The Reggio Emilia Teaching Style: Nurturing Children’s Creativity and Curiosity

Posted in Development and Learning Early Childhood  |  Tagged ,

by Zoe Noor (GU ’25)

When it comes to early childhood education, different countries across the world have come up with many different approaches. In hopes of providing a holistic and fostering environment, early education is vital for the development of young children. The Reggio Emilia approach,  originating in Reggio Emilia, Italy, focuses on providing children with a creative, collaborative, and expressive education. The approach believes that all children have individual rights and potential, and the concept of “a hundred languages” encourages the child to use and learn with all the senses (What to expect in a Reggio inspired classroom, 2017). The Reggio Emilia teaching style has allowed children, with and without disabilities alike, to thrive in the classroom at an early age.

History of the approach:

Education, including some preschools,  in the Reggio Emilia region began towards the end of the nineteenth century. By the middle of the 20th century (1963), the first municipal preschool was founded in Reggio Emilia. Following World War II, the Italian Women’s Union opened 60 preschools throughout Reggio Emilia. Additionally, through the 1970s many more infant-toddler centers and preschools opened. Loris Malaguzzi was the pedagogical coordinator of Reggio Emilia’s new early childhood services during this period and in 1972 the city adopted his “rulebook” for a teaching-style in Reggio Emilia preschools, which would mark the beginning of the Reggio Emilia teaching style. This style of teaching grew in popularity through the late 20th century and gained international exposure. Today, the Reggio Emilia teaching style’s is committed to teaching children through the “hundred languages” and encouraging collaborative, creative growth (Reggio Children) is used internationally.

Major Characteristics:

The defining characteristics of the Reggio Emilia teaching style are a) encouraging collaborative relationships, b) constructing effective environments, c) developing project-based curriculums, and d) documenting learning in multiple ways (How Reggio Emilia Encourages Inclusion, 2000). Collaborative learning promotes children to negotiate and problem solve with each other to promote learning (Fernández and Feliu Torruella, 2017). An effective environment acts as a third teacher to the students. Creating a light-filled, open environment centered around natural materials and the garden encourages exploration, experimentation, and investigation (Heckman et al., 2018). Project-based curriculum allows students to delve into their passions and encourages their decision making (Fernández and Feliu Torruella, 2017). Finally, Reggio Emilia’s unique view of documentation promotes communication between the student, the teacher and the families, and provides a productive tool of sharing. Reggio-Emilia classrooms use photographs, films, sound and voice recordings, and notes as ways of documentation (Fernández and Feliu Torruella, 2017).

The arts are heavily emphasized in Reggio Emilia teaching to promote cognitive, linguistic and social development. Also, the arts acts as a way to support and understand the thinking process of students. This creates the idea of the “hundred languages” which extends language beyond a verbal tool (Fernández and Feliu Torruella, 2017). All of these aspects combine to create the unique and successful Reggio Emilia teaching style.

Research on Effectiveness:

The Reggio Emilia teaching style has found success internationally, providing young children with a holistic approach to education for nearly half a century. To examine its effectiveness (Hickman, et al., 2018) examined the use of Reggio-Emelia in several different preschools across  three different Italian cities. Non-experimental data from these schools indicates that the Reggio Emilia teaching style supports positively socio-emotional skills, high school graduation, election participation, employment, and obesity.

Applicability to Children with Disabilities:

A core component of the Reggio Emilia teaching style is its commitment to inclusion. This supports children with disabilities because inclusion of all children in the classroom has been found to be the most effective way of promoting a young child’s development. Furthermore, Reggio Emilia focuses on collaboration – between students, teachers, special educators, and parents. This fluid sense of communication in and out of the classroom allows children with disabilities to learn key skills like leadership, empathy, and responsibility. As a whole, the diversity and inclusion in Reggio Emilia classrooms promotes the learning and development of children with disabilities (How Reggio Emilia encourages inclusion, 2000).

In general, the Reggio Emilia teaching style is an effective and forward-thinking way of educating young children. Its emphasis on the arts with key concepts of inclusion, collaboration, and communication allow students to work with their peers and their teachers in order to obtain successful life skills. In turn, this allows students with disabilities to prosper in these environments. It is important to note, however, that not all students prosper in the same environments, and it is important to adapt and adjust where needed. I believe that this creative way of learning is crucial for young children to reach their full developmental potential. Especially in their young years, supporting their creativity and collaboration sets a foundation for them to create the best lives for themselves in the future. The skills learned in a Reggio Emilia curriculum extend beyond the classroom and are useful into adult life for all children – with or without disabilities.


Fernández, M. & Feliu Torruella, M. (2017). Reggio Emilia: An Essential Tool to Develop Critical Thinking in Early Childhood. Journal of New Approaches in Educational Research, 6(1), 50-56. doi: 10.7821/naer.2017.1.207

Heckman JJ, Biroli P, Boca DD, Heckman LP, Koh YK, Kuperman S, Moktan S, Pronzato CD, Ziff AL. (2018). Evaluation of the Reggio Approach to Early Education. Research in Economics, 72(1), 1-32. doi: 10.1016/j.rie.2017.05.006

Reggio Children. (n.d.). Reggio Emilia Approach.

How Reggio Emilia encourages inclusion. (2000) ASCD, 53(1).

What to expect in a Reggio inspired classroom: Goodwin College. Goodwin University. (2017, October 19).