How To Unlock The Benefits Of Early Childhood Education

This blog post is a sequel of a similar one on a similar topic. In this one we’ll be deep diving into the philosophies of Early Childhood Education and see how different philosophies offer unique approaches to support children’s growth and development. Each philosophy is based on distinct principles and practices, and the choice of philosophy often depends on individual preferences, cultural factors, and the specific needs of the child. Click here to read the first part Why Unlock The Benefits of Early Childhood Education?

Here’s how different ECE philosophies work and contribute to children’s growth;


Background Of Montessori – Early Childhood Education

Montessori, a renowned educational philosophy, was developed by Dr. Maria Montessori, an Italian physician and educator. The philosophy originated in the early 20th century, marking a significant shift in early childhood education.

Montessori’s journey began in Rome, Italy, in the year 1907. As one of the first female physicians in Italy, she was assigned to work with children with disabilities. Her observations of these children led her to develop novel educational methods that focused on individualized instruction and self-directed learning.

Maria Montessori’s educational philosophy was born out of a desire to create a more effective and compassionate learning environment for children with special needs. She believed that traditional educational methods at the time were failing these children, and she sought to develop a more inclusive and effective approach.

Early Childhood Education

Montessori’s Approach

Montessori’s approach was also heavily influenced by her background in medicine and her scientific observations. She believed that children, like adults, should be respected as individuals with unique needs and capabilities. Her pedagogical methods emphasized hands-on learning and the importance of children actively engaging with their environment to foster cognitive and physical development.

Montessori’s work gained recognition and acclaim, leading to the establishment of the first Montessori school, Casa dei Bambini (Children’s House), in Rome in 1907. The success of this school and Montessori’s publications, including “The Montessori Method,” contributed to the rapid spread of the Montessori philosophy worldwide.

Montessori – How It Works

Montessori classrooms are characterized by specially designed materials and a child-centered environment that promotes exploration and independence. These materials are carefully crafted to encourage hands-on learning, self-discovery, and problem-solving. The Montessori philosophy recognizes the importance of nurturing a child’s natural curiosity and desire to learn, creating a legacy that continues to influence early childhood education globally.

Today, Montessori education is practiced in diverse settings and is renowned for its emphasis on individualized instruction, respect for children’s autonomy, and fostering a love for learning that lasts a lifetime. It has had a profound and lasting impact on early childhood education and remains a popular choice for parents seeking a unique and holistic educational experience for their children.

Reggio Emilia – Early Childhood Education

Background – Reggio Emilia

Reggio Emilia, an influential approach to early childhood education, originated in the town of Reggio Emilia, in the northern region of Emilia-Romagna, Italy, shortly after World War II. It was developed in response to a desire for a progressive, child-centered approach to education and a vision of rebuilding society through the education of its youngest citizens.

The Reggio Emilia approach emerged in the aftermath of World War II, in the small Italian town of Reggio Emilia, during the late 1940s. A group of parents, educators, and community members, inspired by their experiences during the war and a shared commitment to social change, envisioned a new approach to early childhood education. They believed that a child’s education should be based on principles of democracy, social justice, and collaboration.

Several factors contributed to the development of the Reggio Emilia approach:

Rebuilding Society: The devastation of World War II left a profound impact on the community of Reggio Emilia. Parents and educators saw education as a means to rebuild and heal their society, emphasizing the importance of early childhood education in shaping future citizens.

Early Childhood Education

Progressive Philosophy: The founders of the Reggio Emilia approach were influenced by progressive educational philosophies, including those of John Dewey and Jean Piaget. They believed in the value of child-led, experiential learning and saw the potential for young children to be active participants in their own education.

How It Works – Reggio Emilia

Emphasis on the Environment: The approach places great importance on the physical environment of the classroom, viewing it as a “third teacher.” Beautifully designed, open, and inviting spaces are created to inspire children’s exploration and creativity.

Teacher as Facilitator: Reggio Emilia educators are often referred to as “pedagogistas” or “atelieristas.” They see themselves as facilitators of learning, guiding children in their investigations and projects rather than as traditional instructors.

