It was the last preschool on my list. I had already visited several preschools, and they all were starting to look the same. Classrooms that would be sterile except for children’s artwork and rugs in primary colors. Playgrounds which played a secondary, supporting role to educational activities indoors.
But as I entered the classroom of this Reggio Emilia-inspired preschool, I gasped in surprise. The overhead lights were off, and lamps and Christmas lights softly lit the corners of the room untouched by natural light. Soft, natural fabrics formed reading nooks. Instead of plastic and metal furniture, wood tables and chairs were arranged for collaboration throughout the room. It looked and smelled like a hip, independent coffee shop, albeit an empty one because all the children spent most of their time outside in the garden. Forget about trying to find a preschool for my daughter—I wanted to hang out here. It was inviting in a way I had never expected a school to be, and yet which I realized immediately was how a learning environment should be.
Following this visit I started to learn more about the Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education and was struck by its immense respect for the child. At the preschool I first saw this respect manifested in the beautiful setting (the idea being that children appreciate aesthetics as much as adults), but that was just the beginning. Reggio Emilia views the child as inherently capable and respects that the child is already exploring the world and learning. Teachers play the role of guides and collaborators, and listening to the child is their central role. Teachers craft curriculum around the child’s interests. Additionally, the Reggio Emilia approach fosters cooperation between teachers, children, and parents, building community.
I was so inspired by this school that I wanted to replicate the feel of it in my home. Play with loose parts is an important part of Reggio Emilia, and it was also an aspect I could easily replicate in my home.