Tag Archives: Reggio Emilia Approach

Using ‘Provocations’ to Extend an Interest

A while back I posted a ‘play series’ which featured snippets of my girls playing with a variety of invitations as well as some naturally occurring play moments. I also featured a post explaining how I sometimes struggle to encourage my eldest daughter, Lucy, (2.5 years) to play independently and contentedly and how I hoped to use her own genuine interests to encourage more depth in her play.

I have since come to realise that I was perhaps setting up too many of these invitations / provocations and my children were coming to rely on having something different and interesting to explore on a daily basis. So I have recently got back to basics. I have not presented my children with a single provocation for nearly two months and instead have allowed them to engage and create with the lovely toys and objects we have around the house. It has been fascinating to watch them progress through these months. Initially, it was quite difficult for all of us. There was a lot of leg hugging and Lucy was far from independent in her play. It was like she had forgotten how to be happy just being. No stimulation or explorations to discover, it was all up to her how she occupied herself in her free time (which is most of the time). Gradually she has become more imaginative in her play and furthermore she seeks to include her younger sister more readily in her made up games which regularly include ‘going shopping for groceries’, playing shops (with imaginary customers) and making beds for all her little pot people and tucking them in to sleep. They still paint and craft but it has to be their idea not something I have provided for them to run with.

Now, whilst it was a successful break from offering engaging activities, I do still see value in using these invitations when I see an opportunity to extend an interest. As Lucy gets older I am seeing more and more inquiry coming into her vocabulary. Why do we have to sift the flour before we add it to the mixture? When will the leaves fall off the trees again? What do the kangaroos eat in the desert? etc. I love that she inquires about these things as it gives me a little insight into her mind. What she’s thinking about, where she’s at cognitively etc. It is from these inquisitions that I intend to set up opportunities for her to delve deeper and discover a little more about the concept. I am hoping it will allow her to develop the skills of research and experimentation to make her own conclusions rather than relying on me for the answers (some of which I don’t actually know)!

So recently we began participating in our local shopping centre promotion whereby they are giving away Australian Animal Collector Cards. We purchased the Collector’s Album for a token amount and have been busily adding the cards to it. It has been a fantastic project. Lucy has been exposed to numbers up to 100 as each card has a unique number and its own designated pocket identifiable by the number. Initially I was reading out the number and then turning to the correct pocket for Lucy to feed it in. Now, Lucy has begun matching the numbers herself once I have turned to the correct page. She gets rather upset if I try to show her where it goes. She’s even started to work out that all the cards that go together on the same page have the same coloured border around them and is having a go at finding the right page now as well.

The pages are categorised by habitats. There are rainforest animals, backyard animals, wetlands animals, reef animals, desert animals and quite a few others. Lucy was particularly interested in the desert animals. There was a Red Kangaroo card in this section and she has recently been to an animal sanctuary and fed kangaroos as well as many other beautiful Australian animals. She asked what a desert was and we flicked between pictures of a rainforest habitat and a desert one. She noticed the difference in colours between the vibrant green of the forest and the rusty red of the desert. She wondered what the kangaroos ate because there is very little vegetation. This was a really nice moment and overall I have been really impressed with the longevity of her interest in continuing to add cards to her folder every time I come home from a grocery shop.

I decided to extend her interest a little further and attempt to set up a mini habitat sensory pit representing a desert. I buried some of the desert animal cards in the pit for the girls to find and then left it to them.


I used a variety of pulses (dried mixed beans, dried peas, pearl barley and rice) most of which had been sitting in the pantry for years begging to be used. I wish I knew how!! Funnily enough, Lucy has enjoyed crunching on the dried kidney beans occasionally as she plays which is fine by me.


The girls loved pulling the cards out and finding out what animals were hiding out in their desert. After the pit had been up for a few days Lucy even started putting them back ‘underground’ when the sun was shining on the pit so they didn’t get burnt!


Of course it didn’t take long for the sensory nature of the pit to become the focus for the play as spoons, cups and even a little bit of water was added to the activity.