Project-Based Learning: A hallmark of the Reggio Emilia approach is project-based learning, where children explore topics of interest in-depth, ask questions, conduct research, and collaborate with peers to create meaningful projects.

The Role of Expressive Arts: The use of expressive arts, such as visual arts, music, and drama, is central to the approach. These mediums are seen as powerful tools for fostering creativity and communication.

Today, the Reggio Emilia approach has gained recognition and influence worldwide, with educators and schools in many countries adopting its principles. It reflects a profound belief in the competence and potential of children, emphasizing their rights as active participants in their educational journey.

Waldorf (Steiner)

Background – Waldorf (Steiner)

The Waldorf education philosophy, founded by Austrian philosopher and educator Rudolf Steiner, is a holistic approach to education that encompasses various facets of a child’s development. It originated in Stuttgart, Germany, in 1919, making it one of the earliest alternative educational movements of the 20th century.

Early Childhood Education

The origins of the Waldorf education philosophy can be traced back to the aftermath of World War I when Rudolf Steiner was invited by Emil Molt, the owner of the Waldorf-Astoria cigarette factory in Stuttgart, to create a school for the factory workers’ children. Steiner’s vision was to provide an education that nurtured not only intellectual development but also the physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of the child.

How It Works – Waldorf (Steiner)

Several factors contributed to the development of the Waldorf approach:

Holistic Philosophy: Rudolf Steiner’s anthroposophical philosophy underpinned the Waldorf approach. He believed that education should honor the unique spirit of each child and address their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.

Imaginative Play: The Waldorf approach recognizes the importance of imaginative play in early childhood. Play is considered a child’s work and a means through which they explore and make sense of the world.

Storytelling and Arts: Storytelling, art, and creative activities are central to the curriculum. These activities are seen as ways to stimulate children’s imaginations and foster self-expression.

Structured Daily Routine: A structured daily routine provides a sense of security and predictability for children. This routine often includes activities like circle time, free play, artistic work, and outdoor time.

Delaying Formal Academics: The Waldorf approach postpones the introduction of formal academics until later in a child’s development, typically around the age of seven. Prior to that, the emphasis is on experiential learning, artistic activities, and cultivating a love for learning.

Spiritual Growth: While not tied to any specific religious belief, the Waldorf philosophy recognizes the spiritual dimension of human development. It encourages children to explore questions related to their own existence and purpose.

Today, Waldorf schools and kindergartens can be found worldwide, adhering to the principles of holistic education and nurturing children’s physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual well-being. The Waldorf approach has continued to evolve and adapt to meet the changing needs of contemporary education while maintaining its core commitment to holistic child development.

Play-Based Early Childhood Education

Background – Play-Based Learning

Play-Based learning is a fundamental philosophy in early childhood education that champions the idea that children learn most effectively through play. It encourages children to explore, experiment, and make choices in their learning experiences, fostering creativity, problem-solving, and social skills. This approach to education has its roots in progressive educational theories and has been recognized worldwide as a powerful method for young learners.

The Play-Based philosophy has its roots in the progressive education movements of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, notably influenced by educators such as Friedrich Froebel and John Dewey. These pioneers believed in the value of hands-on, experiential learning and the importance of the child’s active participation in their own education.

How Play-Based Philosophy Works

Respect for Child Development: Play-Based learning respects and aligns with the natural developmental stages of childhood. It acknowledges that play is the primary mode through which young children explore and make sense of their world.

Experiential Learning: Play allows children to engage with their environment, manipulate objects, and interact with peers in a way that is both enjoyable and educational. Through play, they gain practical knowledge and develop essential skills.

Creativity and Imagination: Play-Based learning places a premium on creativity and imagination. Children are encouraged to invent their own games, stories, and scenarios, fostering a rich inner world of creativity and self-expression.

Problem-Solving: Play often presents children with challenges and problems to solve, whether it’s constructing a tower of blocks or resolving conflicts during a game. These experiences promote critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

Social Skills: Play-Based learning offers opportunities for children to interact with their peers, sharing, taking turns, and negotiating rules. These social interactions contribute to the development of communication, empathy, and conflict resolution skills.

