The Reggio Emilia approach to early education

Have you heard of the Reggio Emilia approach to education? No? I hadn’t either until I was introduced to it by Small World Playgroup founder and director, Lindi Bell. Both my children have been fortunate enough to attend her unique and wonderful playgroup and preschool. What started out as an intimate little playgroup for about four children (one of whom was her own son) on Lindi’s lounge floor has grown into a progressive, Reggio-inspired playschool, where the idea is to let children be children and just enjoy the magic of being a child. The school, Small World Playgroup takes children from 18 months to five years of age. Read more here:

The  Reggio Emilia approach originated in Northern Italy right after World War II. It was created by Lorris Malaguzzi – a teacher – together with parents who lived in the area around the town of Reggio Emilia. The number of Reggio settings grew rapidly and the reputation of the alternative approach grew stronger over the years.

During the last few years, this approach has grown in popularity all over the globe because it is particularly beneficial during the early years of a child’s education.

According to an article on the Spielgaben website, one of the key principles that you will find at any Reggio Emilia school is the fact that children have rights when it comes to their learning. Children are put at the centre of the practice by being treated as a knowledge bearer.


  1. Expressive arts

The Reggio approach starts from the idea that children use many different ways – one hundred languages – to express their understanding, thoughts and creativity. These different ways of thinking, exploring and learning are expressed through drawing, sculpting, music, dance and movement, painting, drama and pretend-play.

  1. Long-term projects

Reggio Emilia is very focused on long-term learning projects, which mean that children benefit from extensive research. These projects include real-life problem-solving techniques amongst peers, as well as opportunities for creative thinking and exploration.

  1. Tracking kids journeys

A massive part of the Reggio Emilia approach is documentation. It is multi-faceted, but is mainly used as a way to study children’s learning focusing on the experiences that children are involved in and the skills they are acquiring. This helps teachers assess the children’s learning and develop the curriculum from term to term.

  1. Relationship education

A strong network of relationships is established between the children, parents and teachers of Reggio settings to promote continuous communication between them. These key stakeholders work together to create a spirit of cooperation of knowledge. There is a strong focus on social collaboration and working in groups, where each child is an equal party. Parents may participate actively in the learning development of their children.

  1. The environment is the third teacher

Good planning of the environment involves the creation of new learning spaces. In the traditional Reggio approach, the classroom is generally filled with indoor plants and natural light; it opens up to a central space (the piazza), kitchens are open to view and access to the surrounding community is assured through wall-size windows and courtyards. Photographs of children’s activities and sample displays of their work are carefully positioned inside the classroom. However, these are just guiding principles, and every Reggio school is unique.

Why not give your small child time to wonder, theorise, discover and re-develop their understanding of the world, while they still can?

Click here to find a list of  Reggio inspired preschools on Jozikids


Claire Rencken

Claire Rencken

Claire Rencken is a working mom of two. A writer by trade, Claire is navigating her way through motherhood, one day at a time, and enjoys writing about the trials and joys of the experience.

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5 Responses

  1. Such an amazing start for your little one. Small Worlds’ approach is gentle, inclusive and unlike any I have ever experienced.
    (for both parent and child) They really see your child and their own special individual voice is heard. Your child is part of their learning process and they will surprise you when their knowledge is allowed to flow.

  2. Our son has grown so much since starting in Jan. He loves his class and all of the teachers.
    The Small World staff compliment is definitely the foundation for the play school, and everyone is always willing to get involved and help out no matter how small/big the request.

  3. Whilst living in South Africa, my grandson benefitted from the amazing, nurturing environment of Small World and its Reggio Emilia approach. It was a great partnership between family and teachers and together they have given him a wonderful grounding for the future.

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