Why Children Need Choice

Can you imagine your pre-schooler attending an early education centre and being allowed to choose what he or she did during the day?  Imagine a room of little people having carte blanche in the classroom?   You’d think it would be total chaos and no-one would ‘learn’ anything.

Giving the freedom of choice to children almost seems counter-intuitive, but in fact, early learning environments which put the freedom of choice in the hands of the child are remarkably productive.  They’re remarkably peaceful.  And they’re remarkably successful.

The Reggio Emilia approach to early education puts the child firmly at the helm of their learning journey, and it’s an approach that has garnered accolades, acclaim and a significant following right around the world.   It rose to prominence in the early nineties when Newsweek magazine hailed it as one of the best early childhood education models in the world and it’s gone from strength to strength ever since.

Child-directed learning and choice is at the very heart of the Reggio Emilia philosophy.

The philosophy has the child as the compass for the journey, the active constructor of his or her own knowledge with the adults (educators, parents, caregivers and the wider community) providing guidance and ‘scaffolding’ to enable the child to explore, discover and learn.

Reggio Emilia isn’t a new concept (it started with a collaboration between a psychologist named Loris Malaguzzi and the local community in a small Italian village of the same name shortly after the end of WWII), but there’s been a significant surge in demand recently for schools which are inspired by its philosophies.  This has resulted in many new Reggio Emilia-inspired early learning centres opening up in communities around Australia, including Perth and Melbourne.

Malaguzzi passionately believed that every child is born with an innate curiosity and wonder and that every child is capable of taking responsibility.  He believed that every child is a natural scientist, driven by curiosity and who loves to learn – but that each child learns differently.  He believed that the child had the right to choose and that the power of choice strengthened their will, built their self-belief, encouraged their creativity and helped them become confident decision-makers.

A Reggio classroom is one where children and educators learn together.  They’re co-constructors of knowledge and reciprocal communication is crucial.  Unlike conventional educational strategies where the teacher is ‘in charge’ of the curriculum and where there are predetermined processes and outcomes, in Reggio-inspired environments, educators are equals who use provocation and open-ended questioning rather than explanations and demonstrations to support the children as they build their own knowledge.

Reggio Emilia environments make the most of a child’s innate joy and curiosity, and by putting choice into the hands of the child, children are empowered and emboldened to discover and learn through their own interests.   When children have choices and can direct their own learning, they feel heard, they feel respected, they have greater self-belief and they feel valued – and those qualities are immeasurably important as they make their way through life.

This concept of freedom of choice in an early learning environment is not an easy one to understand and conceptualise, but the results speak for themselves.  If you would like to experience a Reggio Emilia-inspired learning environment first-hand or discover more about the educational philosophy and how it can bring out the best in your child, you’re welcome to get in touch with Early Learning & Kinder.

They have a number of established early education centres throughout Perth and Melbourne and are opening up several new schools to meet growing demand, and they would love to meet you.  Get in touch with them through their website, www.earlylearningandkinder.com.au and start making choices of your own about quality premium early education for your child.