Waldorf vs. Reggio Emilia preschools

Comparing Waldorf and Reggio-inspired preschools and daycares

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Below, we compare Waldorf to Reggio Emilia preschools. This should give you a good sense of their similarities and differences. To learn more about preschool and daycare programs in general, check out our introductory guide.

Waldorf preschools

Waldorf preschools have a flexible approach. Kids can often choose their own activities, and pursue their interests and passions. There is a daily schedule, though.

There's little, if any focus, on core academics in Waldorf preschools. In fact, Waldorf kids don't normally start math and reading (at least through direct instruction) until grade 1.

Waldorf preschools, like Waldorf schools in general, aim to educate the whole child. Teachers educate children’s cognitive, active, and emotional sides.

Waldorf focuses a lot on art, imagination, and creativity. In preschool, young children are given plenty of time for free play, artistic work (e.g., drawing, painting, and modelling), circle time (songs, games, and stories), and outdoor recess.

Reggio Emilia preschools

Children, on the Reggio Emilia approach, have a unique nature. They’re competent, curious, and full of knowledge. Reggio-inspired preschools aim to build on these strengths, to help kids fulfill their vast potential.

Reggio preschools, like all Reggio schools, provide a supportive and enriching learning environment. They have multi-age classrooms, where children often work together.

The classroom, referred to as “the third teacher,” is set up to promote communication, interaction, and problem solving. With help from the teacher, children are given the freedom to explore their interests and pursue projects based on them. They sometimes do this on their own and sometimes in small groups.

Reggio programs also place a great emphasis on expression. Children are encouraged to express themselves in lots of different ways using a wide range of media (such as painting, sculpting, and drama). They’re also urged to share their thoughts and ideas with teachers and other children. This is based on the idea of “the hundred languages.”

Reggio teachers support students in a number of ways. For starters, they observe children to see what interests them. They then connect them with meaningful work. They also post children’s work in the classroom, and document their work in many ways to track their progress.

Waldorf vs. Reggio Emilia preschools

Main similarities

  • Child-centred: Both programs allow the child to mostly select their own tasks and activities.
  • Multi-age classrooms: Both programs have mixed-age classrooms, where kids have the same teacher for several years. In Reggio, it’s usually two or three years. In Waldorf, it can be up to six years.
  • Art and creativity: Both programs focus a lot on art and creativity. In Waldorf, this is done mostly through imaginative play, drama, music, and story telling. In Reggio, this is done mostly through arts and crafts, which allows kids to express themselves in many different ways.

Main differences

  • Emphasis on play: Both preschools have some play-based learning. This is more of a focus in Waldorf, though.
  • Focus on academics: Waldorf programs normally delay academics until grade 1. Reggio programs encourage children to take on serious projects in preschool.
  • Principles: Unlike Waldorf, 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 WaldorfMontessori 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. You can also read our guide to preschool questions.

To learn about the similarities and differences between these types of schools in general (as opposed to preschools), read our 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 Waldorf and Reggio Emilia preschools?” from school officials

“Waldorf and Reggio Emilia both use a curriculum that is developmentally appropriate and believe in child-initiated play. In the Reggio Emilia approach, lessons are based on the interests of the students and are project-based. Child questions that arise through play (such as “How does a flower grow?”) are turned into lessons by the teacher, resulting in a project for the students. The Waldorf approach supports child-initiated play to cultivate healthy growth and learning in a range of areas, from gross and fine motor skills to the development of imagination and creativity.” Lylli Anthon, faculty chair of Halton Waldorf school, in Burlington, Ontario

“Waldorf, like Montessori, aspires to educate the whole child, though concepts can be taught in a variety of ways. 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 Hill, Ontario

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In the spotlight:

List of Waldorf and Reggio Emilia preschools

  • Markham, Ontario
    Woodbine Av./Hwy 7
  • PS to 12 Coed
  • $18,000 to $51,000

Since 2002, J. Addison has provided a stimulating education for students. Located at the corner of Woodbine and Valleywood Drive in Markham, ON, Canada, you will find our state-of-the-art 58,000 sq. ft. facility.

