A festive thought

Visual metaphor in children’s learning processes


“A festive thought. Visual metaphor in children’s learning processes” is the latest addition to Reggio Children's publications, presenting research carried out by Reggio Children, the Istituzione of Preschools and Infant-Toddler Centres of the Municipality of Reggio Emilia, and the Department of Education and Human Sciences at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia.

By metaphor we mean the tool of language and thinking that connects distant elements of reality, thereby constructing new reality and new meaning.

The making of metaphor is a process that leads to unusual, unexpected and often original outcomes and that invites our thoughts to open up and expand beyond canonical confines.

Metaphor is a tool of knowledge creating different ways of seeing the world.



It is a festive intuition, elaborated through creative thinking.

Creativity, irony, the capacity for creating analogy and harnessing paradox are presented here, for us to welcome them into daily life with more awareness

Do infant-toddler and preschool children understand visual metaphor? Do they produce visual metaphor?

This research project seeks to investigate and make visible the mental processes that become activated through these activities.



Corkscrew drill.

A palentologist digging for dinosaur bones with a playstoric drill

Gianmaria, 5.7 years

Technique: felt tip pen on white paper with a real object


Smaller children often began with a pair, as if not only attracted to the objects but also to relations between them.

It is exactly this kind of fantastical pair, this kind of attraction for the relations between things that can seem distant from one another (sometimes object-object, sometimes body-object), that brings about the birth of interesting and surprising inventions and processes.



A vase of flowers
Luca, 5.9 years


What happens is the flowers say: "Hey, I'm thirsty"
Pietro, 6.1 Years

Technique: pencil on white paper with a real object


The teacher is inviting children towards divergent thinking, inviting them to open their minds and go from one level to another.

This gives credit to children’s ironical and metaphorical language, which is in touch with the poetical and emotional aspects through which children view the world.



A bird flying
Mattia, 3 years


The contexts adults prepare are capable of switching on and supporting a greater activation of metaphorical process.

An exchange between children and adults, is the condition whereby plays on words, hypotheses of transformation, and ironical paradox find occasions for development.




Colours going in and coming out all woven together. A rainbow comes out. 
Malick, 5.5 years

Technique: coloured chalks on white A3 paper and A5 size photograph

In times like these, with so many problems affecting schools, education, and children in general, can we really afford to use our time and reflection on sophisticated, apparently lightweight, and volatile subjects like the role of visual metaphor in learning processes?

To our mind the answer is yes.

Creative thinking and knowledge are the first line of defence for freedom and equality, and therefore primary objectives that schools should be pursuing and diffusing





Visual metaphor in children’s learning processes




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