Emmi Pikler & Reggio Emilia
Everything children learn in their early years about themselves and their surroundings will have an influence on the rest of their lives. Because of that, we value the professionalism of our services. This can be seen in the way we work with our pedagogic approach, which is inspired by the philosophies and visions of Emmi Pikler and Reggio Emilia.
Emmi Pikler was a Hongarian-Swedish paediatrician and developmental psychologist. She studied and observed the psycho-motor development of babies and children aged O to 3 years. Based on her findings she established a theory about the development of young children. Recent brain research empowers the value of Pikler’s thoughts on brain development in the first years of life.
The Reggio Emilia philosophy originates in Italy and is named after the small city Reggio Emilia. Here, the philosopher Loris Malaguzzi turned his vision of the development of children till the age of six into a method which inspired day care centres and schools all over the world. Italy, Scandinavia and America are examples of places where the Reggio Emilia approach is being applied. In the Netherlands this approach remains fairly unknown.
Emmi Pikler said that children don’t have to be pushed to play games and to develop. Babies are curious and undertaking. Their development is a process which starts naturally from the moment they are born. Adults who want to stimulate this process too much can force or even interrupt it. When children get the chance to develop and discover at their own pace, they will better learn to roll, sit, crawl, stand, talk, think and learn. This doesn’t mean that children don’t need any attention at all. On the contrary, Pikler emphasises on the importance of having warm, personal interactions and creating a good, supportive environment. Children get the time they need to get to know themselves, their environment and the people around them.
The Reggio Emilia approach is also called “the pedagogy of listening”. At the basis of this philosophy lies the thought that children are born with an immense amount of capacity, power and creative expressions. Children can use over “one hundred languages” to express the way they feel. By this they mean that children do not only use actual language to express themselves: they can also use music, movement, dance, clay, paper, gestures, puppetry and theatre. The children will be stimulated in their own (creative) development. Working together with others is also encouraged. In this way, children can develop at their own pace with loving support and professional care.
The three principles
Free movement, free play and respectful care are the keywords in Pikler’s vision.
While moving around, babies get to know themselves and the surrounding world. Quietly, giving themselves the time they need, babies experiment. With astonishing endurance they will keep repeating movements, getting more and more comfortable with different positions. In this way a child will only learn a new skill when he or she is up to it.
Every baby, every human being has the need to play. Free play has a positive influence on the feeling of autonomy of children: they can decide what to play with and for how long. This way they will learn the characteristics of objects in their own, unique way. They discover interests, preferences, possibilities and borders. Children develop self-consciousness and will feel competent.
Care-taking equals communication, that’s why all physical care moments are perfect opportunities to get in touch with babies. Adults learn what the child does and doesn’t want, and needs, and children get to know themselves and the adults who care for them. During these daily, intimate moments secure attachment can be formed.
The three educators
Within the Reggio Emilie philosophy three different educators are described.
The children are seen as each other’s first educator. Children learn the most from each other. They have to communicate, discover each other’s thoughts and form an image of themselves and of the other children. Because of their differences they can enrich on another.
The grown-ups are seen as the second educator. Every adult, (grand)parent, supervisor and teacher who deals with children, is actually raising them and adding something to the development of these children. Everything a grown-up does can influence the development of a child; they have to be aware of this.
The third educator is the environment of a child. Inspiring spaces, interiors and offered materials will help the children in their development and can lead to children trying new things, which can lead to further developments. The environment forms the context and is essential in the development of a child.
Children have free range in their movement and games. Of course they will be supported and the day care workers are always with them. Babies lie down on a firm ground with enough space to move. Those who crawl get the possibility to climb and toys are set up in permanent, inviting places. Our staff take the time for the one-on-one care moments and give the children their full attention. For skincare we use the natural products of Naïf among others.
Stimulating children in a way in which they will discover themselves and the world around them plays an enormous part in our policy. This can be done through activities such as scavenger hunts in nature or the garden, playing sports, making up their own games or working in the atelier with valuable but free materials (for example through themes which the children invented). For the older children there are other possibilities, such as going to a museum, theatre or the beach.
How a child masters a next position or move is more important than the moment when it happens. The goal is to give the brain all the developmental possibilities and let the child be free in experimenting with space and materials, without focusing on the actual goals of the space and materials. In this way, the child can develop into an autonomous individual.
Learning from the process and not so much from the final product is the goal of these creative activities. Activities the children can relate to, stimulate the development of mind and body. Music, dancing, being read to, and creative and free play play a big part. For the children aged O – 13 years all the activities are matched to the development phase and the individual interests of the child.
In Pikler’s vision the primary goal of an adult is to maintain an observational rather than a guiding attitude regarding children’s play. The adult carefully watches what the child initiates. Children can be helped, but only after observation and if the child’s attempts don’t succeed.
To follow the development of the children, they are carefully watched. What occupies their mind, in which development phase are they? Observing and documenting this helps the adults to stimulate a child towards the next step in his or her development. A documentation file keeps parents up to date. With pictures, notes, songs and arts & crafts projects the child has been working on, the documentation shows what the child has been up to.
This short video about a baby learning how to roll gives a good example of the vision of Emmi Pikler.
If you want to read more about the Reggio Emilia philosophy, you can read the book “De honderd talen van kinderen” (“The hundred languages of children) by Carolyn Edwards, Lella Gandini and George Froman (1998).