Using The RIE Philosophy in a Child Care Setting

I was educated and trained in the RIE philosophy during my years working with infants in a child care setting. It took some getting used to this way of caring for infants. Part of the philosophy felt a bit forced as I was used to more mainstream strategies for dealing with children but most of the time it felt instinctual and good. Now that I have my own infant, the RIE philosophy and its principals have been a wonderful tool in this parenting journey. And I can recognize the benefits that come along with following it’s principals in a group care setting.

A little bit of background on the RIE philosophy:

RIE or Resources for Infant Educarers is a philosophy and organization founded by infant specialist Magda Gerber after studying under Dr. Emmi Pikler, a pediatrician in Budapest and Dr. Tom Forrest, a pediatric neurologist. The organization focuses on respectful care for infants and improving care for infants around the world. The RIE approach is simply allowing infants to “unfold in their own way and in their own time.” The organization has classes for parents and teachers, workshops, conferences and mentoring programs. NAEYC and Zero to Three have recently incorporated some of the RIE philosophies into their recommendations for infant care.

Practicing RIE in your program:

RIE is all about quality, respectful care for infants. They follow and support these practices;

  • The child is a self-learner

  • The child as an explorer

  • The child as an initiator of learning and play

  • The environment is safe

  • The environment is emotionally nurturing

  • The environment is cognitively challenging

  • The child has freedom to interact with other children

  • The child is sensitively observed to meet his/her needs

  • The child is involved in all care activities to allow the child to be an active participant

  • There are clearly defined limits and care is consistent

The child as a self-learner: This refers to a child’s motor development. Gerber discusses how babies should not be placed into any position he/she can not get into or out of themselves. You would not see any exersaucers or baby swings in a program practicing RIE. If babies are not being held, they are on the floor exploring their environment. 

The child as an explorer: Allowing the child to explore materials and the natural world with the caregiver nearby.

The child as an initiator of learning and play: Not forcing a child to paint or play in the sand. Allowing the child to play where and when he/she wants to play or explore. Not forcing anything on to a child.

The environment should be a safe: child-friendly space. Usually RIE environments have soft areas for babies to crawl, often there is a ramp for babies to crawl from inside to outside and materials babies are exploring are safe. 

The caregivers are responsive to the babies needs: When a baby cries they are picked up, talked to, held, and cuddled. When a baby is having his/her diaper changed they are being talked through the process so they are aware of their bodies and what is happening to them (for example, “I’m going to wipe your bottom now and then I’ll put a new, dry diaper on you.”)  When a baby is being fed, they are held until they can sit up on their own and talked to thoughtfully while being fed (for example, “I’m going to give you a little bit of pear now. It looks like you like it!”).

The RIE philosophy is about the partnership of the infant and the caregiver. The caregiver needs to learn and understand the baby’s cues and respond accordingly. The caregiver needs to slow down and allow the infant to explore and learn from doing. The environment should not be over stimulating, In fact, it should be relaxing and simple. Toys should be minimal and they should allow for manipulation and/or simple play. For example, a simple silk scarf can be used to play peekaboo or placed out in front of an infant so that they have to move their bodies to reach it themselves. RIE is about respecting the infant as an individual and as a person.

Want to learn more about the RIE philosophy? Here are some resources and links:



Summer Langille, M.A, Early Childhood Education Specializing 0-8 Years

Summer has been working with children for almost 15 years. The oldest of four she’s always seen herself as a caregiver. She started off caring for children as a nanny for many years. She received her undergraduate degree in Liberal Studies from San Francisco State University and has a Masters Degree in Early Childhood Education specializing in birth to age eight from Long Beach State. She’s worked with infants all the way up to elementary aged children in center-based care, private school care, home-based care, back-up care and afterschool care. She was a lead teacher for an infant program and more recently a two year old/preschool program. She even had a brief stint as a brownie girl scout troop leader. She’s passionate about quality care for children and thinks the environment plays a large role in how a child learns effectively. She loves art, blocks, music, fairy gardens and picture books and wants all caregivers of children to know how important their job is to the children they care for. Summer is currently home with her baby, navigating this new role as Mama. She blogs about her family at