Tag Archives: free movement

Infant Play the RIE way

At the 24th Annual RIE Infant/Toddler Conference entitled PROTECTING FREE PLAY IN THE EARLIEST YEARS:  WHAT WE CAN DO, I was asked to present on the Role of the Adult at Little Learners Lodge during infant play.

The RIE philosophy of play can look very different from other approaches where the adult role is centered on the teacher as the educator with a planned agenda for the day’s learning.  Or where babies are viewed as needing adult initiated stimulation or entertainment.  Or, perhaps, where crying or frustration are things to avoid or solve for the child.


Adults facilitating PLAY using the RIE Approach take on the role as Play Facilitator rather than that of orchestrator.  When adults attempt to teach play, with the best of intentions we interfere with the infant’s natural and intrinsic play process.

While not centered physically, the adult’s role during play is central- focused first on cultivating a rich and securely attached relationship between baby and her preferred adult.  The adult’s play role further includes:

  • preparing the environment
  • understanding child development
  • maintaining play objects
  • handling disputes as needed
  • being a frame of reference
  • being emotionally present in the moment, and

Sometimes you don’t even need to see the adult to observe the Educarer’s (Magda Gerber’s term for the infant educator) presence in the child’s play.  Take a few moments to observe Baby G at play.  What do you see happening?  Why is this possible?

When infants move freely during what Magda Gerber referred to as “Want’s Nothing” time, they do what they know best.  They play.  This baby is intentional and persevering.

Although not visible in the video, the adult (Alysse) plays a central role in the quality of this baby’s play.  Baby G is in a state of well-being having been re-fueled under Alysse’s sensitive and respectful care.  G’s play objects have been carefully chosen by her Educarer, simple but increasingly complicated cognitively based on her individual development.  Baby G’s parents have been included in the discussion of free play and she is clothed in a way that allows for unrestricted and comfortable exploration.

Observing Baby G at play under the facilitation of her primary caregiver Alysse, we can see she is secure, comfortable, and balanced physically and emotionally.  She is able to develop meaningful connections with her play objects as she explores her environment which has been thoughtfully prepared with her individual interests and developmental readiness in mind.  Through her self-initiated action, Baby G connects physically and cognitively seemingly teaching herself as she constructs her world.

“A child needs to be in a state of well-being in order to play.”  -Beverly Kovach, Author of BEING WITH BABIES

Our Top 5 Baby Registry Items- and some items you won’t need

When first learning the value of free movement and simple play objects, parents attending the monthly New & Expectant Parent Class often remark, “I wish we had known this before registering for our baby shower.”

It’s true- much of what you’ll find on a traditional BABY REGISTRY is absent from parents following the Magda Gerber’s RIE Approach.  Savy parents know that in many regards, less is more, especially when it comes to healthy attachment and the early learning experiences of an infant’s developing mind.

Our favorite “must haves” for the RIE baby include:



Allow parents to safely transport their infant by vehicle without the worry of discomfort traditional upright infant seats pose when the baby lacks the maturity to hold her head upright on her own.  Extended stays in traditional upright car seats can pose physical discomfort for your infant’s developing body.



Assists in transitioning and transporting your young infant securely by helping keep the head and spine connected- critical as your baby is building trust and security.  When the head and spine are not connected during movement, it can cause your baby to startle- described by Anna Tardos of the Pikler Institute as a feeling of literally losing your head and coming apart.  Topponcinos should allow for free movement of your baby’s limbs (there’s no need to swaddle) and will provide the infant with additional warmth to boot.


ImageHelps parent enjoy a more worry-free baby rest time when your infant is at sleep.  Often during rest a blanket becomes bunched or is pulled over your baby’s face.  Crochet blankets allow for more air flow and invite your child to grasp with fingers and toes.



Offers  flexibility for parents with a lifestyle on the move- one that typically comes with multiple children.  The very young infant sleeps quite a bit and derives security from being able to have contact with his perimeter.  Car seats prompt a baby placing pressure on her lower extremities, while a Moses Basket lies flat and allows for more freedom of movement during rest.  It’s consistent and predictable when your schedule isn’t always, allowing your child to feel comfortable resting away from his crib and even outdoors.  As an added bonus, Moses Baskets make great doll carriers when your children have outgrown them.



Soothes both child and parent when things seem to be getting hectic.  Some research suggests that when played periodically throughout the day (not constantly), classical music is beneficial to your infant’s developing brain.  Adults should be sensitive that an infant works hard trying to make sense of the new environment around him- sounds play an integral part in his decoding.  Plan for lots of quite time, access to nature sounds (open window our outdoors), and keep her room media-free.  If you do choose to play music, playing classical has proven to be the most beneficial.

You’ll notice an absence of toys and play objects.  Your baby’s first play object should by his hand and it’s not until “hand regard” that we might introduce simple everyday household play objects such as a scarf, ring, ball or lid.

We’ve also left out high chairs, swings, bouncy seats, carriers, pacifiers and the like.  These items not only inhibit free movement and self-regulation critical to your child’s developing brain, but also foster a dependency for them.

These are our favorites- what would you add to the list?

 * For more information on RIE (Resources for Infant Educarers) contact http://www.rie.org

The Best Moments Caught Off Tape

The best moments in your baby’s life are often not caught on camera.

They unfold.

When you recognize it,  you know – leaving to get the camera will miss the event.  Or disrupt it from happening at all.

The frustration of not being able to get to your camera quickly evaporates and after a deep breath, you are free to be the sole witness, etching the moment in your long-term memory bank.  As a bonus, that fully aware sensitive observation also effortlessly provides you with the necessary information to meet your child’s needs.

Trapped as an observer without a camera, the adult notices even at play, a baby will need a preferred adult’s guidance to check in with to see that where they are is a good place to be;  to share in an accomplishment;  to hold onto an assortment of gathered objects;  to know when they have reached their physical limits cognitively, emotionally, socially, and physically.

And to provide the necessary support -not to rescue her- but to build the confidence in her own capabilities to keep moving forward.

While the best moments in your baby’s life are often caught off tape- sometimes you do get lucky.

Here during a demonstration of what might be a five minute sensitive observation by a caregiver, we almost overlook the baby in the back at play with his bowls as little girl in the foreground connects with her primary teacher.  But then, as she moves off screen, something special happens-  a child’s new discovery of the properties of nature.

<iframe src=”http://player.vimeo.com/video/45944630&#8243; width=”500″ height=”281″ frameborder=”0″ webkitAllowFullScreen mozallowfullscreen allowFullScreen>The Scientist at Play from MMP School on Vimeo.