Reggio Emilia vs Montessori: What Every Parent Needs to Know

When selecting a preschool program for your child, two educational philosophies often top the list: Reggio Emilia and Montessori. Both are child-centered approaches nurturing natural curiosity and self-direction, however there are key differences between the two methodologies. This guide examines Reggio Emilia vs Montessori in detail, providing an in-depth look at the origins, environments, teacher roles, and learning approaches distinguishing these two globally influential models. By exploring what sets each one apart, parents can determine which philosophy best aligns with their child and family when evaluating preschool and elementary school options.


Montessori: An Overview

The Montessori method of education was developed over 100 years ago by Dr. Maria Montessori. But it still remains a popular choice for many parents today. So what makes Montessori so special? Let’s take a closer look!

Montessori Program and Education

The key principles of Montessori education are:

  • Student-centered learning – Kids get to choose activities that interest them and work at their own pace. The classroom is designed to support independent exploration and discovery.
  • Hands-on materials – Students work with cool materials like beads, puzzles, blocks and sandpaper letters that make learning hands-on and fun. Activities are designed to engage multiple senses.
  • Mixed age classrooms – Classes have students aged 0-3, 3-6, or 6-9. Older kids model skills and teach concepts to younger ones, building leadership and compassion.
  • Uninterrupted work time – Children get large blocks of time (2-3 hours) to focus deeply on chosen activities without switching tasks constantly. Concentration skills develop naturally.
  • Specially trained teachers – Montessori teachers complete extensive specialized training on Montessori methods and child development. They act as guides, carefully preparing the classroom environment and giving lessons based on the child’s interest and readiness.

The Montessori classroom is thoughtfully designed and equipped with developmentally appropriate materials across key areas:

  • Practical life skills – pouring, sweeping, buttoning
  • Sensorial exploration – shades of color tablets, touch boards, sound boxes
  • Mathematics – beads for counting, golden bead material for place value
  • Language – sandpaper letters, movable alphabets, word building
  • Cultural studies – maps, flags, books on science and history

The well-prepared environment allows kids to interact with interesting materials, building concentration, coordination, independence and love of learning.

The Role of Montessori Teachers

Montessori teachers play a very different role than traditional teachers. Their job is to:

  • Create and maintain the prepared Montessori environment
  • Observe each child closely to determine their needs and interests
  • Present self-correcting hands-on materials tailored to the individual student
  • Stimulate children’s natural curiosity and guide their self-directed activity
  • Support development of concentration, coordination, independence and problem-solving

Montessori teachers create a nurturing classroom community where children are free to develop at their own pace. Their quiet guidance helps each child joyfully master essential skills and realize their full potential!

Montessori Learning: What Sets It Apart

There are some key ways a Montessori classroom differs from traditional schooling:

  • Multi-age classrooms – Kids stay with the same teacher for 3 years, allowing long-term bonds and peer mentoring.
  • Child-sized furniture & materials – The classroom is designed to fit a child’s body and abilities. Materials isolate specific skills for mastery.
  • Self-paced progression – Children advance based on their demonstrated readiness, not age or test scores. Mastery is valued over grades or competition.
  • Peace education – Conflict resolution, empathy and community are actively cultivated to support children’s socio-emotional development.
  • Holistic approach – Montessori educates the whole child – physically, socially, emotionally, cognitively – through engaged hands-on learning.

This natural, developmental approach allows each child to blossom into a confident, curious and independent learner. Students gain essential life skills along with academic competencies.

The American Montessori Society and Its Influence

The American Montessori Society (AMS) was created in 1960 to maintain the integrity of Montessori methods in the United States. It offers teacher training and school accreditation.

Over 5,000 schools in the U.S. use Montessori methods, from preschool through high school. AMS helps ensure quality and consistency across programs by:

  • Establishing teacher training standards
  • Accrediting schools
  • Hosting professional development events
  • Providing parent education resources
  • Supporting research on outcomes
  • Advocating for Montessori adoption in public education

AMS continues to spread awareness and increase access, so more families can benefit from Montessori education. Over the past 60 years, they have helped make Montessori a leading alternative to conventional schooling.

