The Hundred Languages of Children

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…

from the poem “No way. The hundred is there.” by Loris Malaguzzi. Translated by Lella Gandini

The Hundred Languages

The hundred languages is a key principle of the Reggio-inspired approach.  It refers to communication and emphasizes the importance of providing children with one hundred ways to share their thinking of the world around them.  The hundred languages also represent the infinite amount of potential each child naturally has and each child’s individual view and take of their community.  As is widely accepted by educators and supported in research, children learn in a variety of ways. This knowledge is the reason why providing different means for learning and exploring is critical in the educational journey.  These means of exploration can include talking, writing, acting, drawing, the use of natural materials, and dancing.  Providing children with free play, encouraging exploration of a child’s own interest, and creating a safe and positive environment and community also supports the Reggio-inspired approach and the hundred languages.

Reggio Emilia City of Hundred Languages Project

The Reggio Emilia City of Hundred Languages project developed from collaboration among the Municipality of Reggio Emilia, Reggio Children, the Friends of Reggio Children International Association, several preschool and infant centers, and local trade and businesses.  The project was originally designed to uphold everyone’s right to well-being by creating a safe and nurturing environment for children.  If an environment was made suitable for children, then it would be so for all people.  The project took off from the children’s interest in the city’s center and all of the delicious and diverse food it provided.  It studied the city center’s restaurants, pizzerias, cafes, pastry shops, and ice cream shops.

Beautiful architecture at Piazza San Prospero in Reggio Emilia at sunset, Emilia-Romagna region, Italy.
Beautiful architecture at Piazza San Prospero in Reggio Emilia at sunset, Emilia-Romagna region, Italy.

The service and comfort level felt in each food establishment and the quality of the food were the main areas of focus and research.  The children created a list of requirements for what they considered a “quality welcome.”  These requirements included aspects of environmental comfort and equipment, food, welcome, and entertainment.  Environmental comfort and equipment included spacious and easy movement around tables, a baby stroller area, safe table arrangements, and equipment for hygiene.  The children’s menu, information on ingredients, information on the sources of food, and quality ingredients were tested when discussing the food.  The establishment’s welcome included help choosing from the menu, promotional evening for families, and meals served at the same time for both children and adults.  Finally, entertainment included ideas for enjoying time with friends and family members while waiting for food.  This entertainment included small board games, trivia questions, and coloring options.

With all of this information and research complete, the children then created a guide.  The guide listed all of the food establishments participating in the Reggio Emilia City of the Hundred Languages project.  That meant these establishments were dedicated to welcoming families and children by creating safe, nurturing and overall positive environments.  This guide included a list of the food establishments and a hand drawn map created by one of the children, as well as a printed map with key locations throughout the city’s center.

Benefits of The Hundred Languages

While this project began with the children’s interest in the city center and the food it had to offer, it went much further and with so much community involvement.  The children were given an opportunity to explore the community around them with their teachers and parents.  The teachers acted as partners in the learning process, building the curriculum around the children’s questions and statements.  The project included documentation, a great deal of parental involvement, and a variety of means of exploration.  All of these factors lead to a successful project and ultimate study that supported beliefs behind the hundred languages.  Come see how the hundred languages plays into everyday life at The Compass School!