Setting up a Reggio-inspired Activity

How to Set up a Reggio Activity - An Everyday StoryStart 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.

Exploring birds nests - An Everyday StoryFind out what your child already knows

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

Reggio Activities - Natural Lavender PlaydoughWhat 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 Childrenthe cornerstone of the Reggio Emilia Approach.

What kinds of activities engage your child’s sense of wonder?

How to set up a Reggio activity - An Everyday Story

 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.

Art Explorations:

Authentic Art Materials for Toddlers Part 3 - Paint - An Everyday Story 1

 Other Explorations:

  • 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)

How to set up a Reggio painting activity - An Everyday Story

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.

Try using:

A Reggio Math Provocation from An Everyday Story

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:

Reggio Activities - Natural Lavender PlaydoughUsing Mirrors

Finally, mirrors. Can the activity be enhanced at all by adding a mirror? Is there an aspect of the activity which would benefit from being seen from another perspective?

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.


34 Replies to “Setting up a Reggio-inspired Activity”

  1. Great post Kate, really helpful! I’ll definitely try adding a mirror in my Jack’s block play. Still thinking and listening for what our next project will be.

  2. This is an excellent post on setting up a Reggio activity. It is easy to understand and to follow. I will be using this post in the near future with my children (and checking out your other posts 🙂 In the meantime I am going to share at Triple T Mum FB Page and pin. Thank you!

  3. I am absolutely adoring your blog! SO delighted to have found you. This space is so very informative and inspiring. A million bravos!! Wishing you a beautiful week with your babies 🙂 x

    1. Oh Steph I just spent the evening reading through your lovely blog and thinking the same thing! 😀 So happy to have found you too.

  4. Love this post Kate, so well put together!
    I think you nailed it on the head about the whole process. Seeing it in step like this makes it so much easier, and comprehensive.

    Thank you for posting this, I’ll come back when I need inspiration!

    And BTW, Starry night is Van Gogh, not Da Vinci 😉

    1. hahaha oh yeah, Opps 😀

  5. This was a really interesting read, it sounds so similar to the inquiry learning process that I use at school with 5 – 8 year olds. We only learned a tiny bit about Reggio in my ECE degree, and I had forgotten it all already!

    1. It’s very similar to inquiry-based learning, actually I think you could quite confidently say it is inquiry-based learning 🙂 The main thing I see as different to the type I learnt at uni and then taught is that inquiry is entirely child-led (I taught high school and so the inquiry focus was set for them), the materials the children use and the emphasis on children showing their understanding through art as they progress in their inquiry. It is so very fascinating for me 🙂

  6. interestedinreggio says: Reply

    Thanks for your posts! I am interested in incorporating more Reggio with my two preschoolers, and I was looking for a blog with inspiring ideas – yours is great! Question regarding presenting the activity: how much do you interact with the child vs let them discover on their own? Do you show them ideas and connections within the activity (eg comparing the domino dots with the squares, or point out different paintbrush sizes) or do you let them discover everything on their own and watch from a distance? Thanks!!

    1. It really depends on the activity. If it is an art activity with a new medium (or a medium they haven’t explore much before) I let them explore freely. Once they are familiar with the medium/material I encourage them to delve a little deeper, refine their skills by giving suggestions or showing them new techniques.

      If the activity focusses on a specific skill or knowledge area like the addition activity, I demonstrate how to do the activity and support them if they have any questions. The important thing is to make sure that these focussed activities come from the children’s interests. My son was doing simple sums and so this activity was intended to build on that interest.

  7. Great Post Kate. I really enjoyed it. I do a bit this style of teaching but I so need to do more. It’s inspiring!

    1. Hi Kate, I use real life experiences when I teach, in order to introduce a topic – maths, literacy, science, IT. Then students want to get involved, find that there are some valued contributions they can make while having fun gaining skills and insights. I love their language while they play/explore, and the smiles as they cat about their findings and mastered skills. Using nature, art and real life experiences is the way to go to engage all children in a class, no matter what their abilities, interests and intelligencies.

