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Montessori vs. Reggio Emilia preschools

Comparing Montessori and Reggio-inspired preschools and daycares

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Below, we compare Montessori to Reggio Emilia-inspired preschools. To learn more about preschool and daycare programs in general, check out our introductory guide.

Montessori preschools

Montessori preschools are child-focused. They put children front and centre.

On the Montessori approach, children have a unique learning path. This means that they should be given an opportunity to learn in their own way. They often choose their own tasks and work at their own pace.

In preschool (Montessori), kids sometimes work by themselves. Often, though, they work in groups. They work with other kids, and teachers only rarely intervene.

Montessori preschools, like all Montessori schools, have mixed-age classrooms. This makes for a lively learning environment, with lots of interaction, collaboration, and child-to-child teaching. 

Reggio Emilia preschools

Reggio preschools provide a supportive and caring learning environment. They have multi-age classrooms, in which children work and interact together. This makes for a dynamic setting.

Children have lots of freedom. Children can choose their own activities and tasks, based on their interests. They also pursue projects based on their unique passions, which they select with help from the teachers. This is referred to as a "co-constructed curriculum."

In Reggio preschools, like all Reggio schools, kids are encouraged to use many modes of expression and different kinds of media, such as painting, sculpting, and drama. This promotes open communication and creativity.

Reggio teachers document children's progress throughout the year. They also post their work all over the classroom, so that both kids and parents can see student progress.

Montessori vs. Reggio Emilia preschools

Main similarities

  • Child-centred: Both programs allow kids to play a central role in curriculum development.
  • ​Multi-age classrooms: Both programs have mixed-age classrooms, normally with 2- or 3-year age groupings.
  • Work: Both programs place a heavy emphasis on work and projects.

​Main differences

  • Play: Reggio Emilia has more play-based learning than Montessori. That said, some Montessori preschools don't discourage, and might even encourage, this kind of learning.
  • Art and creativity: Reggio Emilia focuses more on art and creativity than Montessori. 
  • Structured classroom: Montessori has a more structured classroom than Reggio Emilia. In Montessori, all materials belong in a specific place, and certain areas of the classroom are designated for specific tasks or activities.
  • Principles: Unlike Montessori, Reggio Emilia education isn't based on a unified set of principles. Instead, it’s based on certain values about how children best learn. 

To learn more about the similarities and differences between various types of preschools, read our comparison guides. In separate articles, we compare Montessori to Waldorf, Waldorf to Reggio Emiliaacademic to play-basedMontessori to play-based, and Montessori to academic preschools. If you want to compare specific schools one-to-one, visit our compare hub.

To learn about the similarities and differences between different types of schools in general (as opposed to preschools), read comparison guides. In separate articles, we compare Montessori to Waldorf, Waldorf to Reggio Emilia, and Montessori to Reggio Emilia schools.


Preschool questions (read our in-depth answers)


Answers to the question “What is the difference between Montessori and Reggio Emilia preschools?” from school officials

“Montessori is an integrated approach whose aim is to fulfill the needs of the whole child. Reggio is a project-based program, where the lessons are based on the interests of children.” Marcel Pereira, director of Century Private School, a Montessori school in Richmond HillOntario

Series: Preschools

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