The First Three Years of Art

What do Reggio Emilia art experiences look like in the first three years?


When I first started learning about Reggio Emilia’s approach, most of the project work I was reading about and had seen occured with preschool-aged children.  I had a hard time finding examples of what infant and toddler play with art materials looked like. Eventually, working in a Reggio Emilia inspired infant/toddler program, I saw first hand that which I guess I already knew.


While some toddlers tell stories and find ways to communicate their ideas, art mediums are largely used for exploratory purposes in the first three years. That is to say, through play, discoveries are made.


Children are invited to play with a variety of art mediums and open-ended materials over time.  As the children become more familiar with the medium/material, the invitation to play may become more complex. Something as simple as adding water to the play can deepen children’s understanding of what they are playing with. Paper, for example, transforms when wet, or clay – something solid enough to climb on when dry – drips and softens.



Over multiple experiences, children will learn lots about a specific material’s properties, from its limitations to its possibilities.




By playing with art mediums and other open-ended materials, children are archiving information gained through play. In time, children will have a reference library of sorts, built through experiences, that they can use to both create and share their ideas.


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