  8. interestedinreggio says: Reply

    Thank you:)

  9. Enjoyed your site. I could have used some of this information when my grandchilden were younger .With a 13 year old teen girl , the natural things we did together are now passed memory. Boys & hair , fingernail polish , Cellphones , etc. ..are her things now. I pray she remembers time for the Lord .
    I still have my 12 yr old grandson .He loves natural stuff. He will go on digs with me and enjoy smooth stones , artifacts .I thank God for my nature buddie grandson .

  10. this was a loooovely post! so concise and inspiring, many thanks.

  11. Rose hernani says: Reply

    It was a perfect journey indeed! all are well define…it was great way of facilitating teachers who have the interest of following and learning the Reggio Approach! Job well done!

  12. “no matter how beautiful the picture looks, if your child isn’t interested in it then that activity isn’t going to engage them” – utterly brilliant advice – its taken me a while to get there and finally realise that i need to follow my child’s interests if he’s going to get anything from it.

    1. Thank you. It took me a little while too. Especially because there are just soooo many fabulous activities out there. But for Jack, he really enjoys simple things like working with different art materials and building blocks. I see a lot of activities and they do look like a lot of fun but I just know that it would take me more time to organise the activity then Jack and Sarah would do playing.

  13. Wow! Thanks for this! It is the best description and “guidebook” of Reggio I’ve seen. I now feel I have a better understanding of what it is and how it can be accompished than I ever did before. Excellent ideas.

  14. What an awesome post!! I work in Reggio Inspired child care centre in Thunder Bay Ontario Canada – I love the photos of how you set up an Reggio inspired activity. I have always believed that if an activity looks warm, inviting, exciting and available – the children will gravitate to it immediately. I’m excited to keep looking through your blog and site!!!

    1. Thank you Dee 🙂 We are instantly drawn to beautiful things too, aren’t we? I think children are just as deserving to be surrounded by beauty and wonder.

      1. I used my mirrors in a totally different way yesterday…..with play dough, beautiful smooth pebbles and glass beads (taking a page from your book!!)……..what a enjoyable time I had watching the children discover new ways to use the “old standby – play dough”. Thanks! 🙂

  15. This is a wonderful post. I teach a PreK class with 11 boys and 3 girls. My boys are your typical rough and rowdy bunch who rather wrestle each other and play with action figures and electronic devices than the loose parts I provide for them. I have out baskets of beautiful rocks and stones and glass gems. My boys just tend to dump everything together or throw them at each other. I’ve modeled for them numerous times how to use the materials appropriately in the classroom but only a select few actually play. I am at my wits end trying to figure out how to inspire my children to play more meaningfully with loose parts and open ended materials. It is almost as if they don’t know how to play with them. If you could offer any insight or know of any resources I can use to help that would be wonderful. I am a full believer in Reggio and I would hate to have to remove the loose parts I have from my classroom because of my children’s behavior.

    1. I would suggest to start slow and use a provocation with the boys that are sure to engage them like a homemade robot or use a toy robot in the provocation. Discuss it in a group getting lots of ideas from them about how it works and what it would take to make one. Then collect loose materials that they suggested and go from there. This maybe an extended activity over several days. Keep trying!

  16. Barbara Maschwitz says: Reply

    wow, thank you! this is what I’ve been looking for.

  17. Very information! Thanks for writing this post =D

  18. This is a very helpful post! Love the way you have set up activities.

  19. This post, along with the rest of your site is very inspiring! Thanks, was a great read 🙂

    1. Thank you Kirsten, that’s really lovely of you to say. Do you homeschool as well or teach early childhood?

  20. So glad i found this page. I am using it as part of my theorist paper and also as a paper for another class that will include a demonstration. the fun times of being an ECE college student.

  21. I am inspired. Thank you Kate. Great layout, easy to understand and follow.

  22. Zablon Mgonja says: Reply

    Thank you very much for taking time to write this. I am in the process of setting a school for underprivileged children in my country Tanzania and I love Reggio Emilia approach, but it is still a new idea to me, reading this inspired me alot. thanks again.

  23. Very nicely done!

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