I recently had the pleasure of attending the Introduction to Pikler® Pedagogy Engaging with Infants and Toddlers through Respectful and Peaceful Care. It was interesting to learn that much of the work started by Dr. Emmi Pikler was introduced to the United States by way of Magda Gerber. This was my first training opportunity to receive information through the lenses of both a mother and caregiver.
One of the many informative topics discussed were the components that make up the infant and toddler curriculum. When teaching through peaceful and respectful care this curriculum is composed of the relationship between the environment, the caregiver, and the child. It was not until my time in a child centered environment that I realized just how beneficial to the development of the whole child a relationship based curriculum can be.
A relationship based approach for infants and toddlers focuses on developmentally appropriate concepts such as building trust, care for self, and positive social interactions. Skills which have a positive overall effect on all learning moving forward. A properly prepared environment leads to opportunities for developmentally appropriate discovery and learning to occur according to the child’s interests and readiness. The curriculum based on the synergy between a prepared environment, the caregiver, and child allows for care that is respectful, responsive, and reciprocal. This approach can be equally beneficial in the home environment.
During my time spent in more traditional early childhood environments, it was all too common to see early toddler curriculums centered on things such as handwriting, student assessments, lesson plans for math concepts, and crafts that had been chosen for the children weeks in advance. There was a lot of time and focus spent on simply walking in a straight line.
In the words of Magda Gerber, “Why do we expect what the child cannot do, and not appreciate what the child can do?”
As parents and caregivers if we are able to take time and be in the moment, we are better able to respond according to the situation at hand. When caring for children it can become easy to get in the habit of simply “going through the motions”. Being responsive and reciprocal may mean having to take an extra three minutes to help the baby calm down before starting a diaper change. Or for me, waking up ten minutes earlier for a smoother morning transition from home to school.
The ability to be fully present leads to providing care that is more accurately responsive and reciprocal to what our children are trying to tell us. Positive relationships built on trust with our children and students provide them with a secure foundation from which they can begin to learn from their environment and trust people within it.
Pikler said “As a matter of principle, we refrain from teaching skills and activities which, under suitable conditions, will evolve through the child’s own initiative and independent activity.”
(Post by Ms. Summer former Little Learners Lodge teacher and new mom)