Play-Based learning environments typically offer a wide range of open-ended materials and activities that allow children to follow their interests and curiosity. Teachers serve as facilitators, guiding and supporting children as they explore and discover. This approach acknowledges that the most meaningful learning often occurs when children are actively engaged and enjoying the process, making it a cornerstone of early childhood education worldwide.

Bank Street – Early Childhood Education

Background – Bank Street

The Bank Street approach to education, deeply rooted in progressive education principles, is renowned for its emphasis on child-centered learning, experiential learning, project work, and the integration of social and emotional development into the curriculum. This approach has its origins in the United States, particularly in New York City, and has had a significant impact on early childhood education and teacher training.

The Bank Street approach emerged in the early 20th century and was closely associated with the Bank Street College of Education, founded by Lucy Sprague Mitchell in 1916. Mitchell was inspired by the work of John Dewey and his progressive education philosophy, which emphasized learning through active engagement and meaningful experiences.

How It Works – Bank Street

Progressive Education: The Bank Street approach was deeply influenced by the progressive education movement, which challenged traditional teaching methods and emphasized experiential learning, critical thinking, and active engagement. Educators believed in creating a more child-centered and democratic learning environment.

Child-Centered Learning: Central to the Bank Street approach is the belief that children are active learners who construct their knowledge through hands-on experiences. Teachers serve as facilitators who support and guide children’s exploration and discovery.

Experiential Learning: Experiential learning is a core component of the Bank Street approach. Children learn by doing, whether through play, exploration, or hands-on projects. This approach allows for a deeper understanding of concepts and principles.

Project Work: Project-based learning is a hallmark of the Bank Street approach. Children engage in long-term projects that are driven by their interests and questions. These projects encourage research, problem-solving, and collaboration.

Social and Emotional Development: The Bank Street approach recognizes the importance of social and emotional development alongside academic learning. It emphasizes creating a supportive and inclusive classroom environment where children develop empathy, self-awareness, and effective communication skills.

Today, the Bank Street approach continues to influence early childhood education, teacher training, and curriculum development. Its commitment to child-centered learning, experiential education, and the integration of social and emotional development remains a guiding principle for educators seeking to create engaging and meaningful learning experiences for young children.

HighScope – Early Childhood Education

Background – HighScope

The HighScope approach to early childhood education is an influential educational philosophy that places a strong emphasis on active participatory learning, children’s autonomy, and the “plan-do-review” process. This approach originated in the United States and has been widely adopted in early childhood programs worldwide.

The HighScope approach was developed in Ypsilanti, Michigan, in the 1960s. It was a collaborative effort among educators, researchers, and psychologists, including David Weikart and Perry Preschool, who aimed to create an innovative approach to early childhood education. The HighScope Educational Research Foundation was established to further research and promote this approach.

How It Works -HighScope

Child-Centered Learning: HighScope was influenced by the progressive education movement and the belief in child-centered learning. The approach recognizes that children are active learners who learn best when they are actively engaged in making choices about their learning experiences.

Active Participatory Learning: HighScope places a strong emphasis on hands-on, experiential learning. Children are encouraged to explore, manipulate materials, and interact with their environment, fostering cognitive, physical, and social development.

Plan-Do-Review Process: The cornerstone of the HighScope approach is the “plan-do-review” process. Children actively plan what they want to do, carry out their plans, and then reflect on their experiences. This process encourages goal-setting, decision-making, problem-solving, and critical thinking.

Conflict Resolution: HighScope values the development of conflict resolution skills. Children are taught how to negotiate and resolve conflicts with their peers, promoting social and emotional development.

Longitudinal Research: HighScope’s origins are closely tied to longitudinal research studies, including the Perry Preschool Project, which demonstrated the long-term benefits of high-quality early childhood education in improving academic and life outcomes for disadvantaged children.

Today, the HighScope approach continues to be a respected framework for early childhood education. Its focus on active participatory learning, child autonomy, and reflective processes aligns with contemporary understandings of effective early childhood pedagogy. HighScope programs are implemented in various settings, including preschools, Head Start programs, and childcare centers, to provide young children with engaging and developmentally appropriate learning experiences.

