Our teachers have had lots of requests from parents who would like to integrate Reggio philosophy at home. With this in mind, we've whipped up a useful guide that aims to inspire meaningful play outside the classroom. Read on to discover our key tips for engaging your child in meaningful play. Part 2 to follow!
1. Unstructured play
We define unstructured play as time where children engage in open-ended exploration. This type of play can provoke situations where children use creative thinking, and have the chance to problem solve. When little ones have the freedom to fill their own time, or are immersed in self-directed play (make believe for instance), they are more able to think creatively and form unique views and opinions.
This type of play can easily be supported at home. Firstly, let your child take the lead and allow them to find ways to fill their own time. Set off on a morning walk around the block (or the garden) and let them investigate the beauty of nature. Encourage your child to collect organic objects like sticks, rocks, fallen leaves, shells, pinecones and flowers. Aim to collect things that can be used in many ways. Children can then create from them, examine them, and use them to represent concepts.
Recycled material such as cardboard tubes, ribbon, beads, egg cartons and fabric also support children's investigative learning. Encourage them to find new ways and purposes of using these materials.
By creating opportunities for unstructured play and offering these resources, we are acknowledging that our child is rich in resources and full of potential. When a child comes up with lots of different uses for a recycled material, or invents a make believe world, they are taking charge of their own learning - this is a core belief in Reggio philosophy.
Tip: allow your child to be part of the 'collection' process - encourage them to pick up objects that intrigue them, and if possible, save these for play at home.
2. Start with a question
Reflect on some of the questions your child has been asking you lately, no matter how unusual! What have they been wondering about? It could be a question they asked directly, or perhaps you've noticed how intently they have been focussed on something. Treat this interest as a cue and then provide an experience or 'provocation' which will build on their initial curiosity.
First, find out what they already know about the subject by asking questions of your own. Remember to ask open-ended questions, rather than questions that require yes/no answers.
Once these details are established, jot down some ways to further explore the topic. Remember, any question can be explored in a multitude of ways. This approach is consistent with the 'Hundred Languages of Children', a central part of Reggio philosophy.
Ways of learning may include: drawing, dance, pretend play, music, modelling, movement, construction, sculpture, painting, baking, gardening, photography, a field trip, talking to others.
Tip 1: Try and explore the question from a few different angles: this way, your child is more able to incorporate their five senses: sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch.
Tip 2: When you chat with your child, try and start your questions with "What" or "How", and remember to positively challenge your child's current ideas and thinking, rather than prove them wrong or right.