Finding an early childhood philosophy that fits your values

Throughout time there has been a lot of different theorists have come up with their own Philosophy on Early Childhood Development. It is good to have a bit of an understand of what they all mean so that when they pop up in the documentation of your early learning centre you have some background knowledge. We have chosen four of the most widely used philosophies to explain here.

Play based learning

Play based learning is the big one that we are seeing at the moment. There has been a huge movement towards play based learning largely due to the new Early Years Learning Framework which is now being implemented throughout Australia.

Play based learning is pretty self explanatory – the children learn through play. They are given a lot of open ended resources and loose parts. This is to encourage creativity, problem solving and social/emotional development. A lot of centres are incorporating water play, mud pits and nature exploration, which you can imagine the children love!

Reggio Emilia

Reggio Emilia is actually a city which has one of the most world renowned early childhood education systems. Art is the main area of focus in this approach. It is all about using art as learning and using a collaborative approach to education. The children all take part in each others learning and learn through expression.

This is becoming quite a popular philosophy to adopt in our early learning centres in Australia. However it is important to look at who is actually implementing the core values of Reggio Emilia and who is just using it because it looks good on paper.


Montessori is another one gaining more and more popularity. The parents who take on a gentle parenting approach are more likely to use this approach in their own homes and look for a Montessori school for their children.

The Montessori philosophy is based on the idea that children have an innate desire to learn and will thrive in an environment with specifically designed resources. Children are encouraged to learn at their own pace and the classrooms have a three year age range to encourage peer learning. What makes Montessori different is that the role of the adult is to be a facilitator rather than a teacher in the traditional respect.

Cognitive based philosophy

This is what we typically used to see in early learning centres and still do to an extent. Most centres are now using a combination of this approach and the play based learning approach. The reason for this is that it is easy to lose focus on “the child” when using this philosophy.

The cognitive based philosophy is a program where the environment is setup with experiences, tools and resources based on cognitive development. The children are encouraged to explore as they wish and can move to each activity at their own pace.

A lot of Early Learning Centres will take a combination of each of these methods and make them their own. It is good to have a background knowledge on the philosophies the centre is using so that you can create the continuity of care in your child’s learning at home.

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