Monday, March 18, 2013

Be Reggio Inspired: play materials

Welcome to the fourth of the series Reggio-Inspired Preschool Environments.

Reggio Inspired Learning Materials

Materials have the potential to draw you in, make you want to stay a while, explore a little (or a lot), try new things, create and wonder. They also have the potential to completely turn you away. In a Reggio-inspired environment, as with many other play-based, child-led environments, the materials are carefully selected for their potential to enhance learning and discovery.
- Kate, An Everyday Story

Flights of Whimsy

Reggio-inspired materials are typically:
  • aesthetically pleasing
  • sensory 
  • open-ended
  • authentic (real rather than plastic, or a child's version)
  • natural
  • interesting
  • inviting
Pre K and Sharing

They are selected to:

  • respond to children's interests
  • stimulate thinking
  • revisit prior learning
  • support creativity
  • ignite curiosity
  • encourage exploration
  • empower
  • engage
  • test theories

Using natural materials

Attractive selection of instruments and scarves

Many materials found in Reggio-inspired environments are easily and cheaply sourced.  Visit you local Op shops (thrift shops) for scarves, table clothes, vases, buttons, kitchen utensils, tea sets - all manner of things!

Frequent garage sales; save all those empty boxes, wrapping paper, interesting bottle tops and wash out and reuse containers; ask hardware stores for their wood offcuts or go for a treasure hunt out and about in nature.

Ask families to bring in interesting materials from home, whether they are items that that can be reused, nature collections from a trip to the beach or instruments or cooking utensils that reflect their family culture.

Bellelli Educacion
Get real.  Real tools and real materials are so much more enticing (and respectful) to young children:

Wherever possible, choose real over replica.

Places like Reverse Garbage in Sydney or Resource Rescue in Melbourne are a virtual treasure trove of intriguing, open ended materials full of play opportunities.

Bellelli Educacions

Think outside as well as in.  Natural materials, such as tree stumps or tree cookies, lend themselves beautifully to creative and imaginative play.  Old kitchen utensils can find a new home outdoors:  

Make and Play
Reggio Inspired Ning
Stomping in the Mud

Children are experts in seeing the potential in these objects.  With the simple addition of common objects such as corks, bottle caps, material scraps and ceramic tiles to a block area play can flourish:

Reggio Inspired Ning

Light boxes are popular in Reggio inspired classrooms to explore light, colour and shadow:

A Woven Education

A range of different mirrors can be used as backgrounds, surfaces, loose parts, tiles for clay or other art experiences and investigations:

An Everyday Story

Attention is paid to how materials are displayed.  Clear containers, woven baskets and wooden trays all provide a neutral backdrop that doesn't detract from the materials within.

Top: Journey into Early Childhood Bottom: My Classroom Transformation and A Woven Education

Journey into Early Childhood
Uncluttered, clean and organised storage empowers children to make their own choices:

Little Preschool on the Prairie

If you'd like more inspiration, here are a few places to visit:


  1. I love all that you have posted!!
    I work with children ages 1-5 and we have strict laws concerning materials and choking hazards, etc. I would love any feedback for toddlers materials and classrooms.

  2. Hello,

    Thank you for including our blog and photo of art materials in your wonderful post!


    Joanne Babalis

    P.S. Your blog is extremely inspiring and thought provoking- a wonderful resource that I will be adding to my "educators resources" section.

  3. So inspiring! Love the picture of the mortar and pestle.

  4. I work with 3-4 year olds. In my room I have a lot of boys and many of them will throw things in anger. I also have a severely autistic child who will also throw things. Do you have any idea how I could incorporate these challenges with setting up using real materials such as glass & porcelain?

  5. just found your blog - just in time, too! our children are 4 and 5, and we've been struggling with what to do in the backyard to encourage more outdoor play. living downtown with a little, but serviceable yard, we were trending toward the traditional suburban backyard setup, but are now enthralled with the idea of more natural play spaces for our kiddos.
    Thank you for all the wonderful ideas you've created and collected here!

  6. So many wonderful ideas I don't know where to start! Thank you so much

  7. This a great post Jenn! I enjoyed reading it.