Tag Archives: Resources for Infant Educarers

How Little Learners Lodge Became a RIE Certified Center

By happenchance our paths crossed with Magda Gerber.  A spark was lit and, with a little help from our friends, the flame ignited.  Now every member of the center team is Resources for Infant Educarers (RIE) trained and the Infant Environment Certified by RIE.  When teachers from other centers visit, they often ask HOW?

How do you get your co-teacher to buy-in to trying the RIE principles of caring for babies and toddlers with respect?

How do you communicate with parents the benefits for using the RIE Approach at home?

How do you wean a program off the need for bouncy seats, high chairs, or pacifiers?

How do you do primary caregiving?  …keep the children together for two years?  …get the parents to respect your caregiving routines?

As the center continues to mature and develop on its journey to modeling best practice, we reflect back on the Five Year Strategic Planning that initiated Little Learners Lodge becoming a RIE Certified Program.  This is how we did it-

Starting with one.

(click on the photo to view Strategic Plan)

Image

 

And ending with a team of 15 RIE Trained Early Childhood Professionals committed to demonstrating that we need not compromise quality or best practices in center base care.  In fact, we can not.

Sharing- the RIE way

Knowing if, when and how to intercede is the dance of the Educarer. Here, two Early Toddlers demonstrate that when it comes to conflict, an adult isn’t always needed for resolution.

“When we make a child share, it is not sharing. This is a difficult concept for most of us, and yet I have found that when I have given the children a choice to share or not to share , with no repercussions, their inner-directed responses tend to be far more generous and giving.”

-Magda Gerber, DEAR PARENT: Caring for Infants with Respect, p.131

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.

Alysse

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
  • OBSERVING!

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

Simple Infant Toys Make Things Happen

While our play objects for infants at first glance, seem quite simple- an astute observer soon discovers the magic and discovery passive toys make for active babies.

“Aren’t the babies bored?” one prospective parent innocently asked during an Open House.  Glancing at the Infant Solarium, I could see how RIE play objects might look inanimate when not in a child’s hands.  I assured him that when adults trust a child to be an initiator, explorer and constructor of her own knowledge- the baby is not bored.  A bored child, rather, has inadvertently become dependent on toys designed to entertain  or on adults to shake, rattle and roll for her.  Both can rob a child of her own discovery.

An active baby engaged in simple infant toys makes things happen.  The link below affords a few minute observation of a not yet mobile child at play with simple objects.

Non-Mobile Infant Simple Toys from MMP School on Vimeo.

How important is a child’s experimentation on these open-ended play objects?

A baby’s intimate understanding of simple toys and his continually developing ability to manipulate these objects in increasingly complex ways means, “…his actions look much less magical and are much more effective.  This allows (the child) to really plan and scheme and use physical objects as tools.  By the time babies are eighteen months old, they understand quite complicated things about how objects affect each other.”  (Gopnik, Meltzoff, Kuly; The Scientist in the Crib, p77).

School founder and author of Being with Babies, Beverly Kovach, concurs, “You may be wooed by marketing strategies to buy too many complex playthings for babies.  However, babies’ brains develop by relating to objects in ways that develop their interest, curiosity, problem-solving skills, and sensory experiences.” (p 31)

It appears that when it comes to infant toys and infant learning, the experts agree- Less is More.

Here are some ideas for simple, open-ended play objects which are also highly affordable yet rich in opportunities for infants to explore, experiment and discover their unique characteristics:

Beginning objects

An increase in quantity keeps things interesting

“The toy in the child’s hand is alive.” -Magda Gerber