The Historical Context: How Montessori Began

The Montessori method was pioneered in 1907 by Dr. Maria Montessori in Rome, Italy. Dr. Montessori was Italy’s first female physician. She had a great interest in education and child development.

In 1907, she opened Casa dei Bambini (“Children’s House”) in a low-income district of Rome to provide education and care for working families. The children showed a remarkable ability to learn independently through purposeful activity. This was the start of the Montessori approach.

Key elements of Montessori were introduced:

  • Child-sized furniture and learning materials
  • Multi-age classrooms
  • Student choice of extended work periods
  • Teacher observation and individualized lessons

Word of this innovative approach spread. In 1911, Dr. Montessori gave the first Montessori teacher training course. Soon, Montessori schools opened worldwide. Dr. Montessori continued developing her methods and teacher training for over 40 years.

Today, Montessori principles remain essential for nurturing engaged, self-motivated learners who gain knowledge through exploration, discovery and experience. This child-centered approach continues to benefit students over a century after its inception.

Reggio Emilia: An In-Depth Look

Reggio Emilia is an innovative approach to early childhood education that originated in Italy after World War II. Let’s explore what makes this philosophy so unique!

The Philosophy Behind Reggio Emilia

Reggio Emilia is based on a vision of the child as capable, curious and full of potential. Kids are encouraged to explore their interests and take an active role in shaping their learning.

Some key principles of Reggio Emilia’s philosophy are:

  • Child-centered – Topics emerge from children’s interests; kids collaborate in choosing activities
  • Self-directed learning – Children explore with hands-on projects at their own pace
  • Collaborative work – Teachers collaborate with children and each other to create curriculum
  • Educational documentation – Teachers carefully document the learning process to understand student thinking
  • Environment as the “third teacher” – Thoughtfully designed spaces spark curiosity and interaction

Reggio Emilia prioritizes nurturing children’s natural curiosity and providing opportunities for active exploration. The classroom is designed to promote discovery, problem-solving, and peer cooperation.

Reggio Emilia Education: What Makes It Unique

Some unique elements of Reggio Emilia programs are:

  • Project-based learning – In-depth projects, designed cooperatively by teachers and students, allow deep exploration of topics like light, trees, shadows or butterflies.
  • Expressive arts – Music, drama, visual arts and writing are woven throughout curriculum to support learning.
  • Natural materials – The classroom is filled with natural textures, colors and materials like plants, wood, clay, stone, fibers and shells.
  • Documentation – Children’s words and creations are prominently displayed with notes by teachers to highlight learning processes.
  • Collaboration – Teamwork is fostered between children as well as among teachers, parents and community.

Reggio Emilia doesn’t follow a set curriculum – projects emerge based on kids’ interests and teachers’ observations of their needs and strengths. Creativity and critical thinking are actively cultivated.

The Role of Teachers in Reggio Emilia Schools

Reggio Emilia teachers act as guides, facilitators, and researchers:

  • They carefully observe children to identify interests and create relevant, in-depth projects.
  • They provoke thinking through questioning and ensure access to diverse materials for exploration.
  • They encourage children’s initiatives, hypotheses and independent discovery.
  • They document student learning and development for reflection and planning with colleagues.
  • They foster close collaboration with parents, viewing families as partners.

Reggio Emilia teachers respect the capabilities and potential of each child. Through thoughtful observation, they support self-directed learning and nurture children’s innate curiosity.

North American Reggio Emilia Alliance: What You Need to Know

The North American Reggio Emilia Alliance (NAREA) was founded in 1994 to share insights from Reggio Emilia and help implement its philosophy in North American schools.

NAREA helps adapt Reggio principles across diverse educational contexts while preserving the approach’s integrity. They provide:

  • Conferences, seminars and school exchanges
  • Networking and mentorship opportunities
  • Educator resources and professional development
  • Reggio-inspired materials and classroom support
  • Advocacy to promote child-centered education policy

NAREA continues to build connections between educators interested in this innovative philosophy. Today over 1000 schools apply Reggio Emilia principles to encourage joyful, engaged learning.

