Reggio Emilia Philosophy


The Reggio Emilia Approach to preschool education was started by the schools of the city of Reggio Emilia in post-World War II Italy. It is named after the town of Reggio Emilia in the Emilia Romagna province of northern Italy. In Reggio Emilia, 54 publicly funded schools provide education for children from birth to six years. These schools have been described as among the best in the world.

The schools of Reggio Emilia began as a parent initiative.  With the end of World War II, parents in Italy banded together and, with the proceeds from the sale of surplus war materials, founded the town’s first pre-schools.  They envisioned a new kind of school where children would be treated with respect and parents actively participate in their children’s education.

The parents sought the help of educator Loris Malaguzzi to set up schools that reflected their vision. From those early schools grew the framework for a new education model for young children.


The Reggio Emilia approach offers a way for teachers to harness their young charges’ natural curiosity and creativity by encouraging them to work on projects that interest them. The approach also encourages children to communicate their newfound knowledge and understanding in various media, often with creative results.

Parents are also encouraged to actively participate in all aspects of the school and their child’s learning.

At the heart of this system is the powerful image of the child. Rather than seeing children as empty vessels that require filling with facts, Reggio educators see children as full of potential, competent, and capable of building their own theories.


  • Children are strong, interested, capable, and curious.
  • Children learn best when working with others: with other children, family, teachers, and the community.
  • Children have “the hundred languages” through which show us what they know in many ways – they move, draw, paint, build, sculpt, do collages, act, sing, play music, and more
  • Children learn from the spaces they are in – they need a beautiful, orderly space where everything has a purpose and can help children learn.
  • Children are capable of long-term, sustained learning when the topic is of interest to them.
  • Teachers listen to and observe the children closely, ask questions, and explore the children’s ideas.
  • Teachers provide experiences that “provoke” children’s thinking and learning.
  • Teachers document the children’s work so that they can talk to each other and the children and better understand the children’s thinking and education in general.
  • Parents provide ideas and skills which make them active partners in the children’s learning.



  • Child-centered learning
  • Creativity and aesthetics
  • Collaboration
  • Environments
  • Documentation
  • Working in partnership with parents



  • Build on the strengths, competencies, and curiosities of the children (the “image of the child”)
  • Encourage, support, and develop collaborative learning
  • Have less structured rooms, but carefully planned spaces and well-organized materials, so that children are free to spend more time on projects that interest them and are often able to move between activities at their own pace (“the environment as the third teacher”)
  • Offer a wide variety of basic art media, including paints, clay construction, drawing, and collage (“the hundred languages”)
  • Listen to and implement children’s ideas for projects on which to work (“negotiated curriculum”)
  • Display the children’s creations and photographs, showing the children at work in the classroom (“documentation”)
  • Build a portfolio of children’s work at school (“documentation”)
  • Make a great effort to communicate with parents and to help parents feel involved in their child’s project work (“parents as partners”)

Reggio Emilia’s approach to child care and education is distinguished from other efforts inside and outside Italy and attracts worldwide attention.  Its emphasis on children’s symbolic languages in the context of a project-oriented curriculum are just one of many features that separate it from other philosophies.  This element has been well-documented in two traveling exhibitions, including one that the Boulder Journey School created.  The Reggio Emilia approach is executed with a carefully articulated and collaborative approach to the care and education of young children.

Teachers constantly listen to and observe children in the classroom to discover their interests. They use this knowledge to plan the curriculum and prepare the teaching tools and environment while at the same time pursuing developmental improvement. That said, while children influence their day, teachers consistently follow an age-appropriate daily schedule that ensures the structure from which preschoolers benefit.