The Hundred Languages of Children: What They Are & How They Inform Reggio Emilia Learning

Have you ever watched a small child encounter something for the first time? Do you remember how they interacted with it? Did they carefully observe it, did they pick it up, shake it and listen, sniff it or lick it? Maybe they engaged with it in all of these ways! Children often use all their five senses to create meaning out of new experiences. Senses are so important because they help all living things to satisfy basic needs like finding food, water, and shelter, communicating, and avoiding danger. Honing these abilities is serious business, but luckily, to a growing child, the world is an absolutely wondrous place. They will naturally attempt to absorb as much information as possible through their eyes, noses, fingers, mouths, and ears – constantly building their understanding of the world with energy and curiosity.

Can you see how an early learning philosophy, one that builds on this inner curiosity within children, could have a positive effect on their development? Allowing children to explore their hundred languages is the basis of Reggio Emilia schools, which ultimately blend learning, play, and joy.

In the Reggio Emilia approach, children are believed to be born with full capabilities for personal development and relationship-building. Through exercising their hundred languages, children strengthen their powers, and contribute to their communities. Reggio Emilia schools, such as Riverside Magnet School in Connecticut, emphasize children’s exploration of their senses through these basic pillars:

  • Children direct their own learning based on interest
  • Teachers act as partners to children: they collaborate, observe, document, and share
  • The school environment, called the “third teacher” in this approach, is designed to encourage the enrichment goals of Reggio Emilia by being comfortable and inviting
  • Families take on an active role in the Reggio school community
  • Lessons are hands-on and use a variety of materials, which allow children to be creative

When children are put in charge of their own learning, it becomes almost magical to witness where their imaginations will go. This open-ended method of exploration allows children to follow their curiosity and learn more robustly in the process. They can ask questions and produce projects on the same subject matter until they exhaust the topic! Reggio Emilia schools embrace this confidence-building technique, encouraging children to speak with all of their languages.

Respect for children and their growing abilities is an important tenet of Reggio Emilia education. In order to encourage this, teachers will seek out materials that empower children. Instead of purchasing plastic toys or “child-versions” of real products, Reggio Emilia teachers will use natural and sensory materials in the classroom that speak to a variety of the hundred languages of children, such as: buttons, kitchen utensils and tools, scarves, fabric, shells and rocks, plants and flowers, cardboard tubes, mirrors, yarn, wooden blocks, and real art supplies like paints, pencils, and brushes. Materials like these engage children’s senses of touch and sight, smell, and sound. Authentic materials stimulate children’s abilities to revisit prior learning and build memory, and ultimately, children find them more interesting. Remember that children are constantly exercising their senses, not only in the classroom. Encountering the same materials at school as they do at home strengthens their powers of understanding the world. Additionally, curious minds are never bored!

In a Reggio Emilia classroom, children explore their hundred languages with movement, by creating things, in talking with one another and with adults, by smelling new scents and tasting new flavors, and listening to beautiful and surprising sounds. Submerging them in an environment that caters to each of these experiences with a total philosophy can be a successful avenue to help grow a self-secure, empathetic, creative, and mature child who is ready to tackle each new year of school with enthusiasm.

If you think that your little one may benefit from a Reggio Emilia elementary school such as Riverside Magnet School at Goodwin College, we encourage you to reach out. Schedule a parent information session today.