The Historical Context: How Reggio Emilia Began

Reggio Emilia originated in the town of Reggio Emilia in post-war Italy in the 1940s. Parents participated actively in rebuilding the educational system based on democratic principles.

Some key events:

  • 1945 – Families and teachers in Reggio Emilia, Italy join to provide care for young children.
  • 1963 – The first municipal preschools open, focused on fostering community and active learning.
  • 1970s – Educator Loris Malaguzzi develops the Reggio Emilia philosophy of respecting the child’s capabilities.
  • 1990s – Reggio Emilia gains global attention; North American Reggio Emilia Alliance forms.

Reggio Emilia continues to evolve as an innovative, child-centered approach. It empowers kids as capable co-constructors of their own learning. This inspiring philosophy now influences early childhood education worldwide.

Montessori and Reggio Emilia: A Comparative Study

Montessori and Reggio Emilia are two influential educational approaches that share many core values, while differing in their methods. How do these child-centered philosophies compare? Let’s break it down!

Commonalities and Differences

While Montessori and Reggio Emilia are distinct, they share core beliefs like:

  • Seeing children as capable and full of potential
  • Fostering student independence and self-direction
  • Using hands-on materials and experiential learning
  • Supporting whole child development

However, here are some key differences:


  • Multi-age classrooms
  • Defined self-correcting materials
  • Individual exploration
  • Prepared environment

Reggio Emilia

  • Single-age classrooms
  • Open-ended materials
  • Collaborative projects
  • Emergent curriculum

Montessori is more structured, while Reggio allows more open creativity. But both respect the child and offer active learning.

How Schools Share Philosophies and Practices

While Montessori and Reggio have distinct styles, many schools blend elements of both:

  • Child-centered, hands-on learning materials
  • Observation and individualization
  • Focus on senses, movement and lived experience
  • Nature-inspired, aesthetically pleasing classrooms
  • Respectful relationships between teachers, children and families
  • Documentation of student work and learning

Some schools identify as specifically Montessori or Reggio Emilia, while others integrate practices from both philosophies. Shared values of child-directed learning and whole child development underpin both educational models.

Here is a table summarizing some core differences:

MontessoriReggio Emilia
Classroom ApproachMulti-age; prepared environmentSingle-age; emergent curriculum
MaterialsStructured; skill-basedOpen-ended; expressive
Learning StyleIndividual explorationCollaborative projects
Teacher RoleGuide; give lessonsCo-learner; collaborate

Blending Montessori and Reggio Emilia

Some blended preschools may have:

  • Montessori materials in a Reggio project-based environment
  • Independent Montessori work time plus Reggio group activities
  • Montessori practical life and sensorial work alongside Reggio creative expression
  • Reggio collaborations on topics selected based on Montessori student interests

Schools thoughtfully integrate elements of both to support self-directed learning through engaging experiential activities. Shared values of child-centered, hands-on education unify the approaches.

Finding the Right Fit

Montessori and Reggio Emilia both provide enriching early childhood experiences. Observing schools firsthand helps identify environments that best match your child’s learning style and needs.

Consider: Does your child prefer working independently or cooperatively? Does a well-structured approach appeal, or the freedom of an emergent curriculum? Seek the program cultivating your child’s natural curiosity and joy of discovery.

With their flexible, child-focused philosophies, Montessori and Reggio schools nurture children’s innate drive to learn. Discover the approach sparking your child’s engaged thinking and creativity!

The Preschool Dilemma

Choosing the right preschool for your child can feel like an overwhelming decision. Should you consider Montessori, Reggio Emilia or a more traditional program? Let’s break down what to look for in early education.

Early Education: Montessori vs Reggio Emilia

When evaluating preschools, you’ll likely encounter both Montessori and Reggio Emilia options. Here’s a quick rundown of their key differences:


  • Multi-age classrooms
  • Defined curriculum with structured materials
  • Focus on individual exploration
  • Children choose activities from shelves

Reggio Emilia

  • Single-age classrooms
  • Emergent curriculum based on projects
  • Emphasis on collaborative work
  • Activities driven by children’s interests

Both support hands-on learning and child-directed exploration. Reggio offers more creative freedom, while Montessori provides more structure. Observe classrooms and determine which environment suits your child best.