It has ended up being a lovely (on going) inquiry with much discovery about the desert habitat. When it loses its appeal, I will attempt to create a new habitat from the folder. I can’t wait to see how the girls react to it.

Has anyone else been collecting these cards? How have your children engaged with them?

You might also be interested in reading

Our Weekly Play: Week One

Our Weekly Play: Week Two

Setting up a Reggio-inspired Activity From Kate @ An Everyday Story

Another working week for me but still plenty of time to play, create, explore and discover. I am lucky that my job allows me quite a lot of time to think about activities for my children at home. It’s then just a matter of making it happen when I’m there.

6 sensory invitation

6- exploring cloud dough

This sensory pit was recreated a few times this week as we all loved it. Yep, even me. I am the first to admit that I am not a bit fan of getting my hands in and squishing mushy oats, or goop or even just plain flour. I will do it when my children urge me to but the delight that I show them is not always how I’m feeling inside. Luckily, they are usually happy for me to be a present bystander whilst they explore!! But with the introduction of cloud dough this week, a new side of me came out. I loved the light, soft texture and I found it incredibly soothing to squeeze it between my fingers and make shapes only to see it crumble apart when it was dropped, or squashed. Needless to say, the kids loved it too and the best part was despite feeling messy to play with, it was easy to clean up. This is definitely going to be repeated regularly in the future.

*NB: I halved the suggested recipe and used cooking oil as I didn’t have any baby oil. This worked perfectly for us*

6 testing gravity

A few new houses are being built across the road and we often head over (once all the workman have left for the day) and play in the dirt piles and explore the bits and pieces that are left lying around. On one of the blocks is a fairly big scrap heap and we noticed these large heavy duty cardboard tube scraps under some rubble. We dug two out and carried them home to see what types of play they could be used for. Lucy decided she would like to paint them so we chose some complementary colours together and I then left her to paint away. She asked me to add to her painting so, under her direction, I added some dots in a a few different colours and then left the rest to her. It was one of the first times that I have really seen her take some pride in her work. Maybe because it was something that would have an ongoing purpose and could be useful? These tubes have been used in a variety of ways including as a didgeridoo to make sounds, a megaphone to yell to each other and a telescope to look at each other close up. But the activity that has seen the girls both occupied for significant amounts of time is as seen above. The girls started by sending balls down the shoot and watching them fly out into the basket. Lucy then picked up a stone and asked ‘can this go down?’. I didn’t need to respond with much more than ‘I’m not sure?’. She tested the theory herself and tried all sorts of objects big and small to see which ones went down easily and which did not. She quickly determined that the round objects were the easiest to send down whilst the irregular shapes of her puzzle pieces for example did not flow so easily. It was lovely to hear her talking herself though the project. Not really wanting my input but rather using me as a sounding board for her own rhetorical questions.

6 - Road scene

This road scene did not get as much use as I thought it might. We have had some troubles recently with the girls trying to run onto the road when we play out on the front lawn so I set this invitation up to see whether we could play out the consequences of running onto the road without looking etc. I think I needed to become more involved once the initial exploration had taken place or even from the beginning, seeing as this is such an important issue. Perhaps I will try again but use the scene as a prop to tell a story etc. We may revisit this during the upcoming week.

6 poohstick races

I have such fond memories of having poohstick races with my siblings and cousins when we were growing up. We found a lovely little steam nearby with gently flowing water that the girls could throw things into and then race ahead to meet them as they travelled down. Lucy tested my nerves a few times as she reached in to feel the water but she remained surefooted and confident as I trusted her to know her limits. It helped, also, that the stream itself was only about a foot deep 🙂

6 rosellas

And, finally, my last post detailed a bird project we have been undertaking which has encouraged many birds in our yard such as magpies, house sparrows and crows but no colourful or more exotic birds. Now I know, rosellas are not exactly exotic but this beautiful couple have been to have breakfast and dinner in our backyard for the past three days and we are all super excited! They are simply magnificent to watch, even if we have to stay inside to do so. We had to do a little research to correctly identify them and we are fairly sure they are pale-headed rosellas. I can’t tell you how great this experience has been for the girls and I love the ongoing nature of it. The anticipation of which bird is coming next is thrilling!

