Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Paving the way for purposeful play!

 Reggio Emilia inspired school in Hong Kong
EtonHouse International School - A Reggio Emilia inspired space for infants and toddlers
A while ago a group of teachers from outside my centre came through our classrooms for a tour. We had some amazing comments from each individual and everyone walked away really inspired. I ended up having a big conversation with a teacher who is montessori trained and she was explaining that the Pipi environment felt slightly montessori inspired to her, in that all the materials were in the child's reach and that the environment strongly promoted independence. I had never thought of our environment as Montessori inspired before but I guess a lot of our aspirations for children align with that of Montessori especially our desire to create opportunities for children to practice and gain independence. One thing this teacher did explain to me was that Montessori environments offer a lot less of a material (for example a small basket of duplo instead of a big plastic tub) to the child and that everything is visible to the child and not hidden inside baskets. This really got me thinking and I observed our children at play in the months following. They did not seem to play with the things in the baskets unless the basket was placed on the floor so that they could see the contents. We noticed that the toddlers play with the most familiar materials (blocks and duplo) had become rather destructive and that the children were moving materials around the room and throwing them. They were not as purposeful in their play as they had been when the resources were new. My team and I wondered whether there was too much available and decided to put some toys away and rotate the options so that they may become more special. This seemed to help with some resources and children's play was certainly more purposeful! One day I decided to put out only a small basket of duplo and I was amazed that the children were engaged for a lot longer in their play with this material. My goal now is to de-clutter our classroom! 

The clean, uncluttered nature of Montessori environments invite children to reminds adults that it is not the quantity of works to be offered, but the quality. An orderly environment helps children to play productively and with purpose. RIE environments also promote this idea of organisation and predictably for infants and toddlers. They put only a few play objects in each shelf so the infant or toddler can see exactly what they need.

I feel a cluttered environment with too many resources is overwhelming for a child. I feel it promotes more destructive behavior in toddlers. I want to provide a calm environment that promotes productive and purposeful exploration!

Here is some inspiration I have had for this goal...

A very beautiful interpretation of RIE - What an empowering space for an infant to work!

Asilo Nido "Katia Franci" - A montessori environment for infants

The amazing Kate from an every day story has created the most beautiful (and organised) environment for her two children! This space is both inspired by Reggio Emilia and Montessori.

I'll keep you posted on our mission to pave the way for purposeful play!