Montessori vs Reggio - What's the Difference?


Montessori and Reggio schools are strong educational models that both developed in Italy and share a lot of similar methods.

Both Reggio and Montessori schools encourage child-led learning. Montessori schools do have a curriculum framework with specific goals in the subjects of mathematics, science, culture, language arts, and practical life skills. Similarly, the teachers and students in Reggio schools work together to create a curriculum based on the student interests.

Montessori vs Reggio Comparison:



Year Founded



Developed in



Age groups



Self Guided 



Project-based approach



Forward-thinking approach



Sensorial play



How Did Montessori Start?

The Montessori method was founded in Italy, by Dr. Maria Montessori, a physician and educator. In 1907 she opened her first school in Rome where she was a supporter of the idea that children absorb knowledge from their surroundings and are capable of self-directing their education through their own exploration. 

Key Principles of the Montessori Approach

Montessori method

The Montessori method also uses a play-based approach to education. It goes beyond pre-school education and is usually taught at elementary and middle school levels.

The key principles of Montessori are:

  • Children have the freedom to work independently, while making choices from a prepared activity that in turn helps develop self-sufficiency. The child is then provided guidance from their teachers and encouraged to learn organically through the art of play, which is considered to be their teaching lesson.
  • Uninterrupted work time is given to the child to work on their chosen activity and to pace themselves accordingly. With this method the child can decide when to interact with others, work alone or when to take a break. The educational environment is set out in individual areas so children can move from area to area within the classroom and participate in different activities. This encourages movement, along with independence within the activities
  • The Montessori approach is focused on nurturing each child’s potential by providing learning experiences that support their intellectual, physical, emotional and social development. In addition to language and mathematics, the Montessori Curriculum also covers practical life, sensorial, and culture. All aspects of a child's development and learning are intertwined and viewed as equally important.
  • Hands-on learning is actively encouraged, with age-specific tools being used. These learning tools allow the child can revisit and work out the correct method when not done correctly with things like puzzles or moveable alphabets.
  • Montessori classrooms often have mixed age groups that cover a three-year gap. This allows children to learn at their level of ability, rather than their birth age. Younger children can also benefit from observing older children, and older children take care of the younger children in the classroom.

How Did Reggio Start?

Europe was in shambles after World War II and in 1945, a teacher collaborated with local parents in the city of Reggio Emilia, Italy to develop a new kind of childcare.

Children during this time were born into war and their lives needed to be enriched while being taught to be responsible and respectful people. In addition, parents needed assistance as they were re-entering the workforce during this time. This teaching method was then introduced in the United States in 1987 and has since steadily gained popularity.

Key Principles of the Reggio Approach

Reggio method

The Reggio Emilia philosophy not only focuses not only on the education of children in the preschool years, but also the importance of the education of infants and toddlers. The approach supports learning through play, discovery, interdependence and socio-cultural learning. This is achieved through a balance of self-guided and peer or adult-led learning.

The key principles of Reggio are:

  • Self-guided learning where teachers plan lessons and observe, yet use a highly adaptable approach is how the classroom is structured. This allows the learning to be to be flexible, yet focusing on a child's strengths. All students are encouraged to choose subjects of their own interest with guidance from the teacher.
  • Children are grouped and are educated with other children of the same age.
  • A project-based approach with information gathered by observing the children. The teacher initiates projects yet allow them to evolve naturally, by the willingness of the children’s curiosity and questions.
  • Relationships and interactions are highly valued in the Reggio approach. This is true of children in the class and also with their teachers, family, the environment and community as a whole. Parents and other community members are often invited into the classroom setting, and families are actively encouraged to continue the learning practices in the home.
  • Reggio is one of the first forward-thinking early childhood education methods that embraces a rights-based approach to learning. This unique element creates the building blocks of the importance of being a good person to all people all over the world.

Final Thoughts

One of the biggest advantages that the Montessori method has over Reggio is that it is more popular throughout the United States and widely researched. Additional research is still needed in order to confirm the benefits of a Reggio educational approach. 

However, both types of teaching methods have their advantages and disadvantages. Understanding your child's needs can help you make the best choice between the two.


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