How Bambini Uses Provocations in its Programs

Apr 24, 2023early learning, reggio-inspired

If you’ve visited a Bambini program, you’ve probably heard the term “provocations” but maybe you weren’t entirely clear on what is meant by this. As a Reggio-inspired child care centre in Edmonton and St. Albert, Bambini provides many opportunities for children to engage with and explore provocations.

This article defines what a provocation is. It also shows how our Bambini educators plan, observe, and document children interacting with provocations.

Our daycare and afterschool care programs take great pride in how we encourage children to explore and investigate. We support children’s unique languages of expression and learning by giving ample opportunities for children to facilitate their own learning.

One of the ways we foster an inquisitive nature in children is through our thoughtful planning of provocations throughout our Edmonton and St. Albert child care centres.

what’s the difference between play spaces, invitations to learn, and provocations

Sometimes even the most experienced educators confuse play spaces with invitations to learn, and provocations. Here are some simple examples to differentiate the three.

play spaces

Play spaces are exactly as they sound, they are areas set up with specific toys and materials to engage the children in play.

These are often very specific and somewhat limiting in the expectation of what the children will do with the materials. For example, a play space in a room may be a table set up with toy birds, nests, and play eggs.

invitations to learn

Invitations to learn reflect educators’ own ideas, theories, and wonderings. They may spark new interests in children; it inspires children to pursue an area of interest or investigation.

For example, an educator who is drawn by the birds building a nest in a tree outside the window may set up a book about bird nests with assorted nest-building materials.

Provocations in a child care centre



Provocations reflect children’s own ideas, theories, and wonderings. It offers children new ways to explore, experience, and experiment with those ideas, theories, and wonderings. Provocations challenge children to dig deeper into what they are interested in. This act in itself takes children’s thinking, investigation, and theorizing to the next level.

A provocation is an open-ended activity – the educator has no specific intent or outcome in mind. They want to see what the child will do with the materials, and observe how the child will use or explore the materials provided. Provocations often accompany an “I wonder statement”, such as:

  • “I wonder what they will do with this?”
  • “I wonder how they will react?”

For example, the children noticed the birds building a nest outside the window. They might question how the birds build the nest and what kind of materials the birds use to build the nest. Simply providing several binoculars at the windowsill with clipboards loaded with paper is a provocation in itself.

Another provocation might include loading the block centre with boxes, tubes, shredded paper, and fabric. Perhaps the children will take on nest building themselves, or they may do something completely different! Whatever they choose to do is up to them. It’s how the educator observes and responds to the children’s interactions that matters.

observing interactions with provocations

Our educators’ work doesn’t end once they’ve set up the provocation. The next phase of providing provocations is the time spent observing the children while they interact with the materials that have been set out for them.

They may document and share observations through our messaging app, by taking and displaying photographs, by setting up displays that make learning visible, or by writing learning stories.

Some of the things the educators may document are:

  • How are the children using the materials?
  • What questions are they asking?
  • Which materials are of the most interest to them?
  • Are they playing? Are they exploring? Perhaps they are searching for more information?

Once observations are collected and documented, the educators look for ways to extend the children’s interests and/or provide opportunities for them to engage more with their interests. This process can be repeated many times until the children move on to other interests and/or schemas.

closing thoughts about provocations

To conclude, provocations can be planned throughout the room (they do not and should not be confined to tables). Educators are to ask themselves, “Is this provocation based on observations, schemas, and/or interests of the children in the room?” and there should always be some rationale behind the planning of the provocation.

The next time you’re in a Bambini centre, we encourage you to investigate the provocations our educators have so thoughtfully set up!



Bambini Learning Group is a holistic childcare program located in Edmonton, Alberta. Their vision is to inspire families to live healthier, more meaningful lives. Through innovative, holistic, and supportive resources, Bambini is helping children live the authentic childhood they deserve. New locations coming soon! Contact Bambini for more information about their unique, holistic child care program at [email protected], or book a tour to see Bambini for yourself!

jennifer bly

JENNIFER BLY is the Pedagogy and Administrative Coordinator for Bambini Learning Group. She’s a published author, and creator of The Deliberate Mom, a website full of parenting and homemaking inspiration. Jennifer has over 20 years of experience in the Early Childhood field. In addition, she holds a Bachelor of Applied Human Service Administration Degree with a specialization in Early Learning in Child Care.

photo credits: our hamptons bambini pedagogista allison