A Reggio-inspired Afternoon with Glebe House

Happy colors for a happy girl

Your child loves, craves, needs messy, open-ended, sensory play, but you're a working mom with little tolerance for mess and not enough time for the prep work required. If only your child could enjoy the experience without you having to do all the work (which allows you to enjoy playtime more, too!). This was my dilemma, and the reason I'm glad to have discovered Glebe House.

I stumbled upon Glebe House during one of my many late-night, post-Christakis, preschool-searching Googling marathons. Unsatisfied with the options I was finding, I Googled "Reggio preschool Philippines" expecting to be disappointed. I was disappointed, initially; there are currently no true Reggio studios (or ateliers as they are so beautifully called) near where we live. But there was a Reggio-inspired play school whose lovely photos of their sessions piqued my interest. Unfortunately, it is based in Makati, a two-hour drive for us on a regular day. Fortunately, it offers home play groups.

*Happy dance!*

After much deliberation (budget, time, schedule, space, people—plus the usual introvert worries and my usual neurotic self-doubt), I organized our first session with some of E's favorite friends and some new friends who I thought would enjoy the experience.

We had a happy afternoon of open-ended play today. Our mixed-age group had boys and girls with ages ranging from 2.8 to 4 years old. E loves being around older kids, so having some kuyas (big brothers) to play with was a bonus.

Glebe House sessions cater to two age ranges: 6 to 14 months and 14 months to 4 years. The minimum number of kids for a play group session is 4 (they will let you book for fewer kids but the cost per kid will be higher). The maximum number of kids per session is 6.

A session lasts for an hour and a half (1.5 hrs) and consists of warm-up songs, 5 activities, and a goodbye song. I was surprised they had so many activities in one session. Here's what we did that day:

Process art with non-brush tools.

Like painting with spaghetti

Process art with some fine motor practice

Of course you can use more than one moon.

Sensory bins with practical life practice

Learning how to use tongs with pasta. Next step, plating ;). 

I can finally cross off colored pasta sensory bin from my bucket (or bin) list.

Sensory bins with manipulatives/pretend play

Dinosaur milk bath. (It's flour and water.)

Transferring activity. (Dinos optional)

Fun with STEM

What to do with used toilet paper rolls

What I Loved

  • Minimal clean-up. No prep. A busy mom's dream! They provided the mats and trays and all the tools. All I provided were after-session snacks and drinks for the kids (which weren't required, just part of hosting the session). They didn't even require our helpers to pitch in. The kids all helped wipe up spills after each activity—with no prompting at all! Miraculous! Happy kids have helpful hands. 
  • Activities were varied and engaging. All the kids participated in each activity. The big suitcase of goodies adds to the mystery—the kids were excited to see what was in store for them. 
  • Teachers were attentive and interacted well with the kids, which in Reggio play means letting them do what they want. The kids weren't told how to paint, where to stick things, how much or how little of the sensory materials they needed, or what to do with the tools they were given. 
  • Sessions can be customized to suit any special needs or interests the kids in the group may have. I imagine that they'd be willing to work around any themes you'd like as well, if you were doing a homeschool unit study on plants, for example.
  • New tools and materials get child-tested, which opens up new possibilities for our own playtime. As a mom on a budget, sometimes I'm hesitant to buy materials or tools that I'm not sure she'll enjoy or be able to use. The risk-free nature of having someone else prepare the activities allows me to observe my child and see the hits and misses before I invest in new things, or invest time making new materials. For example, I can finally buy the tongs I'd been eyeing at Daiso (I know, Php88 lang and I still haven't bought them. Such a cheapskate.) but I'll hold off on the set of dinosaur toys. 
  • This smile. 

What We'll Do Differently

  • Fewer activities. While I loved the variety and I was impressed that we got to do so many different activities in just an hour and a half, I would be just as happy with three activities instead of five, with more time for inquiry (point number two). Sometimes, our busy lifestyle programs kids to always be looking for the next thing rather than going deeper into one activity, allowing their play to evolve. Maybe the teachers can have the new activities ready if the kids want more play options while allowing other kids to continue with their self-directed inquiry. 
  • More active inquiry. What I love about the Reggio way of learning is that it encourages children to observe their world and teaches them to interact with materials mindfully. I love how Reggio invitations often pose a question that the kids are also invited to "play" with mentally. Of course, there is no correct answer, or if there is, at the very least, there are no bad guesses. (Maybe I should make a new set of inquiry buntings for the space?) 
On their website, Glebe House writes this about the Reggio Emilia method:
[Children] in a Reggio Emilia classroom possess control over the course of their own learning while being actively guided by educators who will provide learning provocations to stir their thoughts and draw curiosity to learn more....Not merely as targets of instruction, children are encouraged to ask, investigate, experiment, create, hypothesize, observe, discuss and clarify what they understand.
I hope we'll see this happen more, in and outside of play group. That's the vision.

E's mission? To have fun. And by the looks of it (and her stories after), I'd say mission accomplished.

Curious about Reggio Emilia? An Everyday Story and Amongst Lovely Things explain and exemplify the principles better. I also recommend reading Lori Pickert's book Project-Based Homeschooling: Mentoring Self-Directed Learners.

For more information or to schedule your own play group session, contact Kristel of Glebe House (but please don't take our slot, haha):

Glebe House
Toledo St.,
Salcedo Village, Makati

Glebe House's Kristel also happens to have a lovely new blog that I've just discovered. I know a few moms who'd benefit her post on how to encourage messy play for kids who dislike getting messy (sigh, the grass is always greener...).