Questions to Consider

Here are key questions to help evaluate preschool programs:

  • What is the teacher-student ratio? Smaller is better.
  • What sort of interactions do you observe between teachers and children? Warmth and respect are ideal.
  • How much choice do children have throughout the day? A mix of structure and freedom is good.
  • Does the environment spark curiosity with engaging materials and activities?
  • Does the school’s philosophy match your goals and values?
  • What specialist instruction is offered (art, music, language)?
  • How is discipline handled? Look for a positive approach.

Visit schools to get a feel for their learning environment and community. Talk to teachers about how they implement curriculum and monitor child development. An encouraging, nurturing preschool lays the best foundation for lifelong learning.

Choosing the Right Preschool

Every child has unique needs. Assess your child’s learning style and personality to determine the best fit:

  • Independent learners often thrive in Montessori programs with opportunities to self-direct.
  • Creative kids blossom through Reggio Emilia’s expressive arts projects.
  • Active children benefit from hands-on materials and movement in both philosophies.
  • Cautious kids appreciate Montessori’s structured sequencing of lessons.
  • Social children enjoy Reggio’s collaborative group work.

Seek a warm, welcoming environment led by responsive, respectful teachers. Visit schools and picture your child happily engaged there. Trust your instincts!

Questions for Preschool Directors

Here are key questions for preschool directors:

  • How do you support children’s social-emotional development?
  • What specialist instruction do you offer in art, music, world languages?
  • How much outdoor/physical activity time do students get daily?
  • How do you communicate and partner with parents?
  • How do you tailor instruction to children’s individual needs?
  • What is your approach to discipline and behavioral issues?
  • How do you help children transition to elementary school?

Get detailed answers to understand the school’s philosophy. Ensure the program will meet your child’s learning needs while fostering curiosity and confidence.

Transitioning to Elementary School

A great preschool readies kids both academically and socio-emotionally for kindergarten:

  • Academics – basic math, reading readiness and writing skills
  • Independence – ability to follow routines, focus, and work independently
  • Social skills – cooperating, sharing, taking turns, empathy
  • Emotional skills – good coping strategies, resilience, self-control

Montessori and Reggio Emilia both provide enriching experiences to launch children on an educational path that taps into their natural excitement for learning. With some research, tours and reflection, you can pick the perfect preschool for your child!

Inside the Classroom: Montessori and Reggio Emilia

The Montessori and Reggio Emilia classrooms offer very different learning environments. What will you see inside each one? Let’s explore the set-up and materials that make these philosophies unique.

The Montessori Classroom

Walking into a Montessori classroom, you’ll notice:

  • Child-sized tables and chairs
  • Orderly shelves displaying materials
  • Cozy reading corners and plants
  • Children working independently on activities

The thoughtfully prepared environment promotes focused learning. Key areas include:

Practical Life – Activities like pouring, scooping, and buttoning build coordination.

Sensorial Materials – Items for smelling, tasting, touching explore the senses.

Math – Bead counting frames, number rods, and puzzles teach math concretely.

Language – Sandpaper letters, word building games, and books foster literacy.

Culture – Globes, maps, clocks and music instruments introduce concepts.

Teachers thoughtfully arrange materials on low, open shelves allowing kids to select activities independently. The Montessori classroom provides a calm, inspiring space for self-directed learning.

Learning Zones in the Montessori Classroom

Zones in the Montessori classroom include:

  • Individual work spaces – Children have room to spread out materials and concentrate.
  • Group lesson space – Small groups gather for teacher presentations.
  • Reading corner – Cozy pillows and books inspire reading.
  • Creative space – Collage, painting, playdough and building materials encourage creativity.
  • Quiet space – Children can retreat here for alone time or peacemaking.

These neat, organized zones give children needed room while keeping materials easily accessible. The structured environment promotes independence and concentration.

