Montessori, Reggio, Waldorf Steiner and RIE in Singapore: choosing a parenting and education style

what is montessori HoneyKids Asia

Here at HoneyKids we’re wrapped with the idea of Mindful and Respectful Teaching and Parenting. It’s simply a holistic approach to care and education (known in the circle as ‘educare’) focusing strongly on a collaboration with children. Knowing more about it helps us choose the education and care we want for our children (we know finding the perfect preschool in Singapore is a huge step!). Montessori is probably the most recognised mindful and respectful educare philosophy, followed by Reggio Emilia and the lesser known RIE and Waldorf. By practising mindful and parenting at home, you’ll find yourself being kinder and gentler to everyone around you – what’s not to love about that? Here I’ve outlined four different mindful styles with little examples you can try out at home and decide which way you want to go.

RIE (Resources for Infant Educarers)
RIE (pronounced ‘rye’) is a philosophy coined by Magda Gerber and paediatrician Emmi Pikler and now most famously adopted by Janet Lansbury (the guru!). It focuses mainly on children from birth to three years old. RIE parenting could be summed up as an acute awareness of our babies. Carers enhance their awareness by observing babies, understanding and attending to their needs, allowing them play on their own (play is a child’s ‘work’), without interruption and take age-appropriate risks. RIE dismisses the notion of babies as “cute blobs” and understands them as whole people deserving of our respect.
RIE prepares a child to be: self-confident, brave, sensitive and independent.

Try it at home
Ask your child, even from birth, to collaborate with you on all care-giving activities such as bathing, diaper change and feeding. Ask “which diaper would you like? Which top would you like? Can you wipe your mouth, or would you like me to do it for you?” Don’t rush through anything. Have a predictable routine and trust that children know their own bodies and will do things in their own time as well as evaluate and navigate risks (within reason). No tummy-time, no propped into seating position and no ‘walkers’. RIE is not for anybody in a hurry.

Keen to explore this approach further?
Visit the Janet Lansbury website and read her book, Elevating Child Care, or for a more in depth understanding, read Magda Gerber’s Your Self-Confident Baby.

Montessori focuses on nurturing the child’s in-built desire to learn and therefore does not involve any punishments or rewards, trusting instead in the child’s ability to learn from the natural consequences of their actions. Montessori classrooms are multi-age.
Montessori prepares a child to be: a valuable, capable and useful member of society.

Try it at home
Montessori keeps it real. Using primary colours and staying neat and orderly, a Montessori environment often contains a collection of miniatures from the domestic adult world. Think a miniature IKEA kitchen, and an open bookshelf with a selection of open-ended, self-corrective ‘manipulatives’ (in Montessori speak, toys). Each shelf should ideally house one item or one group of items. Keep a separate basket for all balls, or blocks, or paints as an example. A child’s play often involves a hands-on approach to helping in the home and the consequences of all play is cleaning up after ourselves.

Keen to explore this approach further?
Greentree Montessori is proud to develop, along side the children in their care, a positive attitude toward learning and working – drawing on the teachings of Maria Montessori.

Reggio Emilia
Reggio Emilia educare is known for its project-based approach (which many preschool programs have borrowed). In a project-based curriculum, lessons are based on the interest of the students. The environment (home or classroom) is considered an integral part of Reggio learning. The focus is on natural fibres, objects and materials.

Reggio prepares a child to be: capable of thoroughly and methodically following through with their interests.

Try it at home
If a child shows an interest in plants, you may follow the life cycle of a carrot from an off-cut growing in some soggy cotton wool, to chopping it up for dinner and then making a cookbook complete with carrot drawings and even starting a pretend restaurant!

Keen to explore this approach further?
Visit these schools (and care facilities) inspired by Reggio Emilia 

EtonHouse International School and Preschool uses a curriculum framework known as ‘Inquire-Think-Learn’ inspired by Reggio.
Blue House Nursery and International Preschool are inspired by the principles of the Reggio Emilia approach and this certainly shows in their beautiful environment and trained facilitators.
Odyssey, the Global Preschool, advocates the acclaimed Reggio Emilia approach and employs highly qualified educators.

Waldorf Steiner
Waldorf provides a predictable structure and a dependable routine. Certain days of the week have set activities like baking or gardening, as well as mixed-age classrooms with the same teacher for multiple years. The emphasis is on creative learning, reading, singing, acting and sculpture in a setting that appears like a home with wooden toys and natural materials.

Waldorf takes a notable stance against traditional grading systems and frowns upon the use of media in the curriculum (no computers, videos or electronics of any kind). It also does not involve academics, which means no homework, tests, handouts or even desks.

Waldorf prepares a child to be: intimately aware of who they are, and able to apply their strengths (and weaknesses) to succeed in life

Try it at home
Have a schedule of free-play activities for every day of the week. Allow children to explore their creativity and resist telling them how to do things. For example, if they’re trying to sculpt a cat (bees wax being he preferred Waldorf sculpting medium), don’t show them how to do it. If it looks nothing like a cat, that’s okay, praise them for the effort. End the day with some dancing.

Keen to explore this approach further?
The Waldorf Steiner Education Association Singapore runs playgroups and pre-school programs in Siglap. Visit for more details.

Like this story? Here’s more we think you’ll enjoy!
How to encourage your child’s creativity
How to raise creative kids
Child-directed play
How to bring some mindfulness into your parenting