Thank you again for taking some time out to read my ramblings. What did you get up to this week. As always, I would love to hear from you. 🙂

Our Weekly Play: Week 5

Lots of photos and not so much writing in this episode of our week in play. We were lucky enough to visit the Ipswich Art Gallery twice this week. There we discovered the Light and Play Exhibition as well as The Wonder of Learning: The Hundred Languages of Children exhibition which detailed the story of Loris Malaguzzi and how the aftermath of World War Two inspired his revolutionary approach to early childhood learning in the Northern Italian City of Reggio Emilia. Each of these exhibitions was so inspiring. I got so much out of the Reggio Emilia exhibit and am now keen to learn a lot more. The Light and Play exhibition drew both girls in immediately and invited them to interact, explore and discover reflections, shadow, projection, magnification and a whole host of other dimensions of light physics. If you live in or around Brisbane I would highly recommend taking your children to see this display. It ends in a couple of weeks and is well worth the trip. Here are a few of the highlights plus a couple of extra things we did during the week.


This light panel was built into the floor so it could be walked over, crawled over and fully explored. It changed colour every few minutes making all of the objects on top change appearance.


This simple activity was quite inspired. It was a line strung between two points with pegs scattered along and a couple of baskets full of random objects nearby, ready to peg up. Children could then use torches to shine at the objects and watch as the shadows were cast on the walls. I am going to try to set something like this up at home this week because Lucy was really fascinated with the torch and loved making the shadows.


There were several raised tables with a selection of objects set aside in bins for the children to add and explore.


Another light table with mirrors to add a new dimension.


This table had a webcam that was hooked up to a projector which projected the image onto the wall. The children could explore how objects change in size when projected in this way, although Penny was happy to just stack the cups for about 30 minutes 🙂


A little triangular house with Mirrors on each side kept Penny enthralled.


And Lucy investigated with all senses!!


Back home and we continued to explore the local birds using these laminated cards. Lucy did some matching and recognition with this activity. Throughout the week she was able to identify and name many of our backyard birds.


Pouring remained a favourite activity for Lucy as she got more adept at pouring from a variety of different containers.



This souvenir from the art gallery was a huge  hit. Lucy loved seeing shapes form in 3D and I am now thinking of some ways to incorporate this into an art invitation. Any ideas?


Ever thought of bringing your outdoor furniture inside and setting up a playground wonderland in your lounge room? No, me neither! This invitation to play was set up for the children by my dear husband whilst I was at work. The children can’t get enough of it but I am looking forward to having my lounge room back 🙂

So another week has past and for us it was one very much dominated by our gallery visits. I am going to leave you with a beautiful poem written by Loris Malaguzzi who has inspired thousands of people world wide to take the time to listen to our children’s need to play, to create, to investigate and to imagine. It is up to us to foster these inherent qualities in our children so that their inquiring minds blossom rather than shrivel. I truly hope that I can rise to the challenge set by Loris!

The Hundred Languages

The child is made of one hundred. The child has a hundred languages a hundred hands 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 Founder of the Reggio Emilia Approach




Our Week In Play: Week 1

I really enjoy writing about my experiences of RIE parenting but I wanted to highlight another side to my parenting which is inspired by the works of Maria Montessori (Montessori Approach) and Loris Malaguzzi (Reggio Emilia Approach).

I should also add here that I acquire many of my ideas from a wonderful blog called An Everyday Story written by my friend, Kate, who is an amazing mother of two equally amazing children. Her thoughtful play invitations and inquiry based projects have always resonated with the types of experiences I want to offer my children.

I love how she remains in tune with her son’s (4) and daughter’s (2) interests and provides rich experiences which not only teaches them basic facts about life, but also models the processes of learning by which they can obtain that knowledge. It is plainly clear to see that she is fostering an immense love of learning in her children both creatively and analytically and it is very hard not to be inspired by the wonderful things that she does. Continue reading