.
Lastly, the Reggio Emilia approach believes knowledge is created by making connections between feelings, words and ideas. It is a circular process which requires consistent reflection.
Okay…how can I incorporate this at home?
All this information might feel a bit overwhelming and that’s totally normal. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to follow the Reggio Emilia approach perfectly. Instead, start out slow and simply start by observing. Through observation, you can integrate the three pillars of Reggio Emilia in different ways.
‘The learner’ in practice
By observing your child, you allow them to direct their own learning. Pay attention to what your child engages in without prompting and think about what toys or materials you could supply to help engage those interests.
‘The instructor’ in practice
Through observation, you can identify how your child gets joy out of learning and you can act as a guide to deepen their learning. If you notice your baby enjoys playing in a particular way, ask yourself how you can offer a slightly more challenging version to deepen and progress their learning.
‘Knowledge’ in practice
Have you noticed your little one loves to dance? Or maybe they’re obsessed with play-dough? Through observation, you can give your baby opportunities to try out new activities and skills that incorporate different modes of expression which creates opportunity for new ideas.
Progress over perfection
It’s important to remember the Reggio Emilia approach is only one way to parent your little ones. Don’t feel like you need to get it right 100% of the time and don’t treat this as law. This is merely a suggestion to help you along the way. The Reggio Emilia approach believes that learning is dynamic, reflective, and constantly changing. When you think about it, parenting is simply that – a learning process.