  • Day/Boarding
  • Reggio Emilia
J. Addison School 18000 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Boarding Coed
  • Toronto, Ontario
    Bathurst St./Eglinton Ave. West
  • PS to 6 Coed
  • $15,500 to $17,500

NOW WITH LICENSED DAYCARE! Bring your child for a free trial to let him or her experience the difference. Don't be surprised if he or she doesn't want to go home at the end of the day! SUMMER CAMP PROGRAMS AVAILABLE!

  • Day
  • Montessori
  • Waldorf
Alive Montessori & Private School 15500 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary Day Coed
  • Toronto, Ontario
  • PS to 3 Coed
  • $12,000 to $25,500

Diverse, warm community. Exceptional phonics program to build early literacy. Collaborative, multi-strategy approach to math. Public speaking, the arts, outdoor ed, mindfulness, community engagement.

  • Day
  • Traditional
  • Reggio Emilia
CGS (Children's Garden School) 12000 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary Day Coed
  • Toronto, Ontario
    Davenport Rd/Spadina Rd
  • PS to 8 Coed
  • $14,325 to $22,650

Small class sizes and our unique curriculum - infused with Arts, Movement, Outdoor Education - create deeper connections across subjects, at all child development stages. Parents describe us as “schooling with heart".

  • Day
  • Waldorf
Waldorf Academy 14325 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed
  • Winnipeg, Manitoba
    Langside St./Westminster Ave.
  • PS to 12 Girls
  • $16,500 to $69,400

We offer a supportive environment for girls’ learning with a strong sense of community. We encourage the love of learning in a place of belonging that nurtures resilience, inspires creativity, and celebrates diversity.

  • Day/Boarding
  • Progressive
  • International Baccalaureate
Balmoral Hall School 16500 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Boarding Girls
  • Thornhill, Ontario
    Bathurst St/Rutherford Rd
  • NS to 12 Coed
  • $18,000 to $21,000

Toronto Waldorf School offers a curriculum that integrates academics, arts and movement while addressing the intellectual, physical, emotional and social aspects of child development from preschool to gr. 12.

  • Day
  • Waldorf
Toronto Waldorf School 18000 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed
  • Etobicoke, Ontario
  • PS to 5 Coed
  • $6,600 to $12,000

Kingsley's small classes and personal approach help students reach their unique potential. Each child is seen, heard, and respected. French, music, and phys-ed round out a program which includes plenty of time outdoors.

  • Day
  • Traditional
  • Reggio Emilia
Kingsley Primary School 6600 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary Day Coed
  • Toronto, Ontario
    Bayview Ave/Broadway Ave
  • PS to 3 Coed
  • $8,000 to $24,000

A daily goal is for our children to arrive at school excited for the day ahead. Aside from our excellent academic programs, we plan many fun events for the children to enjoy throughout the school year.

  • Day
  • Traditional
  • Reggio Emilia
Children's Garden Nursery School 8000 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary Day Coed
  • Etobicoke, Ontario
    Lakeshore and/Kipling
  • NS to 6 Coed
  • $13,500 to $23,200

Vincent Massey supports students in reaching their individual potential through a balanced education; setting your child up for success in all avenues of life.

  • Day
  • Progressive
  • Reggio Emilia
Vincent Massey Academy 13500 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary Day Coed
  • North Vancouver, British Columbia
    W 22nd/Phillip
  • PS Coed
  • $2,400 to $5,500

As a Reggio Inspired School in North Vancouver, Sunflower engages daily in rigorous reflective practice - collaboratively designing curriculum and environment around the emerging interests and curiosities of the children

  • Day
  • Reggio Emilia
Sunflower Early Learning Society 2400 Preschool Day Coed
  • Victoria, British Columbia
  • PS to 12 Coed
  • $1,600 to $8,500

ArtsCalibre Academy empowers students through creativity, mindfulness and leadership. We offer comprehensive educational programs for Preschool through Grade 12.

  • Day
  • Progressive
  • Reggio Emilia
ArtsCalibre Academy 1600 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed
  • Burlington, Ontario
    Appleby Line/Upper Middle Road
  • PS to 12 Coed
  • $11,150 to $18,700

Halton Waldorf School offers an education that fosters confidence, independence and intelligence. Located on five forested acres, the school has been uniquely designed to support the goals of Waldorf education. Est 1984

  • Day
  • Waldorf
Halton Waldorf School 11150 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed

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