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Creativity in the infant toddler centres of Reggio Emilia

May 6, 2014

“Developing creativity is the premise for making the most of what is learnable but not teachable. It is at the heart of innovation and creating a sustainable society it is a cure for the uniformity produced by globalisation”
                                                             Andrea Ginzburg

 regdisplay copyWhen the infant toddler centres of Reggio Emilia are mentioned one automatically thinks about the “Hundred Languages of Children”. This beautiful writing gives visibility to an image of the child who has a hundred ways to discover, invent, marvel, and dream or simply a hundred ways to be.  This theory of the hundred languages, proposed in the infant toddler centres and preschools of Reggio Emilia offers a way of seeing children or having an image of the child as competent, confident and a protagonist of his/her own learning. The underpinning values and principles under pinned by a rights based approach has offered inspiration to the world.


On visiting the infant toddler centres and preschools one is immediately struck by the aesthetic beauty of the environments, this of course is enhanced by the geographical location in northern Italy and of course the beautiful weather. The Reggio approach is embedded in a culture where creativity and the arts are almost an extension of the being.

The Piazza`s with their beautiful architecture, piped music, art exhibitions, museums and creative displays invite children to curiously explore and inquire. It is within this culture that the infant toddler centres extend children’s experiences and art and creativity are central to this experience.

reglight copyIn the 1960`s Loris Malaguzzi introduced an atelier to each of the preschools in Reggio Emilia. Atelier can be defined as a work shop of an artist or a place to think and make.
“ For us, the atelier had to become part of a complex design and, at the same time an added space for searching, or better, for digging with one`s own hands and one`s own mind, and for refining one`s own eyes, through the practice of the visual arts. It had to be a place for sensitizing one`s taste and aesthetic sense, a place for the individual exploration of projects connected with experiences planned in the different classrooms of the school.


The atelier had to be a place for researching motivations and theories of children from scribbles on up, a place for exploring variations in tools, techniques, and materials with which to work. It had to be a place favouring children’s logical and creative itineraries, a place for being familiar with similarities and differences of verbal and non-verbal languages. (Gandini, 2005, p.7). Art and creativity in the infant toddler centres and preschools give visibility to the Hundred Languages of children giving a richness to the context and experiences of young children. Vea Vecchi, artist in her conversations with Lella Gandini says of the introduction of atelier by Lorris Malaguzzi into the preschools and infant toddler centres, “It represented a strong and tangible statement of the importance attributed to imagination, creativity, expressiveness, and aesthetics in the educational process of development and knowledge building”.


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The commitment to art and creativity as a language of expression has grown and developed over the years in the preschools and infant toddler centres. The variety of materials used alone and in combination offer children opportunities to explore, develop relationships with the materials, transform and get to know the essence of the material in a multisensory environment an environment of enquiry. In this environment of enquiry children engage with colour, texture, light and digital technologies. The choice and variety of materials which children use ranges from different colour textured paper to different type ,colour, texture plastics, string, natural materials, metal  and wood to a mixture of all of the above in combination with light/ shadow/ digital technology.

“The sounds of the material, you have to see them, not just hear them. It`s the sound that breaks the metal, the wood, and the cardboard. And it comes out. The sound is the materials voice.” Alex, 4yrs.10 mos, (cited in Children, Art, Artists, Reggio Children, 2008).

To conclude, I hope I have offered you a taste of the essence of creativity in the infant toddler centres and preschools of Reggio Emilia. The full selection of Reggio Children books are available top purchase on the following link, from our online shop


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The Hundred Languages

No way. The hundred is there.
The child
is made of one hundred.
The child has
a hundred languages
a hundred handsregshade copy
a hundred thoughts
a hundred ways of thinking
of playing, of speaking.
A hundred always a hundred
ways of listening
of marveling, of loving
a hundred joys
for singing and understanding
a hundred worlds
to discover
a hundred worlds
to invent
a hundred worlds
to dream.
The child has
a hundred languages
(and a hundred hundred hundred more)
but they steal ninety-nine.
The school and the culture
separate the head from the body.
They tell the child:
to think without hands
to do without head
to listen and not to speak
to understand without joy
to love and to marvel
only at Easter and at Christmas.
They tell the child:
to discover the world already there
and of the hundred
they steal ninety-nine.
They tell the child:
that work and play
reality and fantasy
science and imagination
sky and earth
reason and dream
are things
that do not belong together.
And thus they tell the child
that the hundred is not there.
The child says:
No way. The hundred is there.
-Loris Malaguzzi (translated by Lella Gandini)
Founder of the Reggio Emilia Approach


Since the late ‘60s in the municipal preschools of Reggio Emilia, each school has a space called the atelier and the figure of the atelierista, a “teacher” with an arts background. In this way, the expressive and poetic languages became part of the process by which knowledge is built.Regdisplay2 copy
The Atelier thus becomes the place of research, invention, and empathy, expressed by means of “100 languages”, which extend beyond childhood to include adulthood up to advanced age.
The ateliers are constructed in partnership with other professionals of various competencies (architects, pedagogistas, physicists, engineers, biologists, dancers, musicians, physicians, and so on).

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