Reggio Emilia Childcare Centres | Celebrating Children's Voices: How the Reggio Emilia Approach Encourages Self-Expression
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Reggio Emilia Childcare Centres | Celebrating Children's Voices: How the Reggio Emilia Approach Encourages Self-Expression

Self-expression refers to how individuals convey their thoughts, emotions and ideas. In early childhood education, this process can help children better understand themselves, build their identity, and connect with others. The Reggio Emilia approach, an educational philosophy based on the belief that children are capable, curious and creative individuals with a natural desire to learn and communicate, has long campaigned for self-expression and the importance of celebrating every child’s unique voice. In this blog, we’ll explore the concept of self-expression in more detail and explain how the Reggio Emilia approach nurtures these core values in young learners. 

 

History of the Reggio Emilia Approach

To understand why self-expression is a core concept of the Reggio Emilia philosophy it’s important to know some of the history behind this educational philosophy. Originating in the Italian town of Reggio Emilia after World War II, this progressive approach recognised the importance of education in shaping the future and fostering a sense of resilience during challenging times. Developed by educator Loris Malaguzzi and the community, it prioritises the child as an active participant in their learning journey. It emerged as a response to the need for a more holistic approach to education, empowering children to express themselves authentically and contribute meaningfully to society.

Reggio Emilia Childcare Centres | Celebrating Children's Voices: How the Reggio Emilia Approach Encourages Self-Expression

 

100 Different Languages of Children

At the heart of the Reggio Emilia approach is the “100 Different Languages” concept. This concept refers to the many languages children can use to express themselves beyond verbal communication. From drawing and painting to sculpture, dance, music, drama and more, Loris Malaguizzi believed children could use these languages in ways adults could not to convey their thoughts, emotions and understanding of the world around them. As such, at Reggio Emilia Early Learning Centres, emphasis is placed on providing these diverse mediums and opportunities for self-expression to ensure that every child’s voice is heard and valued. By engaging in activities such as drawing, painting, sculpting, dancing, singing, and storytelling, children can communicate their thoughts, emotions, and experiences in ways that resonate with them personally.

Reggio Emilia Childcare Centres | Celebrating Children's Voices: How the Reggio Emilia Approach Encourages Self-Expression

 

The Third Educator

A Reggio Emilia-inspired classroom is carefully designed to stimulate children’s curiosity and creativity. These environments often feature layouts and materials designed to stimulate children’s minds and spark their imaginations. We refer to this as “The Third Educator” concept, or the idea that there’s always something to learn from your environment. Elements such as colours, lights and resources are used to invite children to explore and engage with their surroundings thoughtfully. By treating the environment as a dynamic and interactive learning tool, educators at Reggio Emilia empower children to take an active role in their learning. In this way, the environment becomes a space for learning as well as a source of inspiration, wonder, and endless possibilities for self-expression and growth.

Reggio Emilia Childcare Centres | Celebrating Children's Voices: How the Reggio Emilia Approach Encourages Self-Expression

 

Daily Communication and Documentation

Daily communication with parents and documentation are essential components of the Reggio Emilia approach that reinforce the value of children’s voices and unique experiences. Educators at Reggio Emilia Early Learning Centres engage in ongoing dialogue with families, describing each child’s learning and development. Through observations, plans and photos, they capture the self-expression of every child, providing insights into their interests and strengths. This can also aid parents in understanding and supporting their child’s individuality at home. Additionally, when children see their experiences and achievements documented and celebrated, it validates their efforts and builds their self-esteem, encouraging them to continue exploring and expressing themselves authentically.

Reggio Emilia Childcare Centres | Celebrating Children's Voices: How the Reggio Emilia Approach Encourages Self-Expression

 

Educators Who Care

In the Reggio Emilia approach, educators act as co-learners and collaborators rather than traditional authoritative figures. They actively listen to every child, building projects and activities based on their curiosities. This responsive teaching method encourages children to take ownership of their learning, establishing a sense of agency. Moreover, projects are designed with fun and play in mind, allowing education to feel like an exciting adventure. For example, educators might transform a lesson about animals into a game with toys such as a scavenger hunt. By adding elements of play and exploration to learning, educators spark children’s curiosity and enthusiasm, making education a joyful and engaging experience.

Reggio Emilia Childcare Centres | Celebrating Children's Voices: How the Reggio Emilia Approach Encourages Self-Expression

 

Project-Based Learning

Project-based learning demonstrates how self-expression is promoted at Reggio Emilia. Imagine a classroom where a group of children shows interest in the lifecycle of butterflies. Instead of simply reading a book on the topic, the educator gathers resources and sets up a butterfly habitat in the classroom. The children observe the butterflies, document their observations through drawings and journals, and discuss their findings with their classmates. They might even create a play or a song about the butterflies, showcasing their understanding through various forms of expression. This project deepens their knowledge of butterflies while allowing them to express their learning in ways that personally resonate with them. Their voices are celebrated as they take the lead in their educational journey.

Reggio Emilia Childcare Centres | Celebrating Children's Voices: How the Reggio Emilia Approach Encourages Self-Expression

 

How Self-Expression Impacts Development

As you can see, self-expression is a fundamental aspect of the Reggio Emilia philosophy, but why do we place so much emphasis on it? Well, not only does self-expression encourage creativity, but it can also be key in developing a child’s critical thinking and problem-solving skills. During this learning journey, children perceive themselves as competent individuals able to make choices about their thoughts, feelings and ideas. This positive self-perception has lasting effects on their confidence and willingness to engage in new experiences, setting them up on a journey of lifelong learning. Furthermore, self-expression promotes social and emotional development by fostering respect for others’ perspectives. As children learn to listen and respond to their classmate’s ideas, they develop essential social skills for building positive relationships with others. 

Reggio Emilia Childcare Centres | Celebrating Children's Voices: How the Reggio Emilia Approach Encourages Self-Expression

 

The role of educators in Reggio Emilia classrooms is dynamic and multifaceted, encompassing responsibilities as co-learners, facilitators, motivators, documenters, researchers, and community builders. By embracing these roles, educators in Reggio Emilia classrooms create a vibrant, responsive, and supportive environment where every child can shine. To find out more about our educators and the Reggio Emilia approach, feel free to reach out to us on 02 9891 2222 or via email at mail@reggioemilia.com.au. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reggio Emilia Childcare Centres | Celebrating Children's Voices: How the Reggio Emilia Approach Encourages Self-Expression
Reggio Emilia Childcare Centres | Celebrating Children's Voices: How the Reggio Emilia Approach Encourages Self-Expression