How can teachers using the Reggio Emilia Approach® integrate nutrition and physical activity into their teaching?
“Yet, for young children, health and learning cannot be separated” (Story et al., 2006). Early childhood teachers have a responsibility to address the health needs of students.
In the Reggio Emilia Approach®, teachers are researchers who investigate, reflect and generate knowledge (Fu, Stremmel & Hill, 2002).
The teachers organize and incorporate both outdoor and indoor physical activities into their interaction with children.
Children are introduced to an array of physical activities both indoors and outside.
The school’s playground is a wonderful place for the children to play and is where most of the physical activity in the school takes place. Besides the front garden, there is an expansive area behind the school with slides, wooden climbing areas, lawns, sand beaches, lying nets and a tent.
When asked if there are any difficulties to incorporating physical activity into the program for students, teachers agree that they have a “great” playground where children and teachers are encouraged to participate in many outdoor activities. Teachers also mentioned weather as a factor in their decision about utilizing the playground for physical activities such as climbing or swinging, yoga, balancing, cycling or soccer.
Encouraging, taking pictures, and praising children when they complete any physical task reinforces their desire to continue to try other physical activities.
The teachers view the playground environment as an opportunity to promote physical activity as a means for the children to release energy. This is an example of the environment serving as a “third teacher,” which is a component of the Reggio Emilia Approach®.
Playing is a way of exposing children to the natural world
Some children are shy and do not know what to do outside of the classroom. The teacher will tell them to ride bikes or run around the fence to encourage children to be more independent. Teachers also shared that when children are swinging and they want to be pushed, teachers encourage them to push for each other.
Physical activity has a positive effect on children’s health and development, family culture, and the beliefs and behavior of children.
School readiness is not an aim of the Reggio Emilia Approach®. Instead, this approach recognizes children as energetic citizens and inspires them to prepare for that colorful future life.
Teachers will talk about the children’s bodies while they are playing and focus on motor development. The teachers pay attention on practicing balance, coordination for kids like ‘Use both arms to hold on to the crossbar’, ‘As you get older and stronger, you can use these devices’. “If you want to climb, use your muscles”.
Gross motor skills are also promoted by access to a variety of equipment on the playground
Most of the physical activities that children participate in are at school because of limited potential for play space at home. Physical activity plays an important role because the early years of life influence and build a foundation for children to learn healthy habits.