Montessori, Reggio & Waldorf

Parents often wonder what the differences are between Montessori, Reggio, and Waldorf preschool philosophies. Here is a brief summary and comparison of the three:

FounderDr. Maria Montessori, early 1900sLoris Malaguzzi, post-WWIIRudolf Steiner, early 1900s
LearningIndividualized, self-directed activityChild-centered and collaborativeHolistic approach
PaceEncourages self-paced learningEmergent curriculum based on child’s interestsEmphasis on play and imagination
CurriculumPractical life skills, sensorial exploration, language, mathematics, and cultural studiesProject-based, emergent, with documentationAcademic subjects and artistic and practical activities
TeachersGuides and facilitatorsCo-learners and collaboratorsStay with class for several years
FocusFreedom within limitsChild’s interests and curiositiesIntellectual, artistic, and practical skills


  • Developed by Dr. Maria Montessori in the early 1900s.
  • Focuses on individualized learning and self-directed activity.
  • Children are given freedom within limits and are encouraged to learn at their own pace.
  • Curriculum includes practical life skills, sensorial exploration, language, mathematics, and cultural studies.
  • Teachers act as guides and facilitators, rather than lecturers.


  • Developed in the town of Reggio Emilia, Italy, after World War II.
  • Focuses on child-centered and collaborative learning.
  • Children are viewed as capable and competent, with their interests and curiosities driving the curriculum.
  • Curriculum is often project-based and emergent, with teachers documenting the children’s learning process.
  • Teachers act as co-learners and collaborators with the children.


  • Developed by Rudolf Steiner in the early 1900s.
  • Focuses on a holistic approach to education that addresses the intellectual, artistic, and practical skills of the child.
  • Curriculum includes academic subjects, as well as activities such as music, art, and movement.
  • Teachers stay with the same class for several years in order to build strong relationships with the students and create a stable learning environment.
  • Emphasizes the importance of play and imagination in learning.

Each of these philosophies has unique characteristics and approaches to early childhood education. However, they all emphasize child-centered learning and encourage children to learn at their own pace. Choosing the right one for your child is a personal decision that should be based on your family’s values and goals.