The Reggio Emilia Classroom

Stepping into a Reggio Emilia classroom, you’ll see:

  • Round tables perfect for group work
  • Nature-inspired materials like pinecones and seashells
  • Art materials readily available for various projects
  • Children’s creations proudly displayed

The classroom provokes curiosity and engagement. Key activity centers include:

Visual Arts Studio – Easels, clay, paints and collage materials allow creative expression.

Atelier – Open-ended art materials promote imagination and problem-solving.

Mini-Environments – Spaces like a mini forest or garden encourage exploration.

Documentation Panels – Photos and text showcase the learning process.

Teachers and children work together to thoughtfully arrange and frequently modify the classroom environment based on emerging interests and needs. The space inspires discovery, creativity and collaboration.

Learning Zones in the Reggio Emilia Classroom

You’ll see diverse flexible learning zones:

  • Group meeting area – Children discuss projects and plans.
  • Investigation tables – Focus materials facilitate in-depth discovery.
  • Presentation space – Teachers share lessons with individuals or groups.
  • Studio space – Open art studio promotes free expression.
  • Cozy reading corner – Books and pillows create a reading retreat.

These vibrant zones allow both independent and shared investigations. The classroom comes alive with children’s creations and discoveries.

Finding the Right Fit

Montessori and Reggio learning spaces reflect their distinct philosophies. While Montessori values order and independence, Reggio emphasizes collaboration and creative expression. Observe classrooms in person to determine which environment best suits your child’s learning needs and style. Look for a classroom sparking curiosity and joyful learning.

The Montessori Approach: A Closer Look

The Montessori method has been captivating children’s curiosity and interest for over 100 years. What makes this approach so enriching and effective? Let’s take a closer look!

Montessori’s Unique Approach to Education

Montessori is based on supporting children’s natural development stages. Key principles include:

  • Multi-age classrooms – Age 3-6 or 6-9 groupings allow peer learning and individual pacing.
  • Self-directed activity – Children choose hands-on lessons and materials that interest them.
  • Concrete learning – Montessori materials isolate specific skills and make concepts tangible.
  • Developmental scope and sequence – Lessons build gradually from simple to complex across subject areas.
  • Prepared environment – The classroom is thoughtfully designed and arranged for independent discovery.
  • Specially trained teachers – Guides respectfully observe children and give individualized lessons.

This developmental approach taps into children’s internal motivation and guides natural stages of growth.

How Montessori Focuses on the Individual

Montessori education is highly individualized:

  • Teachers closely observe each child to understand needs and learning styles.
  • Lessons are brief, clear and engaging, tailored to the child’s level and pace.
  • Children work at their own rhythm, moving step-by-step through curriculum.
  • Learning is assessed by demonstrated mastery, not tests or grades.
  • Mixed ages allow younger kids to absorb skills from older role models.
  • Class size is limited to allow robust individual attention.

The Montessori classroom nurtures self-confidence, concentration, coordination and love of exploration that benefit kids lifelong.

The Prepared Montessori Environment

Maria Montessori emphasized meticulous classroom preparation to allow independent learning.

  • Materials are neatly organized on low, open shelves.
  • Activities are sequenced from simple to complex.
  • Lessons build key skills across practical life, senses, math, language and culture.
  • Items are displayed attractively on trays or rugs to invite use.
  • Developmentally appropriate child-sized tables and chairs fit the learner.

This thoughtful environment allows kids to freely select activities meeting their needs and interests each day. They develop focus, self-discipline and mastery through engaging hands-on work.

Teacher Interactions in Montessori

Montessori guides:

  • Give brief targeted lessons on new materials when children are ready.
  • Provide just enough guidance for a child to master the activity and correct mistakes.
  • Know when to step back and let children work independently.
  • Carefully observe children to understand their needs and developmental levels.
  • Support children’s concentration by limiting unnecessary interruptions.
  • Cultivate classroom community, model respect, and set clear expectations.
  • Spark curiosity and lead class discussions on academic and social topics.

Thoughtful teacher interactions in Montessori education allow children to build confidence, resilience and discipline.

