The Image of the Child: Rich in Play Possibilities

By: Diane Kashin, Ed.D, RECE. Loris Malaguzzi reminds us that our image of the child is where teaching should begin. As many of us are beginning a new school year, examining our images of children is a good way to start thinking about our practices and journeys. The image of the child is also a great first topic for a #ReggioPLC Twitter chat! I was contacted by Karlee Zalmer representing the Calgary Reggio Network Association (CRNA) and asked to moderate a chat on Monday evening, Oct 2nd at 9:00 pm EST. Please join us! Karlee and I both agreed that the image of the child is the most appropriate starting point for the chats and as the year goes on we can further delve into the Principles of the Reggio Emilia Educational Project.

There are hundreds of different images of the child. Each one of you has inside yourself an image of the child that directs you as you begin to relate to a child. This theory within you pushes you to behave in certain ways; it orients you as you talk to the child, listen to the child, observe the child. It is very difficult for you to act contrary to this internal image – Loris Malaguzzi

Considering the importance of our images of children, let’s begin … what is your image of the child? This is the question that Cindy Green and I posed to a group of 80 educators from Upper Canada Child Care who on the most part are beginning their pedagogical journeys. Putting together all their responses into a wordle we can see that most see children as unique, individual, curious and capable. A good beginning!

Image of the Child

Curious about how the words would compare to educators further along on their journeys, I posed the same question on the Reggio Emilia Discussion Group on Facebook and compiled the comments into another word cloud.

Images of Children

While most of the responses were one, two or three words there were longer comments. This one, expressing that children are powerful learners as they are “filled with a deep sense of wonder and curiosity, having rich creative ideas, able to construct their own learning who marvel at the simplest things” rang true for me. Inspired by the words of others, I have been thinking about my view of the child and how I would express it at this moment in time. Having just returned from the International Play Association conference I am thinking deeply about the image of the child as rich in play possibilities. I have come away from the experience recognizing that the play is in the child and when advocates, playworkers, early learning teachers and cities such as Calgary embrace the importance of play – the possibilities for the child are rich for learning and development. The child who plays is a powerful child.

Playing in the City

Outside the conference centre in Calgary children were playing in ways that stopped me in my tracks. I have watched this video over and over again as for me it really emphasizes the powerful, playful child and how adults support and encourage play possibilities.

The way we see children changes everything – it changes teaching, it changes learning and it changes children. What is your image of the child? Please add your thoughts to the comments. Remember whatever your image is at this stage of your journey it can evolve. Let’s pay heed to the words of Loris Malaguzzi.

Those who have the image of the child as fragile, incomplete, weak, made of glass gain something from this belief only for themselves. We don’t need that as an image of children. Instead of always giving children protection, we need to give them the recognition of their rights and of their strengths.



6 thoughts on “The Image of the Child: Rich in Play Possibilities

  1. Pingback: #1 -My Analysis of an Online Blog – Children's Vitality: Is Both Nurture and Nature

  2. Thank you for saying that our image of the child evolves as this is something I truly believe. I find that we feel the need to put a stake in the ground and it stays there…but that is not how life is. It evolves and our experiences, relationships and knowledge influence that overtime, just as our image of the child does from our experiences, conversations, observations, and continued learning. When I think back to when I first reflected and thought about my image of the child, it is vastly deeper more branches and intertwined. Will be sharing this blog post in my workshops for sure, thank you for reassuring my thinking.


    • Hi Veronica,
      I am currently having this interesting discussion within my circle of educators that the image of the child is not rigid but fluid. It is not constant but variable. It is unique as each child is and it changes with the practice of relationships.
      But the other perspective we have is that our image is something that is grounded in our belief and it remains the same when we interact with children.

      I would love to know more about your thoughts on this topic.


  3. The Image of a Child to me is: adventurous, curious, passionate, always eager to learn, loving from the heart, pure and sincere. Always speaks and acts from the heart.


  4. Personally the Image of the child is, loving, passionate, curious, ambitious, pure, innocent, passionate, social, no filter – they say what comes to their mind.


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