Reggio Emilia Preschools: All Your Questions, Answered

With so many early childhood education options available to toddlers and preschoolers today, making the right choice for your child can be an overwhelming endeavor. However, it’s easy to narrow school options down by at least 50 percent, according to Linda Whitehead, Vice President of Education and Development for Bright Horizons. As reported by, Whitehead explains that in the USA, the preschool program options can be divided into two distinct categories by basic core philosophy:

The first philosophy – the traditional approach to schooling – focuses on academics and trains children through drills and repetition. The second philosophy is alternative schooling, which encompasses a variety of learning-through-discovery methodologies such as Reggio Emilia. The major draw for many parents to Reggio Emilia, reports PBS, is that it stresses good citizenship in children, as well as cooperation and conflict resolution.

By carefully considering your child’s personality and learning style, and by learning more about each learning philosophy, you can make the most informed, personalized decision for your little one. If you are considering a Reggio Emilia preschool, your learning can start right here. As a leading Reggio magnet school in Connecticut, Riverside Magnet School has created this blog answer all of your questions about Reggio Emilia preschools.

Q: I like the sound of a “discovery-based education,” but what does that really mean?

A: “Discovery” indicates that children are allowed freedom for exploration and expression, two values that are upheld at Riverside Magnet School’s Reggio Emilia preschool. Through the Reggio Emilia approach, children are empowered with control over their learning decisions. They wield all of their senses: touching, moving, listening, seeing, and hearing throughout their day to day learning. At Riverside, children develop a relationship with their environment – called the “third teacher” in this methodology – and are offered a variety of different materials and opportunities to develop skills through their senses. For example, children explore an outdoor playground with natural materials, utilize supplies in the art studio, and experiment with instruments and noise making, all in a warm and encouraging environment.

Q: How are social and communication skills developed in a Reggio Emilia preschool?

A: In addition to their relationship with the environment, children also build strong relationships with other children and adults in a Reggio Emilia preschool. At Riverside for example, there are community areas where children and families can come together.

Additionally, the Reggio Emilia approach encourages teachers to see the full potential of children, subverting the traditional teacher/student hierarchy. Through Reggio Emilia, children experience ultimate respect, building their self-confidence and social presence.

Q: How will my family be included in the school community?

A: Fostering a diverse, equal community is an important facet of Reggio Emilia schools, and Riverside Magnet School encourages families to be involved as much as possible. The Family Community Council (FCC) is a great opportunity for parents to make a contribution. As part of an open group of families, teachers, staff and administrators, parents can lend their time and talents working towards school-wide community-building goals. Some of those goals include strengthening the home-to-school bridge for families, creating community collaborations and partnerships, and advocating for Riverside and the core values of Reggio Emilia. Riverside Magnet School also offers exciting adult learning workshops, including a Parent Book Club in which parents can meet one another, share, and learn more about early childhood topics through contemporary novels.

Q: How are age groups separated and student to teacher ratios met at Riverside Magnet School?

A: Riverside Magnet School groups three and four-year-olds together in preschool classrooms, as well as offers Kindergarten, First, Second, and Third grades. Within each classroom, there will be no more than 21 students, and no less than 16. Every classroom will have one state-certified teacher present, plus further instructors. Additionally, children benefit from Goodwin College staff and student aids in the classroom, enhancing their overall learning experience.

Q: How will my child’s school day be structured?

A: The school day at Riverside Magnet School runs from 7:45am to 3pm, Monday through Thursday.  On Friday, school is dismissed at noon. Throughout the day, children will participate in self-directed activities at the individual, group and full-classroom level. Suggestions by students in fact shape the classroom experience for all. For example, a child’s interest in trains may spark a full day of activities: conversations about different types of transportation, opportunities to play with model cars, trucks, bicycles and buses, the creation of child-sized vehicles from cardboard boxes, mimicking sounds from various vehicles, and more creative play and learning. Teachers in Reggio Emilia preschools like Riverside gently guide students through the topics that interest them, and allow children room to express their many languages.

Q: This sounds like a lot of excitement for my preschooler! Will there be any down-time?

A: Yes, of course – we agree! Rest time is built into every preschool day to help your little one recharge and absorb the fruits of their daily classroom exploration.

To learn more about the Reggio-inspired preschool curriculum at Riverside Magnet School, please schedule a parent information session here.