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Young Children

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Preschool children -- Education, Kindergarten, Extended families, Reggio Emilia approach (Early childhood education)


Currently in our Reggio-inspired lab school, we continue experimenting with ways to connect extended family and friends to the school’s everyday practices, curricula, and philosophy. One approach that has been particularly valuable is our annual Friends and Family Day. This opportunity for engagement is not simply a demonstration of what and how the children have been learning—it is an event in which we all learn together. Friends and Family Day includes hands-on curriculum-based events in which children’s relatives and friends join in theory building, experimentation, and learning at our school (Parnell 2011b). We see such events as a way for the important people in the children’s lives to experience our everyday activities. We facilitate genuine family and community connections through all-ages, hands-on learning experiences.

More broadly, our thinking about extended family and friends is influenced by Reggio Emilia’s Municipal Preprimary Schools and Infant/Toddler Centers. Through our visits to Reggio Emilia, Italy, we have learned that parents in their schools engage with teachers regularly about children’s ongoing learning experiences and are deeply invested in being coparticipants in teaching and learning (Rinaldi 2006). In addition, we know that children who make meaningful connections between home and school form strong relationships across these two spheres of influence in their lives (Giudici, Rinaldi, & Krechevsky 2001; Krechevsky et al. 2013).

In many educational settings, teachers see the parent and child in isolation—without extended family and friends. In Reggio Emilia, parents are considered to be coprotagonists who are deeply engaged in children’s development (Rinaldi 2006). In our center, we think of parents (as well as extended family and friends) as coprotagonists—as key figures in the lives of children, and, therefore, in the school; parents, families, friends, and community members are far more than volunteers or fundraisers.


Originally appeared in Young Children, volume 73, number 4, published by the National Association for the Education of Young Children. May be accessed at

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