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Perhaps this poem by the Reggio-Emilia founder, Loris Malaguzzi describes it best:

The child is made of one hundred.
The child has
a hundred languages
a hundred hands
a hundred thoughts
a hundred ways of thinking
of playing, of speaking.

A hundred.

Always a hundred
ways of listening
of marveling, of loving
a hundred joys
for singing and understanding
a hundred worlds
to discover
a hundred worlds
to invent
a hundred worlds
to dream.

The child has
a hundred languages
(and a hundred hundred hundred more)
but they steal ninety-nine.
The school and the culture
separate the head from the body.
They tell the child:
to think without hands
to do without head
to listen and not to speak
to understand without joy
to love and to marvel
only at Easter and at Christmas.

They tell the child:
to discover the world already there
and of the hundred
they steal ninety-nine.

They tell the child:
that work and play
reality and fantasy
science and imagination
sky and earth
reason and dream
are things
that do not belong together.

And thus they tell the child
that the hundred is not there.
The child says:
No way. The hundred is there.

-Loris Malaguzzi 
Founder of the Reggio Emilia Approach

“What is Reggio-Emilia?”

“The Reggio Emilia Approach is an educational philosophy focused on preschool and primary education. It was developed after World War II by a teacher, Loris Malaguzzi, and parents in the villages around Reggio Emilia in Italy. Following the war, people believed that children were in need of a new way of learning. The assumption of Malaguzzi and the parents was that people form their own personality during early years of development and that children are endowed with "a hundred languages" through which they can express their ideas. The aim of this approach is teaching how to use these symbolic languages (e.g. painting, sculpting, drama) in everyday life. The program is based on the principles of respect, responsibility, and community through exploration and discovery in a supportive and enriching environment based on the interests of the children through a self-guided curriculum.” -Wikipedia

A Reggio-Inspired approach to early childhood education is quickly becoming a wide-spread practice. This approach values children as strong, capable and resilient; children are acknowledged to bringing to the table their deep sense of curiosity that drives them to understand their world and their place in the world.

“Do you do field trips or parties?”

The child is in the heart of everything we do, but we have chosen to focus on adult educators and families of young children. Too often these important people get left out of the equation, and don’t get the support they need.

While children are welcomed at the WE, we ask that they be under parental supervision at all times. The WE is a large warehouse, and while our materials are meant for children there are various age-appropriate materials not suitable for all ages or unsupervised play.

“What are ‘open-ended’ materials? Are they the same as ‘loose parts’?”

Open-ended materials require a child to use their imagination, they are materials that young children can use for creative play any way they would like. There is no one way or right way to use open-ended materials. A toy train will almost always just be a toy train to a child, but a wooden block can become anything they imagine; it could be a train, cow, baby, road. The only limit is their imagination! Open-ended materials enhance a child’s play experience because they require the child to immerse themselves in their play in a deeper way.

Loose parts are very similar to open ended materials, and sometimes the terms are used interchangeably. The theory of “loose parts,” first proposed by architect Simon Nicholson in the 1970's, has begun to influence child-play experts and the people who design playspaces for children in a big way. Nicholson believed that it is the “loose parts” in our environment that will empower our creativity. In play, loose parts are materials that can be moved, carried, combined, redesigned, lined up, and taken apart and put back together in multiple ways. They are materials with no specific set of directions that can be used alone or combined with other materials.

These are the types of materials and the philosophy that the WE embraces.

“What does ‘developmentally appropriate’ mean?

According to the National Association of Education for Young Children (NAEYC),

“Developmentally Appropriate Practice, often shortened to DAP, is an approach to teaching grounded in the research on how young children develop and learn and in what is known about effective early education. Its framework is designed to promote young children’s optimal learning and development.

DAP involves teachers meeting young children where they are (by stage of development), both as individuals and as part of a group; and helping each child meet challenging and achievable learning goals.”

If you want to know more about DAP, the WE has an educational specialist who is available on Wednesdays and at our Saturday open houses to answer any question you might have.

“I’m an artist looking for recycled materials to use. Can I get a membership?”

Yes, of course! We never turn away community members. However, because our resources are limited and because we are always focused first and foremost on teachers and families of young children our community member fee is $100 for 16 cubic feet of materials. It is still a wonderful deal, and because we are a nonprofit 501(c)4 the membership fee is tax deductible!