The Reggio Emilia Preschool Philosophy

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When you are looking to choose a preschool for your child, whether it is the first time or you are switching schools, keep in mind that there are many different educational philosophies to choose from, even at a young age. If you prefer a setting where the child is viewed as capable of steering and directing their own learning process, the Reggio Emilia approach might be a method you want to consider.

The Reggio Emilia approach is an early education or preschool philosophy that uses four key principles to focus on a child's natural development. The approach is both child-centered and directed, taking the philosophy that learning must make sense to the student (even the youngest students) in order to be effective and meaningful.

A child's point of view is completely respected and the student is encouraged to follow their own educational path. It is believed that a child's driving sense of curiosity, along with their inherent potential will foster an interest in learning, allowing them to learn and succeed long-term. It is that curiosity and potential that should ultimately set the path and the direction that any and all learning will follow.

Reggio Emilia Principles

The Reggio Emilia philosophy is based upon the following set of principles:

  • Children must have some say over what they learn; additionally, the senses play a big role in the learning process.
  • Children engage with their senses to help them learn and fully process something. 
  • Children are encouraged to interact with other children and explore the world through material items and relationships.
  • Children should be encouraged to always express themselves and be given infinite means and opportunities to do so.


This unique approach to educating children was founded in the villages around Reggio Emilia, Italy after World War II. Parents were looking for a way to teach their children and found that the early years of development were the best time to help children figure out who they are as individuals.

The villages in and around Reggio Emilia still follow these principles today. Students are taught by atelieristas, who are teachers with arts backgrounds.

What to Expect

Parental involvement is invited and encouraged. Many parents volunteer in the classroom and employ many of the methods found in the classroom at home. A major tenet of the Reggio Emilia philosophy is that students should study in a comfortable environment that makes them feel at home. Classrooms are also aesthetically pleasing. 

When it comes to actual learning, a variety of materials and vehicles are used, including clay, paint, dramatic play, among others. Individual and class projects are often undertaken and last for weeks and sometimes months. These projects allow students to learn about many different facets of whatever it is they are studying.

Important Words Parents Should Know

Important words to know if you are considering or if your child is enrolled in a Reggio Emilia school include:

Co-construction is the method used to increase a child's learning while they are working with another child or other children. Co-construction allows for active dialogue and collaboration between the students and the teacher. 

Documentation is a way for children to display what they have learned at school. It could be a project that a child has created or a series of drawings that have been created throughout the school year. Documentation is a way to show a child's progress in learning. 

Flowcharts are the system used to record curriculum planning and assessment. They record progress step-by-step and are designed to record the past, present, and future. 

Portfolios are a collection of a child's work over a designated period of time.

A Word From Verywell

While Internet and reading research is important and necessary, when choosing a preschool, nothing is better than actually visiting a school and seeing firsthand if it is something that you think would be appropriate for your preschooler. Just because an early educational philosophy sounds like it would be a great fit for your little one, in practice it might not always be the case. So be patient and be prepared to ask lots of questions. 

5 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Stoudt A. Scholastic. The Reggio Emilia Approach.

  2. The Emilia School. Reggio Emilia Method.

  3. Wyness M. Childhood, Culture and Society In a Global Context. Sage Publishing. 2018.

  4. Heckman JJ, Biroli P, Boca DD, et al. Evaluation of the Reggio approach to early education. Res Econ. 2018;72(1):1-32. doi:10.1016/j.rie.2017.05.006

  5. Mehr SA, Schachner A, Katz RC, Spelke ES. Two randomized trials provide no consistent evidence for nonmusical cognitive benefits of brief preschool music enrichment. PLoS ONE. 2013;8(12):e82007.  doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0082007

Additional Reading

By Amanda Rock
Amanda Rock, mom of three, has spent more than a decade of her professional career writing and editing for parents and children.