The Image of The Child

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Our image of the child is rich in potential, strong, powerful, competent, and most of all connected to adults and other children.                            ~ Loris Malaguizzi

Loris Malaguizzi, founder of the Reggio Emilia schools wrote those words capturing the essence of a way of working with children. I have used them as a touchstone in my career as a guiding light to make decisions about my work.

Before starting any project from environmental design to policy development, I think about my image of the child. Taking time to write down my though about children’s abilities---their tenacity, their skills in solving problems, in their theory building---supports a mindset of abundance. When we frame our work with children from a place of abundance, of limitless possibilities, we get out of children’s way.

Too often in early childhood settings, we limit the possibility of what children can accomplish. Our assumptions, our self-imposed regulations, our need for order creates needless limits of what children can accomplish in our care.

I recently showed a video at a training on young children as theory builders. In the video children were standing on a table and experimenting with a ramp to see if the angle of the ramp could change the speed of the ball. After the clip played, I asked the educators in the room what they noticed happening. The first comment was,

“I can’t believe that they let the children stand on the table!”

It took me a moment to answer. When I did, I asked, “What values do you think that the teachers hold about children’s capabilities?” The room broke out into discussion as educators discussed their views about children’s abilities.

As we moved the conversation away from what “can” or can’t” be done in a classroom to “what values are held about children’s abilities” a profound change in our image of the child occurs. We move away from the limitations that we impose on children to creating spaces for children to demonstrate their abilities to lead their learning and bring us alongside as co-learners.

“What image of the child do you hold?”