What are Montessori, Waldorf, and Reggio Emilia methods and what are the differences?

Montessori, Waldorf and Reggio Emilia are three different early education philosophies. Each educational style has a slightly varied approach, and focuses on cultivating different traits in your child. Below we outline the differences in how each method approaches education.

  • Montessori: Arguably the most well-known of the three, the Montessori method focuses on learning at each child’s own pace. Teachers are employed to assist students in learning at their own individual level without judgment or pressure. Montessori education usually starts between ages 3-6, but some programs start earlier. You can also incorporate Montessori philosophies into at-home play and education from infancy! 
  • Waldorf: In Waldorf education, teachers work with each child based on their unique gifts and challenges. Children are encouraged to learn when they are ready, rather than competing with other students. Waldorf teachers strive to generate a love of learning in their students without the added pressures of comparison to their peers. Through close observation of each child, Waldorf teachers can assess the best timing to introduce different subjects and concepts.
  • Reggio Emilia: Reggio Emilia schooling is based around projects. When students show a specific interest in one subject or topic, teachers will help students learn more themselves rather than simply answering their questions. Curriculum is largely self-guided, which can help children learn problem solving skills and tailor learning to their interests. The relationship is intended to be lateral rather than hierarchical, so children are learning alongside their teachers and are supported by their communities which include parents and other community members.

Each of these three types of educational environments offer space for children to take on open-ended projects and foster their independence and creativity. Even if your child does not go to a school that specializes in one of these disciplines, you can encourage these values at home! 

  1. Follow your child’s interests: If your child seems to be particularly interested in a certain animal or topic like sharks or space, follow their interest! Choose books that discuss these topics, or arts and crafts activities that allow them to visually explore their interests.
  2. Encourage learning at their own pace: There’s no need to rush education! Your child is learning with everything they do - every new food they eat or item they pick up teaches them about a new texture, taste, smell or color. Your child may encounter some frustration as they learn, but this is normal! Through trial and error, your child will begin to understand the world around them. Their pace may be different than a sibling’s or friend’s, and that’s ok!
  3. Introduce age and stage appropriate play and educational items: You can determine your child’s age and stage by taking our quiz, or by simply observing your child throughout the day! Introducing new items when they seem ready will keep them engaged and learning at the pace that is right for them. 

This article has been reviewed by our team of experts.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article does not constitute medical advice. If you have concerns about any health or medical condition, diagnosis, or treatment you should consult with your pediatrician or a licensed healthcare provider.