The Image of the child

The image of the child is a core principle of the Reggio approach. Whether we are aware of it or not we all hold an image of a child. And the good news is we can change and shift our views and perspectives. In this article you will learn more about the Image of child and why it is important whether you are a parent, teacher or both.

What does the Image of the child mean?

Basically the image of the child is referring to the beliefs we hold. Do you believe children should be seen and not hear? Do you see them as capable? Confident? Able to problem solve? Can you trust them? Are they an extension of you? Do they have theories about how the world works or do you have to impart all of your knowledge onto them? Are children naughty?

Take a few minutes to think about the beliefs you hold about children- your own and/or the children in your class. Our beliefs are formed by how our parents and caregivers viewed us, our culture and what society tells us. So when reflecting on your beliefs, remember you can let go of the ones that do not resonate with you.

In Reggio they believe children are:

  • intelligent
  • capable
  • curious
  • strong
  • rich in potential

Why is it important?

Your image of child will determine how you teach/parent. It will determine what type of activities you put out, what you allow them to do or not do and how well you listen to them.

Of course we must take into consideration what is age appropriate and developmentally appropriate when it comes to letting children explore and do tasks etc. These are just examples of things to think about that can relate to your image of the child.

Do you let your child feed themselves? Does your child dress themselves? Does your child have some time to play alone, only needing regular check-ins? Do you ask them questions about the world around them? Do they have access to toys and creative things that they can choose from to play with when they want?(Also known as a ‘yes’ space) Do you talk to them like they are babies, use baby talk?

How can I change our image of child?

If you want to look more closely at your image of child, one way is to document and reflect. When you closely observe children and document their play and interests, you will also see their strength and capabilities. Reflecting is a very important practice in Reggio and one that is not always easy but is very effective.

Another way is, to look at your environment, activities and what you do and do not allow them to do. Perhaps there are some areas that you can reflect on and decide if there are any changes you would like to make. For example, can they pour their own water or juice from a small jug into their cup, instead of you doing it for them?

What can I do?

Let’s take a look at some of the things that might be influenced by your image of child.

  • Are any things you are currently doing for your child that they could do by themselves? i.e. get dressed, putting on shoes, pouring juice, setting the table, tidying up toys etc.
  • Of course there is not always time for them to do everything, but perhaps when you have a bit more time or a slow weekend, you can get them started and teach them how to do it.
  • And yes, you have to teach them how to do certain things, they may not do it right or your way perfectly every time but the only way for them to learn is to practice.
  • Another thing you can do is let your child help with every day tasks, such as tidying, setting the table etc. they have fun and learn some life skills at the same time.
  • When you child asks you a question for example- why are the leaves changing colour? Instead of launching into a whole scientific explanation, throw the question back to them and ask- Why do you think the leaves might be changing colour? Then wait for them to answer, sometimes they just need a while to think about it. One day they will learn or can easily google the science behind it but we want to foster their creative thinking, problem solving and reasoning skills. The best thing about this is that you don’t have to have the answers to everything and you can research alongside them. I think your child might surprise you with the theories they come up with and rather ask them questions about their theories than get set on them knowing the correct answer.
  • Personally, am not big on crafts especially for children under the age of 6/7. Young children still need time to master fine motor skills etc. Better to focus more on process art and let them explore a variety of media.

There are of course many other aspects that I am sure you can add to the list.

In summary

I think reflecting on the image of the child is key and one of the easiest places to start on a new learning journey as a teacher/parent. I also think it is important not to do for a child what they can do for themselves. As a teacher/parent you can decide- yes, they can pour their own juice, they can get dressed, they can tidy their toys and then let them do it while being supportive, guiding and facilitating them. If children can learn all the complicated names of all the dinosaurs they can handle a lot more than we give them credit for.

Good luck!

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