Supporting Development

The Montessori classroom nurtures:

PhysicalFine and gross motor skills, coordination

Social – Community, sharing, empathy

Emotional – Self-awareness, confidence, focus

Cognitive – Concrete learning across subject areas

This whole-child approach uniquely prepares students with essential life skills and solid academic fundamentals.

For over a century, Montessori education has brought out children’s joy and motivation to learn. This developmental, child-centered philosophy continues to offer an enriching experience for students worldwide.

 Waldorf: A Third Option

When considering preschools, Montessori and Reggio Emilia are two popular educational models. Waldorf offers a third holistic approach for parents to explore. Let’s look at how it compares.

Waldorf vs Montessori: A Brief Comparison

Like Montessori, Waldorf education:

  • Emphasizes multi-age classrooms
  • Uses hands-on tactile materials
  • Incorporates art, music and movement
  • Follows a rhythm of focused work and creative play

However, some differences include:


  • Practical life and sensorial materials
  • Individual choice of structured lessons
  • Emphasis on cognitive skills


  • Open-ended artistic activities
  • Classwork determined by curriculum
  • Focus on social-emotional development

Both support child-centered, experiential learning. But Waldorf focuses more holistically on nourishing the “head, heart, and hands.”

Inside the Waldorf Classroom

The Waldorf classroom environment differs from Montessori:

  • Surrounded by nature – plants, natural materials
  • Soft lighting, candles, warmth
  • Artistic – seasonal decorations, student creations
  • Toys and supplies made from wood, silk, wool
  • Focus on beauty and imagination

Rhythms guide the day, week and year:

  • Morning circle with songs, games, poetry
  • Academic work interspersed with artistic activities
  • Daily outdoor play
  • Seasonal crafts, cooking, festivals

Waldorf aims to educate the whole child in a home-like environment appealing to the senses.

Elements of Waldorf Curriculum

Waldorf curriculum integrates:


  • Oral storytelling and experiential lessons
  • Reading instruction begins age 6-7
  • Creative writing, math, science

Arts & Crafts

  • Watercolor painting, modelling beeswax
  • Knitting, quilting, woodworking
  • Nature studies, gardening


  • Games, dancing, music

Social-Emotional Learning

  • Cooperative play, storytelling
  • Sharing feelings, resolving conflicts

Waldorf weaves art, music, nature, and social learning throughout academics to develop the whole child.

Benefits of Waldorf Education

Research suggests Waldorf students exhibit:

  • Strong creative and problem-solving abilities
  • Confidence and self-direction
  • Love of learning, curiosity
  • Developed emotional intelligence
  • Social awareness and responsibility

Waldorf’s holistic approach cultivates capable, well-rounded students.

Finding the Right Fit

Observing preschools in action helps determine the best match. Waldorf may appeal to parents seeking an artistic environment focused on nurturing wonder, imagination and social skills.

All three philosophies – Montessori, Reggio Emilia and Waldorf – offer nurturing child-centered education. Reflect on your goals and values to pick the enriching program that fits your child best

Reggio Emilia and Montessori: Key Differences

While Reggio Emilia and Montessori share some core values, their approaches differ in meaningful ways. What key distinctions set these influential philosophies apart? Let’s break it down.

Different Educational Models

Reggio and Montessori offer varying models:


  • Emergent, project-based curriculum
  • Collaboration between teachers and children
  • Expressive arts integrated throughout
  • Democratic community of learners


  • Defined scope and sequence across subjects
  • Individual choice within structured environment
  • Mastery of cognitive skills and concepts
  • Independent exploration of teacher-presented lessons

Reggio emphasizes group discovery, while Montessori prioritizes individual development. Both respect the child, but diverge programmatically.

The Role of the Teacher

Teachers play different roles:


  • Co-learner alongside children, guiding collaborative projects
  • Careful observer, documenting learning for reflection and planning
  • Provocateur sparking inquiry through questions and access to materials


  • Guide preparing the structured environment then stepping back
  • Giver of brief, individual lessons tailored to the child’s needs and interests
  • Unobtrusive observer safeguarding children’s concentration

While both facilitate learning, Reggio teachers engage in shared discovery while Montessori guides support independent exploration.

