Montessori vs Reggio Emilia

The difference between Montessori and Reggio Emilia  

There are a lot of different teaching methodologies that you may have come across while exploring options for your child's education. Many have similarities to Montessori, such as Waldorf which we've already explored. 

Reggio Emilia is generally a lesser known alternative but offers an another approach to early years teaching.

Reggio Emilia was developed in Italy in the early 20th century, fifty years after Montessori started. It takes its name from the hometown 'Reggio' of its founder Lori Malaguzzi.

Reggio Emiliat street in Italy


Malaguzzi wanted to develop a new kind of childcare to enrich the lives of children born during the war.  

There are lots of Montessori and Reggio Emilia similarities such as their focus on calm, open classrooms that encourage multi-age learning and interaction. Both approaches are child-centric and view the child as competent, resourceful and independent.

So what is the difference between the Montessori and Reggio Emilia methodologies? How can you integrate both in your home environment?

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Difference between Montessori and Reggio Emilia

There are quite a few differences between the Reggio Emilia and Montessori methodologies that you may want to consider when choosing which is best for you.

The Montessori system, developed my Dr Maria Montessori, identifies strongly defined developmental stages and believes in creating suitable, prepared environments focusing  on observing the child and not leading their play. Children are allowed to pace their learning and choose their materials from a pre-prepared selection and teachers are viewed as guides.

Whereas in Reggio Emilia, it is a much more collaborative approach which has no formally defined methods, and communication is seen as key.  Parents, children and educators are viewed as partners to develop the best approach for each class. Teachers will often present toys in an intentional way and spend a long time documenting the child's academic and social progress.

Another key difference is that Maria Montessori believed children develop similarly around the world and that her methods could be implemented in any country.

The Reggio Emilia methodology believes that children are a product of their cultural environment and teachers must adapt their methods accordingly.

How can you use Reggio Emilia alongside Montessori?

Reggio Emilia is only for the early years, rather than being a methodology that can be implemented further during a child's education. It is also not considered a “reproducible approach” so early years settings generally state that they are 'Reggio inspired'.

There is a big emphasis on the natural world, playing and creating with recycled materials. You can provide materials to nurture creativity at home. Allow your child to have access to lots of  art opportunities and invite the children to explore various mediums and tools.

You may be familiar with the concept of the “invitation to play”. In the Reggio Emilia approach, we say “provocation”. We provoke an interest by providing interesting objects and tools. It might be a picture of a famous painting alongside a some mirror and some paint. It might be a collection of rocks and fabric samples or some recycling material next to a book about robot.

You can use this idea at home alongside the Montessori methodology by offering objects and activities that are in line with your child's interests. Use the provocation as a way to spark a new interest while being aware that your child could totally ignore the invitation.

The founder of the method talked about the 100 languages of the child:

From the Reggio approach official website:

Children as human beings, possess a hundred languages: a hundred ways of thinking, expressing, understanding, of encountering otherness through a way of thinking that weaves together and does not separate the various dimensions of experience. The hundred languages are a metaphor for the extraordinary potentials of children, their knowledge-building and creative processes, the myriad forms with which life is manifested and knowledge is constructed.

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I love the emphasis on art and creativity, the loose play approach and the importance of observing the children. Many preschools in the UK are inspired by the Reggio approach. And providing "invitation to play and provocation" can easily be done at home. 

Learn to observe your child so you can shape their environment using inspiration from different methodologies and choose the elements that work best for your family.

Do you incorporate some of the Reggio principles in your home or in your school? Let me know in a comment.

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About the Author Carine Robin

Carine Robin has a Master’s Degree in Psychology, specialising in child psychology. She worked for various social services in her home country of Belgium, before moving to Ireland in 2006. It was there that she started working in a nursery and discovered Montessori education. After having her first child, her passion for the philosophy grew and she qualified as a Montessori teacher and managed a preschool. Carine has been running a Montessori based parents and toddler group and coaching families for 9 years. She now also runs an online group for over 14000 parents, sharing her knowledge and passion with people from around the world. In 2018, Carine realised families needed more support and launched her popular online parenting courses and monthly subscription boxes, full of personally designed Montessori materials.