*This post is part of an ongoing series called “Exploring Reggio” with The Imagination Tree, An Everyday Story, One Perfect Day, Learn with Play at Home. Click here for an introduction to the Reggio Emilia Approach to Early Learning and here to view the entire collection.
The Role of Art in the Reggio Emilia Approach
One of the central themes of the Reggio Emilia Approach is an emphasis on art and creativity. Children in Reggio Emilia schools learn to use a variety of art mediums during their days at the learning centers and their projects are documented and displayed carefully. Based on this, it is easy to assume that the RE approach is “just” about teaching art to young children. However, this is not the case- Reggio is actually about communication, which is why the approach resonates with my language-loving heart! Allowing children to explore and become competent in many different art forms (i.e. paint, wire, clay, drama, dance, music, etc.) in addition to spoken and written language is thought to allow them to express and evaluate their ideas more deeply, resulting a richer learning experience.
Children in RE settings are introduced to new art mediums and given multiple opportunities to explore these mediums and learn their potential. Once this takes place the children can then begin using the mediums to represent their ideas as part of ongoing learning projects.
Since my little ones are not yet three, we are still very much at the exploration phase of art mediums, but I try to take cues from their “art play” to design activities and experiences that help them satisfy their curiosity about the mediums themselves and the world around them. To illustrate all of my ramblings, I’d love to share a big art activity that I designed to help my toddlers experience color- painting a rainbow in 3D!
The idea for this project has been brewing since our Painting the Night Sky exploration several weeks ago. If you saw that post, you may remember how my son was fascinated by the way the different shades of blue swirled, mixed, and dripped down the mirror, and seemed to be almost trying to “get inside” the painting. Since that day both children have been very interested in color mixing and we have been experimenting with it almost daily with colored water, paint, etc. On this chilly, rainy afternoon, I decided a big art experience was just what the doctor ordered to chase away the blues and explore color on a whole new level.
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To begin, a took a sheet of flexible Plexiglass that I had been saving for just such a project and drilled a small hole in each corner, which took all of five minutes and was pretty simple to do. I found the flexible Plexi at our local Home Depot for around $25; it was worth the investment because I can think of many, many projects using this clear sheet of plastic! Next I took some jute twine from my craft supply stash (any type of string or cord would do), cut two pieces equal in length, and tied the corners together as shown in the above photo to create a clear “tunnel.” After that I put some painter’s plastic down on the dining room floor, brought out our finger paints and an array of brushes, and gave the twins the green light to explore. Prepare yourself for an onslaught of photos.
Each child immediately began painting the tunnel with broad strokes of color.
Painting with brushes, poking and swirling with fingers and palms, exploring the colors and textures of the paint and how it spread and mixed on the smooth plastic surface.
Soon they discovered that the tunnel allowed them to see “inside” the rainbow. This is the first moment that Will realized he could see the paint from a new perspective. He was saying “OOOH Mama WOW! Look at all the colors!”
From then on it was all about observation. They loved laying on their backs inside the tunnel and having paint and water poured and dripped on top of the dome so they could watch it dribble down the sides. They talked quite a bit about rain and raindrops-the effect was similar to colorful raindrops on a windowpane.
It really was a happy place inside that tunnel.
We will never look at rainbows quite the same way again!
After we were finished, I took the tunnel out in the (chilly) yard and hosed it down- it was easy clean-up and now our plexi is ready for our next adventure, whatever that may be!
Curious about big art explorations? Here are two more from our archives that you might enjoy:
Now don’t forget to visit my partners in this collaboration for even more amazing Reggio-Inspired art posts:
Creating Colors at An Everyday Story
An Invitation to Paint Big at Learn With Play at Home
Mixing Textures into Paint at The Imagination Tree
Painting Investigations at Racheous
Process art at One Perfect Day