Author: Betty Yau
Principal, Fairchild Nursery and Kindergarten
Cultivating Curiosity, Confidence and Creativity – Reggio Emilia Builds Core Skills
We all know that play benefits childrens’ development, but how exactly does it support the various skills children need as they navigate an increasingly digital world? Creativity is as important as literacy in today’s age, distinguishing us from artificial intelligence devices – we are human beings and individually unique. Creativity means we have imagination and are able to come up with new ideas.
The Reggio Emilia inspired approach, which sees children as the protagonists of their own learning supports the way children use their creativity. Using the environment as the third teacher to motivate and inspire children’s learning, children in Reggio Emilia inspired settings are provided with numerous hands-on learning provocations to support their individual interests, and have the freedom to share their own thoughts and ideas.
Children are naturally curious and creative. This creativity is harnessed in Reggio Emilia settings through hands-on art activities, which are open-ended and enable children to be completely engrossed in their play through this engaged process. A small piece of wood can instantly become a cookie, a burger, a slice of tomato or cucumber, a pancake, a slice of cheese or even a plate. The possibilities of open ended resources are endless, and there are few limits on a child’s imagination.
Art and creativity go hand in hand – rather than all children doing the same thing, the process becomes more important than the product, and through shared collaborative artwork, children build their interaction and language skills as they work and play together. Each child’s individual artwork is respected in its own right, and often a child will be able to explain the rationale behind their masterpieces, explaining that it’s a plane, or why they have used certain colours. By reflecting on their own work, and the work of others, children use evaluation skills and build their metacognitive skills too.
As children are engaged in play based activities such as water play, they are using their curiosity as they are figuring out mathematical concepts while measuring and pouring water, considering the changes in volume and seeing the cause and effect of relationships. Water play also allows scientific exploration as children have ample opportunity to see water absorption and changes in state as ice melts! As children do so, they are constructing their own theories about how things might work, and divergent thinking is more creative than for us as adults! If we were to give children a paper clip and ask them how we could use it, they would be able to provide dozens of suggestions, compared to less than 20 ideas from an adult. Never stop asking questions of children!
During sensory play with rice, oats or coffee grounds, children have a tactile experience as these natural resources stimulate the various senses of touch, smell and sound, allowing children to build their sensory integration and processing abilities. At the same time, as children dig, scoop and sift, they refine their fine motor muscles to prepare for later mark making, and increase their hand-eye coordination and spatial awareness.
Children climbing or running around in a playground develop strength and balance as they exercise and practice their gross motor skills. Quality play time builds confidence, focus and concentration and encourages sustained attention as children are engaged. Further, collaborative play builds social skills and emotional regulation, allowing self expression and encouraging teamwork, negotiation, turn taking and communication skills.
Creativity and imagination are equally important today – we encourage imaginative thinking as children create and construct their own scenarios and stories. Language skills are expanded as children talk about their ideas and experiences with their friends and parents. Not all children learn in the same way, and the Reggio inspired approach allows for children to express themselves in numerous ways, known as the “100 languages” which helps children develop confidence and creativity.
As children construct their own knowledge through small projects such as food, dinosaurs, restaurant, science, pets – they engage in play and this builds upon their current perspectives, recognising that knowledge can be gained from a number of ways – a hundred different ways. This enables children to cultivate their curiosity, creativity and confidence, so they are ready for any task they may encounter. In this way adults foster children’s resilience – connection is the key.
Being aware of the needs of others helps children develop empathy and having pets around are wonderful opportunities for children to learn how to feed a hamster, turtles or fish! By allowing children to engage more with nature, they are learning how to be kind to our earth, which in turn helps develop their sense of civic responsibility.
The next time your child asks you about how to grow a plant, you can extend that interest and ask them further questions related to the theme. You might be surprised by exactly how much they actually already know! Visit the flower market together, and find out all about other plants for a great family learning experience. Allowing children to have the opportunity to explore and find out things for themselves helps support how they build their core skills, supporting transitions in day to day life, and ensuring children are well prepared for their future, whether in Hong Kong or elsewhere. Don’t delay, let your children play!