How to Improve Your Practice with the Reggio Emilia Approach to Early Years Education?

the reggio emilia approach to early years education

This blog will look at the Reggio Emilia approach to early years education in relation to Development Matters 2021 first looking at the new framework and then comparing this to the Reggio Emilia approach and how we can use this to inform our own practice. After each key value in the Reggio Emilia approach to education there are a number of considerations to think about in terms of your own practice.

Development Matters 2021

Development Matters outlines the following seven key features of effective practice:

The Best for Every Child

High quality, inclusive, early education.

High Quality Care

High quality, consistent, responsive care.

The Curriculum: what we want children to learn

An ambitious, flexible curriculum that builds on progress over time. A curriculum that digs deep rather than covering lots of things in a superficial manner.

Pedagogy: helping children to learn

Using a mix of different approaches in an enabling and well planned learning environment both indoors and outdoors. Adults need to know when to model, observe, support, extend, guide and directly teach.

Assessment: checking what children have learnt

Noticing what children know and can do.

Self-regulation and Executive Function

The ability for children to hold information, focus attention, regulate behaviour and plan what to do next. This in turn supports children’s ability to think carefully, adapt, be patient and resilient.

Partnership with Parents

Working together to make sure that all children make the most progress possible.

The Reggio Emilia Approach to Early Years Education

The Reggio Emilia Approach to Early Years Education is also built on a set of key values:

  • a powerful image of the child – viewing children as strong, confident and competent.
  • equally important relationships between children, teachers and parents.
  • children’s creativity – this places emphasis on the environment in a child’s learning, play and development.
  • understanding how children learn -here, there is a focus on reflective practice.


This powerful image of the child is at the heart of the Reggio Emilia approach to Early Years Education. Teachers value what the children say and do and are willing to learn alongside them. There is a feeling of mutual respect coming from the relationships the children have with each other and with their teachers. This is also true of parents and in more recent years, the wider community – each relationship is equally valued.

The same types of relationships are valued in the new Development Matters document and it is worth thinking about:

  • How you view the children in your setting to ensure that everyone is in agreement.
  • How you work collaboratively and really value those important relationships.
  • How you actively listen to children.
  • How you consult children in their learning.
  • How you involve parents.
  • How you build relationships in the community.


Creativity plays a big role in the Reggio Emilia approach to Early Years Education as they believe that all children are naturally creative and they should be given lots of opportunity to express this is a range of ways. Children are given access to a variety of open-ended resources and many natural materials.

There are again key messages about creativity in Development Matters 2021 and we need to consider:

  • How creativity permeates through all educational programmes both indoors and out in the way that children are encouraged to have their own ideas, solve problems and use their imagination.
  • How we cater for different experiences in order to ensure that all children’s interests are provided for.
  • How we give opportunities for children to display and return to a creative piece of work and build over time.
  • How we store and display open ended resources for children to use.
  • How we allow children to take measured risks.

The Environment

The environment is often referred to as the ‘third teacher’ in the Reggio Emilia approach to early years education. The environment represents all of the things that are valued. The entrance areas are welcoming to families, the layout is tidy and practical while the atmosphere is calm and joyful. Open-ended resource are stored and displayed effectively to encourage curiosity, creativity and communication. Photographs and descriptions on the walls tell the story of children’s learning.

When considering our own environment we need to think about:

  • Whether every space has a purpose.
  • Whether the way in which a space is organised makes it clear as to how it should be used.
  • Whether spaces are liked by the children and parents.
  • Whether we make use of light, shadow and reflection.
  • Whether we provide opportunities to explore texture, smells and sounds.
  • How we make use of the outdoor area.
  • How we bring ‘the outside in’ and ‘the indoors’ out.


Time is valued in the Reggio settings, the stage from birth to 6 years, uninterrupted time on activities that interest children and long term projects.

In order to bring this element of the Reggio Emilia approach to Early Years education we need to look at:

  • How we give children periods of uninterrupted time to explore their interests.
  • How children can return to unfinished work.
  • How do we offer time for children to reflect, remember, refine ideas and consolidate learning.
  • How we offer opportunities to be involved in long term projects.
  • How we support children in managing their own time.

Learning and Teaching

Research is at the heart of the Reggio Emilia approach to Early Years education. As a result, it is continually developing and changing over time. There is no set, formal curriculum, instead, children’s questions and ideas are used as starting points. From this, projects are developed. Group learning is valued as children are encouraged to learn from each other while learning experiences are documented to allow children to see the process for themselves.

Different types of learning and teaching is encouraged in Development Matters 2021. We need to think about:

  • How we encourage group learning.
  • How we focus on the process of learning.
  • How we use documentation to revisit ideas and develop understanding, connect with parents and celebrate learning.

Reflective Practice

Teachers meet weekly to reflect on the weeks activities, children’s progress and to consider where to go next. Over time, they may observe particular aspects of their practice more closely to look at what is working well and to consider how things could be improved.

When thinking about this particular element in relation to our own practice we need to consider:

  • How we work as part of a team.
  • How we continue to learn through training and professional development and share this with the rest of our team.
  • How we network and carry out action research.

There are clear differences between the two approaches to early years education due to the different contexts from which they have been developed. However, it is clear that we hold the same principles in relation to quality and can take inspiration in a considered and reflective manner.

If you would like to read more about other approaches to Early Years education head over to my Highscope blog.