How Does Reggio Inspired Curriculum Stimulate Infant Development?
- Infants need both experience-expectant and experience-dependent stimulation
Some developmental skills (walking, as an example) develop normally based only on the experience that any child can be expected to receive from life on earth. Unless a child is kept in a box or closet those skills will develop. Other skills, though, are dependent upon specific types of stimulation in order to develop at all. These include skills in problem-solving, art and music, as examples. The level of facility that children develop in these areas is heavily dependent upon early experiences.
- Global cognition is enhanced by stimulation in specific sense modalities
The benefit a child receives from stimulation in a particular sense modality is not limited only to skills directly connected with that area. Early exposure to and participation with complex music, visual experiences or multiple languages facilitates development not only in music or art or language ability, but results in an enhanced ability to think and understand more generally.
- There are sensitive periods for particular types of brain stimulation in infancy
There are periods of time in children’s development when specific areas of the brain develop most easily and effectively. The sensitive period for language development, for example, is during the second and third years of life. Specific experiences with language also during this period form the basis for the child’s later ability to write and speak fluently. Likewise, experiences in infant development form the basis for taking advantage of the later period of language growth. For example, the infant vocalizes (coos), and the teacher responds (“What sweet sounds you are making with your very own little voice.”), then she is quiet and waits for the infant to vocalize again, after which she provides a response. This early “turn-taking” forms the basis for later pragmatic conversational skills.
The Reggio curriculum is based upon an understanding of these and other principles of development, and is designed to provide the infant with experiences that stimulate (but do not overwhelm) all five senses. Planned activities promote the coordination of these sense experiences to facilitate cognitive development.
Likewise, Reggio consciously provides experiences that allow the growing infant to learn to manage his or her changing emotions, and it fosters both curiosity and cooperation.
Some examples are:
- High contrast visual stimulation in both form and color
- Experiences with mirrors and reflection
- Introduction of a variety of coordinated sounds and textures
- Adequate space and opportunity for exploration
Our teachers are educated professionals who understand infants’ developmental needs, are sensitive to individual differences in infants’ tolerance for stimulation, and are willing to provide the responsive attention and physical holding that make a baby’s adjustment to out-of-home care easy and productive.
Lynda L. Crane, PhD