Approach to Early Childhood Education

Each philosophy views early childhood education differently:

Reggio sees it as:

  • A journey of collective exploration driven by children’s interests
  • Fostering relationships, collaboration, communication
  • Integrating diverse modes of expression: art, drama, music
  • Documentation as reflection used to deepen the learning process

Montessori sees it as:

  • Supporting human development through structured activities
  • Fostering independence, concentration, coordination
  • Presenting material to stimulate skill-building at each stage
  • Preparing the environment for individual discovery based on sensitive periods

The Reggio classroom dynamically evolves, while the Montessori day has a consistent, gentle rhythm. Both nurture development but in distinct ways.

Classroom Setup and Materials

Classroom environments differ:


  • Flexible spaces rearranged regularly by teachers and children
  • Accessible art materials for free expression
  • Natural elements like plants, light, and found objects


  • Thoughtfully prepared, orderly atmosphere
  • Defined curriculum materials arranged neatly on shelves
  • Child-sized furniture, tactile learning materials
  • Peaceful ambiance facilitating concentration

The classrooms mirror the programs’ divergent philosophies and approaches.

Finding the Best Fit

Understanding these key differences helps determine which approach best suits your child and family. Observe different schools firsthand. Does your child thrive through independent exploration or collaborative work? Seek the environment best nurturing your child’s strengths and passions as a unique learner.

Approaches to Learning: Beyond the Classroom

Montessori and Reggio Emilia education extend beyond the classroom walls. Let’s examine how their philosophies influence learning and development across various contexts.

Montessori and Reggio Emilia’s Approach to Education

Both Montessori and Reggio Emilia take a broader view of education:

Montessori sees education as:

  • Supporting human development stages through engaging hands-on materials
  • Fostering independence, concentration, coordination and self-discipline
  • Indirectly preparing for academics by allowing natural interest to blossom
  • Education for life – cultivating capable, responsible individuals

Reggio Emilia sees education as:

  • A collaborative journey driven by children’s interests and potential
  • An exchange of theories and ideas through projects and relationships
  • Using all expressive languages – art, drama, music – to represent learning
  • Seeking connections across disciplines and with the community

While distinct, both philosophies share a holistic, child-centered approach.

Applications Beyond Preschool

Montessori and Reggio values extend to various settings:


  • Organizing environments for child access
  • Encouraging independence in age-appropriate tasks
  • Providing open-ended materials for creativity

Elementary School

  • Student-led group learning and projects
  • Integrating hands-on activities and movement
  • Individualized pacing and assessment


  • Parent-school partnerships and collaboration
  • Service learning and community involvement
  • Environmental education and sustainability

These philosophies offer guiding principles for nurturing engaged learners of all ages.

Building Educational Communities

Both Montessori and Reggio Emilia emphasize community:

  • Parent partnership – Families actively collaborate in their children’s education.
  • Teacher collaboration – Educators work cooperatively to develop curriculum.
  • School culture – All members contribute to a respectful, democratic learning community.
  • Community connections – Local partnerships provide enriched learning experiences.

This holistic ecosystem supports children’s development and brings diverse perspectives into the classroom.

The Teacher’s Role Across Settings

Montessori and Reggio teachers act as:

  • Observers, discovering student needs and interests to guide lessons
  • Facilitators, providing hands-on learning in interactive ways
  • Learners themselves, modeling curiosity and problem-solving
  • Partners, collaborating respectfully with students, colleagues and families
  • Advocates, for education focused on the whole child

Their influential roles enrich learning experiences well beyond preschool.


Montessori and Reggio Emilia education encompass far more than classroom teaching. These philosophies offer guiding principles to apply across diverse educational contexts. Their holistic, child-centered vision continues to shape learning communities centered around meaningful discovery, collaboration and the boundless potential of children.

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Written By Ella
As a passionate parent and Montessori follower, I encourage child independence and share my personal parenting insights. In my downtime, I enjoy family activities, tea, and reading, and I invite you to join my journey in the Montessori way of raising resilient children.

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