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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List of Waldorf and Reggio Emilia preschools

 
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Bayview Glen


Toronto, Ontario
Don Mill Rd/York Mills Rd
 
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"Bayview Glen is co-ed, multi-denominational and diverse. Our student, faculty and staff community mirror the diversity of Toronto. Our culture is one of balance and openness, and embraces different perspectives.

  1. 2 years to Grade 12
  2. Enriched academics and individualized curriculum
  3. Advanced Placement programme
  4. Tablet programme

—From the school

  • Gr. PS to 12 (Coed)
  • Traditional curriculum
  • $20,950 to $31,050
  • Day school
  • 1124 students
 
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Bayview Glen 20950 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed
Winnipeg, Manitoba
Langside St./Westminster Ave.
 
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"Parents trust us to personalize the educational experience of each girl, to care for each girl, to challenge her to grow, to build a supportive community around her, and, most importantly, to prepare her for the future." —From the school

  • Gr. PS to 12 (Girls)
  • Progressive curriculum; International Baccalaureate
  • $17,850 to $74,650
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Balmoral Hall School 17850 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Boarding Girls
Toronto, Ontario
Davenport Rd/Spadina Rd
 
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"Smaller class sizes and our unique curriculum - infused with arts, movement, outdoor education - allow deeper connections across subjects, at all developmental stages. Waldorf education is “schooling with heart"." —From the school

  • Gr. NS to 8 (Coed)
  • Waldorf curriculum
  • $21,700 to $24,700
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Waldorf Academy 21700 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Day Coed
Burlington, Ontario
Appleby Line/Upper Middle Road
 
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"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" —From the school

  • Gr. PS to 12 (Coed)
  • Waldorf curriculum
  • $11,150 to $18,700
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Halton Waldorf School 11150 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed
Toronto, Ontario
Bayview Ave/Broadway Ave
 
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"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." —From the school

  • Gr. PS to 2 (Coed)
  • Traditional curriculum; Reggio Emilia
  • $8,500 to $24,000
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Children's Garden Nursery School 8500 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary Day Coed
North Vancouver, British Columbia
W 22nd/Phillip
 
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"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" —From the school

  • Gr. PS (Coed)
  • Reggio Emilia approach
  • $2,400 to $5,500
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Sunflower Early Learning Society 2400 Preschool Day Coed
Toronto, Ontario
Bathurst St./Eglinton Ave. West
 
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"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!" —From the school

  • Gr. PS to 6 (Coed)
  • Montessori curriculum; Waldorf
  • $15,500 to $17,500
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Alive Montessori & Private School 15500 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary Day Coed
Etobicoke, Ontario
Lakeshore and/Kipling
 
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"Vincent Massey supports students in reaching their individual potential through a balanced education; setting your child up for success in all avenues of life." —From the school

  • Gr. NS to 6 (Coed)
  • Progressive curriculum
  • $15,000 to $21,800
  • Day school
  • 230 students
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Vincent Massey Academy 15000 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary Day Coed
Thornhill, Ontario
Bathurst St/Rutherford Rd
 
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"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." —From the school

  • Gr. NS to 12 (Coed)
  • Waldorf curriculum
  • $18,000 to $21,000
  • Day school
  • 360 students
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Toronto Waldorf School 18000 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Day Coed
Etobicoke, Ontario
Bloor/Shaver
 
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"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." —From the school

  • Gr. PS to 5 (Coed)
  • Traditional curriculum; Reggio Emilia
  • $7,500 to $13,000
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Kingsley Primary School 7500 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary Day Coed
Toronto, Ontario
Bayview/Eglinton
 
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"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." —From the school

  • Gr. PS to 3 (Coed)
  • Traditional curriculum; Reggio Emilia
  • $12,500 to $26,400
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CGS (Children's Garden School) 12500 Preschool Kindergarten Elementary Day Coed
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