Reggio Children | Loris Malaguzzi International Centre | Reggio Emilia Approach

A festive thought

Visual metaphor in children’s learning processes

“A festive thought” is an exhibition telling the story of research, realised with children aged 2-6, which aimed to make visible the thinking processes activated by producing and understanding visual metaphor.


Italian, English


"Metaphor is a form of thinking. It represents the way our mind works in that moment of attempting to extend the realm of knowledge. We use what is known in order to define what we don’t yet know, and to communicate new discoveries." 
Gianrico Carofiglio

The exhibition A festive thought was born of a conviction that metaphor is a highly creative process. A big bang of the mind.

The making of metaphor is a process leading to unusual, unexpected and often original procedures. It corresponds to an attitude of investigating and participating in reality, which invites our thinking to open up and expand beyond canonical confines.

Metaphor is a genuinely organising system of intellectual development; a knowledge tool that creates different ways of seeing the world. There can be no doubt it is a festive intuition, elaborated by thinking creatively.

Creativity, irony, a capacity for creating analogy and running with paradox are all present in children, and the work and research of adults seeks to welcome these processes into an aware daily life.

The exhibition has three sections:

the Opening section, dedicated to a short, synthetic collection of materials that bear witness to some of the metaphorical processes present in our daily life;

the Research section, located centrally in the exhibition space, where theoretical elaborations are accompanied by the work of children - words, mark-making/drawing and objects;

and finally, a whole wall - Freedom to migrate - dedicated to children’s metaphoric works from before or after the research project.

There are also some short videos, that allow us to gain an understanding of the atmosphere in which the research was carried out. 



"Metaphorical process is a powerful narrative nucleus with many levels of layering - perceptive and sensory, linguistic, emotional, and communicative. Metaphor could be compared to an unexpected explosion, a transgression of logic creating a new reality, and with the strength to break the habit and monotony of what is already known.

We know well that metaphorical processes are more easily included in our everyday cultural context: a pact or an exchange between children and adults are situations where playing on words, hypotheses for transformation, paradox and irony have opportunities for developing. However we also know that if a context is disposed towards or conceived specifically for the subject being investigated, this ignites and supports a greater activation of metaphorical process.

We believe that an enticing, flexible context, which gives importance to both the choice of materials and the immaterial qualities of a space, the soft qualities like light, colour, sound, smell and touch, can stimulate and emphasise experience.

In order to begin, we thought of using objects from daily life, which have always stimulated the children’s great interest, and which we believe make a good basis for activating their capacity for inventing games and transformations.

We tried to offer objects that could be used as vehicles, to arrive at creating new relations and new visions through their conjunction/relation with another thing. A fundamental presence was that of adults sensitive to metaphorical language, capable of intuiting, supporting and re-launching children’s processes when they were trying to build, or stumbled across, a metaphor.

When a metaphor works well it has an irrepressible power of communication for the imagination, not a simple illustration but a conceptual re-structuring that modifies ways of thinking in relation to those aspects of reality the metaphor refers to." 

Vea Vecchi, Sara De Poi




Exhibition-atelier realised by
Reggio Children
Preschools and Infant-toddler Centres - Istituzione of the Municipality of Reggio Emilia

In collaboration with
University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, Department of Education and Human Sciences – Metaphor and Narrative in Science Research Centre

Projects conceived and conducted by 
children, pedagogistas, atelieristas, teachers and educators at 
municipal infant-toddler centres Salvador Allende and Gianni Rodari
municipal preschools Andersen and Bruno Munari




Atelier connected to the exhibition

Digital Lansdcapes Atelier

The Digital Landscapes atelier invites us to explore an environment with analogical and digital tools and materials, and through their connections and interactions new worlds come to life.

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