Cooperative- Early Childhood Education

Background – Cooperative

Cooperative preschools represent a unique and collaborative approach to early childhood education. These schools involve parents in their child’s education, fostering a strong sense of community and shared responsibility for the educational experience. Cooperative preschools originated in the United States during the mid-20th century and have since gained popularity in various regions around the world.

Cooperative preschools emerged in the United States during the post-World War II era, particularly in the 1940s and 1950s. This period saw a growing interest in early childhood education and the importance of involving parents in their children’s learning experiences. Cooperative preschools became a response to the desire of parents to actively participate in their child’s education and development.

How It Works – Cooperative

Parental Involvement: Cooperative preschools recognized the value of parents’ active involvement in their child’s education. Parents were seen as essential partners in the learning process, bringing their unique perspectives and expertise to the classroom.

Community Building: Cooperative preschools aimed to create a strong sense of community among parents and families. These schools often host events, meetings, and workshops that facilitate parent-to-parent connections and a shared commitment to the education of their children.

Shared Responsibility: Cooperative preschools distribute responsibilities among parents, including classroom assistance, planning and organizing activities, and decision-making. This shared responsibility extends beyond the classroom to include the overall governance and administration of the preschool.

Hands-On Learning: Children benefit from the increased adult-to-child ratios in cooperative preschools, allowing for more personalized attention and support. Parents assist teachers in facilitating activities, which can be tailored to meet the specific needs and interests of each child.

Financial Accessibility: Cooperative preschools often provide a more affordable alternative to private or traditional preschool programs. By sharing responsibilities and labor, parents can help reduce the overall cost of tuition.

Cooperative preschools continue to thrive as a model that fosters a sense of community, shared responsibility, and active parental involvement in early childhood education. They provide a supportive environment where children can learn and grow, while parents play an integral role in their child’s educational journey. This collaborative approach remains an attractive choice for families seeking a strong sense of connection and engagement in their child’s preschool experience.

Eclectic – Early Childhood Education

Background – Eclectic

The eclectic approach to early childhood education is characterized by its flexibility and adaptability. It involves combining elements from various educational philosophies, methods, and approaches to create a customized curriculum that meets the specific needs and interests of the children in a particular program. Eclecticism is not tied to a specific region or era but is a reflection of the diverse and evolving nature of early childhood education.

The eclectic approach to early childhood education doesn’t have a single region or year of origin because it is not rooted in a specific educational philosophy or movement. Instead, it has evolved organically over time in response to changing educational trends and the recognition that no single approach fits all children or settings.

How It Works – Eclectic

Diverse Needs of Children: Children in early childhood education settings have diverse needs, learning styles, and interests. An eclectic approach allows educators to tailor their curriculum to meet these varied requirements.

Flexibility: The eclectic approach is adaptable, allowing educators to draw on a wide range of methods and materials. This flexibility is particularly useful in accommodating different learning environments and age groups.

Incorporating Best Practices: Educators can select elements from various educational philosophies and methods that are considered best practices. For example, they might use play-based learning techniques from one philosophy while incorporating elements of Montessori or Reggio Emilia.

Response to Research: As educational research continues to evolve, new insights into effective teaching and learning methods emerge. The eclectic approach enables educators to integrate the latest research findings into their curriculum.

Customization: The eclectic approach empowers educators to create a curriculum that aligns with the unique culture, goals, and values of their specific early childhood program or community.

Meeting Legal and Regulatory Requirements: In some regions, early childhood education programs are required to adhere to specific educational standards and guidelines. The eclectic approach allows educators to meet these requirements while still tailoring their curriculum to children’s individual needs.

The eclectic approach underscores the importance of being responsive and adaptive in early childhood education. It reflects an understanding that what works best for one child or group of children may not be suitable for another. By drawing on a variety of educational philosophies and practices, the eclectic approach seeks to provide a well-rounded, individualized, and effective educational experience for young learners.


It’s important to note that while these are some of the main ECE philosophies, there are many other approaches and variations in practice. Educators often choose or adapt philosophies based on the specific needs and values of their students and communities.

Click here to read part-I of ECE blog Why Unlock The Benefits of Early Childhood Education?

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