Reggio Emilia

The Reggio Emilia approach is an educational philosophy and pedagogical approach that originated in the town of Reggio Emilia, Italy, after World War II. This innovative approach to early childhood education places the child at the center of the learning process and emphasizes the importance of collaboration, creativity, and the active construction of knowledge. The Reggio Emilia approach has gained international recognition for its focus on the holistic development of children and its commitment to fostering a sense of community, inquiry, and self-expression.

Key Principles of Reggio Emilia Approach

1. Image of the Child

The approach views children as competent, curious, and capable learners who actively construct knowledge through interactions with their environment and peers. Children are seen as active contributors to their learning process rather than passive recipients of information.

2. Emergent Curriculum

The curriculum in the Reggio Emilia approach emerges from the interests, ideas, and questions of the children. Teachers facilitate learning experiences that build upon children’s curiosity and provide opportunities for exploration and discovery.

3. Project-Based Learning

Learning in the Reggio Emilia approach is often organized around long-term, in-depth projects that arise from children’s interests. Projects are collaborative and involve hands-on experiences, research, and documentation of children’s learning.

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Reportage in Les Helices Vertes primary school in Cerny, France. Year 2 and year 3 pupils. (Photo by: BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
4. The Role of the Environment

The physical environment plays a crucial role in the Reggio Emilia approach. Classrooms are designed as inviting and flexible spaces that encourage exploration, creativity, and collaboration. Natural materials, open-ended resources, and displays of children’s work are incorporated to stimulate curiosity and provide opportunities for self-expression.

5. Documentation

Documentation is a fundamental aspect of the Reggio Emilia approach. Teachers document children’s learning processes through photographs, videos, samples of work, and written observations. Documentation serves multiple purposes, including making learning visible, reflecting on children’s progress, and involving parents in their child’s educational journey.

6. Teacher as Co-Learner and Facilitator
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Jessica McQuillen, an art teacher at the Thompson Center for Child Development, sings a song with Vivian Graham nestled in her lap on June 4, 2014. McQuillen is one of a handful of teachers in Charlotte, N.C., who teaches using the Reggio Emilia Approach, which empasizes free expression and creativity. (John D. Simmons/Charlotte Observer/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

Teachers in the Reggio Emilia approach are seen as partners and co-learners with the children. They observe, listen, and engage in meaningful interactions with children to understand their interests, scaffold their learning, and provoke deeper thinking. Teachers play a role in creating a supportive and responsive learning environment.

7. Collaboration and Community

The Reggio Emilia approach emphasizes the importance of collaboration among children, teachers, parents, and the wider community. Parents are regarded as active participants in their child’s education, and their involvement is encouraged through regular communication, meetings, and shared decision-making.

Benefits of Reggio Emilia Approach

  • Promotes active engagement and ownership of learning by children.
  • Fosters creativity, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills.
  • Supports the development of social-emotional skills and positive relationships.
  • Values diversity and promotes respect for different perspectives and cultures.
  • Encourages the development of strong communication and collaboration skills.
  • Emphasizes the importance of self-expression and individuality.

Challenges and Considerations

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Staff Photo by Gordon Chibroski, Friday, August 20, 2004: Bradley James Sperl, 4, of Minott, tests the mouse on the mousepad on a computer he constructed at the FiddleStarts program at the Fiddlehead Center for the Arts in New Gloucester. The program employs the Reggio Emilia educational approach that give much of the decision making to the students in a healthy unstressed learning environment. (Photo by Gordon Chibroski/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)
  • The Reggio Emilia approach may require additional resources and support to implement fully.
  • Educators need ongoing professional development to understand and apply the principles effectively.
  • The approach may not align with standardized testing or traditional academic benchmarks.
  • Collaboration and documentation can be time-consuming for teachers.


This approach offers a child-centered and inquiry-based educational philosophy that respects children as active participants in their learning journey. By emphasizing collaboration, creativity, and the construction of knowledge, this approach promotes holistic development and a deep sense of engagement.

Reggio Emilia: NO SMALL MATTER (Video)