Start with a Question
Reggio inspired activities are about exploration and discovery; exploring with their senses, asking questions, testing theories, making plans and thinking deeply.
When you are setting up a provocation (an inquiry or discovery activity) have a think about some of the questions your child has been asking lately.
What have they been wondering about?
- They might ask your straight up, ‘Why does my shadow stick to me?’
- They might say a statement, ‘Hey Mummy, look at my shadow when I wave my arms.’ Or
- You might notice them doing something intently, like playing with their shadow
This is your cue, your opportunity to provide an experience which will engage their interests.
Once you have identified an interest, get some idea of what your child already knows about the subject. Depending on their age you can:
- brainstorm – where you discuss what you know and make a mind map
- for younger children, what they understand will probably come through in their play, drawings and paintings
Take notes to help you plan
Take notes of what your child already knows as well as any misconceptions they may have. This will help you to plan an activity/inquiry that really relates to what your child knows or wants to know.
Plan your Activity
Now thinking about what they want to know and what they already know, you can start to plan your activity/inquiry.
Decide on the type of activity
What types of activities does your child enjoy? There are a thousand and a thousand more activities out there but no matter how beautiful the picture looks, if your child isn’t interested in it then that activity isn’t going to engage them. Any subject can be explored in a multitude of ways; this is The Hundred Languages of Children, the cornerstone of the Reggio Emilia Approach.
What kinds of activities engage your child’s sense of wonder?
- Maybe an observation of living creatures like our snail inquiry?
- A sensory exploration like this large painting activity? Or this scented discovery basket? Or maybe some playdough?
- An exploration of a new art medium like this exploration of paint? Or this one with clay?
- An observational painting or drawing activity like this one of van Gogh’s Starry Night? Or this one of Autumn leaves?
- A discovery activity like this nature walk?
- An exploration of a new material like this rocks and minerals provocation? Or this one with magnets?
Gather your Materials
Now you can start gathering your materials. What you will need will depend on what you are exploring.
Head out and about:
- If your subject is something real (in nature or around the neighbourhood), head out for a walk, if you can, to explore the real thing
- Connect the walk/outing to your child’s interests:
- ‘You were asking about ant nests yesterday. Let’s go for a walk and see if we can find some.’
- Take along a notebook and pencil for sketching
- Some binoculars and a magnifying glass (if useful)
- and a bag to carry any treasures and go explore
- Listen to what your child is talking about, notice what they are doing, these little clues will help you to continue the exploration when you get home.
- aim for authentic art materials;
- look for authentic materials, open-ended materials and ones which invoke a sense of wonder and discovery
- natural materials – pinecones, seeds, nuts, leaves, sticks, birds nests, shells…. any and all natural materials are wonderful tools for exploration
- loose parts – glass gems, felt balls, fabric pieces, string, ribbon, cardboard… beautifully textured materials of all different shapes, sizes and colours for imaginative play, model making, design and pattern work and sensory explorations
- open-ended toys – blocks, animal figurines, puppets, dress-ups, real musical instruments, non-fiction books, music
Setting up an Activity (a provocation)
As much as possible, try to include natural materials in your activity. Natural materials are not only beautiful, they appeal deeply to our senses; their colour, texture, smell and even taste are far more engaging than plastic alternatives. Baskets and bowls as well as glass vases can be picked up inexpensively at charity stores.
- cane baskets
- wooden bowls
- wooden trays
- glass jars
- flowers and plants
- leaves, pinecones, sticks, rocks
How does the activity look?
When you are arranging an activity, think about how the activity looks.
- Does it make you want to play too?
- Would you be attracted to this activity?
- Can you see everything that is available?
- Do you have some idea of what you might do with this activity?
Define your work area
Next, define the work area. When you define the work area with a mat or a tray you draw your child’s attention in, they will move to that area. Try using:
- a small cloth placemat like the one in the math provocation above
- a hard surface for building with blocks
- a mirror like in this observational painting activity
- a clipboard for observational drawing
- a kitchen tile for clay or playdough
- Using a mirror with blocks allows the front side of the blocks to be seen, encouraging the child to build more 3-dimentionally.
- When painting or drawing, a mirror underneath an object allows the underside to be seen as well as reflecting light and colour
- Surrounding the activity with mirrors reflects light back onto the child as well as engages the child’s curiosity as they watch their movements.
So these are my thoughts on putting together a Reggio-inspired activity. Reggio-inspired activities are so engaging, they really make you want to get right in there and explore. So have a go and let me know how you went.