I am new to being Reggio inspired, do all my things need to be wooden and natural?

In one word. No.

I believe being Reggio inspired is more about embracing the philosophy and the way you view children, which in turn affects the way you teach. 

I can’t recall anyone saying that your toys and class have to look a certain way. Of course the schools in Reggio are beautiful. But, they have taken time and resources to get that way. They are great for inspiration but if you wish to embrace the philosophy then go for it. 

I would say, use what you have. You can add wooden toys, items and different furniture when possible. Some toys may not be very versatile and you might consider donating those and keeping the ones that could be used in different ways. 

Let’s also face it some of those commercial plastic toys are fun and children like them. They may not be learning a heck of lot from then but they enjoy it and so what’s the real harm? People will give your child presents like these and there is only so much you can do about it.

Reggio uses the environment as the third teacher. Don’t forget, this also means the teachers, the attitude, the vibe, the routine and everything that makes up the environment, not just the toys and walls and tables. I have seen schools in rural areas that have successfully implemented the spirit of the Reggio philosophy. These schools rely on donations and can not afford to buy all new materials etc. What changed were the teachers’ attitudes, the routine, the amount of play they children got and the respect for the children. 

The schools in Reggio are very resourceful and the REMIDA center is testament to this. They collect all sorts of materials and ‘waste’ items and use them in creative ways. 

One thing I am sure everyone can source is loose parts. These are great for open ended and imaginative play and are often used in Reggio. 

I think one of the challenges of being Reggio inspired are the restrictions placed on teachers by higher authorities. This of course varies, country to country and school to school. 

Sometimes it is not possible to change everything we want changed. It can be discouraging when authorities are imposing the exact opposite of what you believe is right. You can either look for another place to work or work with what you have and try to make the best of it. 

It might be worthwhile diving into all the theories and approaches to teaching you believe in and question why. Find out who you are as a teacher and what you believe children deserve in the classroom and try to bring that to your teaching in any way you can. 

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