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:
- Dear Parent: Caring for Infants With Respect (2nd Edition) This is my favorite book of Gerber’s with simple ideas and suggestions on how to care for infants with complete respect.
- The RIE organization website http://www.rie.org/
- The Annual RIE conference happens to be this week! I’ve been to several and they are wonderful and informative. http://www.rie.org/conference
- For those of you living in Southern California - RIE classes http://www.authenticbabies.com/index.html
- The Nan Tolbert Nurturing Center (Ojai, Ca)- another RIE resource and some good links and info regarding the RIE philosophy http://www.birthresource.org/index.php