Montessori. Waldorf. Reggio. What is the difference?

People often ask about the differences between Montessori, Waldorf and Reggio. Although all 3 educational learning systems use beautiful handcrafted wooden toys along with natural materials, they are very different from each other. 





Gilr playing with MDH Toys Montessori Bead Stair Stacker

A very popular approach for teaching preschool and primary age children. It’s a child lead approach that believes play is a child’s work. The teacher serves as a guide and younger students learn from older students in their age range. While the main focus is on academics, the main idea is to let children learn at their own pace.

Classroom materials are prepared by the teacher. These materials are put into trays and activity centres so that children can help themselves to the trays and play with them as long as they want to. When they are done with the tray, they put it away and get out a different one or go to a different activity centre.

There are special Montessori toys that are a standard in each classroom as Montessori philosophy believes in developmental stages and proper materials for each stage and each subject. 




Boy playing with MDH Toys Wooden Rainbow. Photo by Lana Palmer Photography


Waldorf learning focuses on creative storytelling, reading, singing, arts and crafts. They are play based with a dependable routine of set activities like baking, gardening and drawing.

Waldorf does not involve academics. Instead, children work as a whole class on activities designed to develop imagination and creativity. 

Classroom materials are prepared by the students with no set or standard pieces. All toys are open ended with various uses and unlimited ways to play with them.




Boy Playing with MDH Toys Pots, balls and scoops. Photo by Lana Palmer Photography


The main focus on Reggio is for children to become better citizens that positively contribute to society. The curriculum is project based with lessons based on student interests. Teachers set up materials based on what projects the children want to do. 

Children work in small groups on activities that interest them. Most of the classroom materials are natural from their surrounding environments such as wood, stone, metal and clay. Teachers decide what items they want to bring in for the projects. Each school is different as there is no set standard for Reggio based learning.


To sum it up
Non-conventional schooling isn’t necessarily for everyone or for every age. And it doesn’t work for every family. But different philosophies of education allow children to grow and learn in other ways beyond mainstream public school teaching. A lot of times the success of non-conventional education depends on the personality of the child.

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