Why RIE?


What is RIE?

The approach is based a view of infants as unique individuals — whole people — and capable ones, too. We aim to treat infants with the same level of respect we would extend to an adult. We believe babies capable of participating actively in relationships with the adults who care for them, and help adults recognize a baby’s abilities…The main thing we teach is observation, which is the best way to understand babies. Observing our babies helps us see the difference between our adult perceptions and our baby’s reality. It’s illuminating and endlessly fascinating.” ~Janet Lansbury (in an Interview about RIE)

I first learned about the RIE (Resources for Infant Educators) philosophy in a very round-about way. When I was in Waldorf Teacher Training I wanted to learn how to work with newborns, infants and toddlers in a Waldorf manner but there are few lectures and curriculum ideas from Rudolf Steiner about this specific age range. In my investigations, I found out about Emmi Pikler, a Hungarian pediatrician and creator of the Budapest orphanage Loczy (which later became a day-care and training facility); of whom I followed to her to friend and Mentee Magda Gerber who founded the RIE organization. I then read her books Dear Parent: Caring for Infants with Respect and The Self-Confidant Baby which explained the RIE philosophy and Educaring! By this point I was in love with this philosophy and found WEALTH of books and blogs that are based on Magda and Emmi’s work; I felt that RIE was a perfect fit for my Waldorf work with children age birth to three. When my son was born I was finally able to completely follow the method and apply it as I saw fit and RIE became the center of our universe and the biggest help in my mothering!


So Why RIE?

According to the official RIE website, “Through the RIE approach which honors infants and young children as equal members in relationships, we are dedicated to creating a culture of people who are authentic, resourceful and respectful. The Educaring™ Approach fosters an authentic sense of self and lays a foundation for secure relationships, enduring curiosity, and lasting self-confidence. ”

  • Respect is the basis of the RIE philosophy. Respecting a child means treating even the youngest infant as a unique human being, not as an object.
  • Authenticity is the Goal. RIE fosters authenticity and an authentic child is one who feels secure, autonomous, and competent. When we help a child to feel secure, feel appreciated, feel that “somebody is deeply, truly interested in me,” by the way we just look, the way we just listen, we influence that child’s whole personality, the way that child sees life.

Why I choose to use the RIE approach has a great deal to do with how he will use these experiences as an adult. When I care for my son all day, it’s always in the back of my mind that he will one day be an adult and that I am laying the foundation for the rest of his ENTIRE life. From conception to age 3, they are in a crucial phase for brain development; when he learns or fails to learn a skill, such as problem solving, this will directly affect his success or failure to problem solve an adult. “Early brain development is the foundation of human adaptability and resilience, but these qualities come at a price. Because experiences have such a great potential to affect brain development, children are especially vulnerable to persistent negative influences during this period. On the other hand, these early years are a window of opportunity for parents, caregivers, and communities: positive early experiences have a huge effect on children’s chances for achievement, success, and happiness.” (from the Urban Child Institute) So when I ask permission to hold him, he learns that his body is his own; when I let him struggle through his frustration to build a tower, he learns critical thinking and problem solving; and when I am quietly watching him as he succeeds, he learns self-worth and confidence in his ability to achieve. All of these lessons will carry over into his adulthood.

Another great reason? YOU MATTER! This is a parenting style where you can take care of yourself and not feel guilty! You can go to the bathroom alone or ask your children not to use you as a jungle gym. You DO matter and you ARE an important person in this crazy mix. Magda even advises us to “go out on the town and just forget you have a baby.” Parenting is hard work and if we never take care of ourselves, not only will we suffer but so will our children. Sometimes, it is a selfless acts to send your kids out the door with a babysitter so you can take a nice hot bath and nap. If you are happy, your children will have better chance for happiness as well.


How does one apply RIE?

According to Rie.org, in order to foster quality care, RIE encourages:

  • Basic trust in the child to be an initiator, an explorer and a self-learner
  • An environment for the child that is physically safe, cognitively challenging and emotionally nurturing
  • Time for uninterrupted play
  • Freedom to explore and interact with other infants
  • Involvement of the child in all care activities to allow the child to become an active participant rather than a passive recipient
  • Sensitive observation of the child in order to understand his or her needs
  • Consistency, clearly defined limits and expectations to develop discipline

Here are Emmi Pikler’s Seven Guiding Principles or (Here for the RIE Principles, which are almost the same)

1. Pay Full Attention, especially when involved in Caring Activities.

2. Slow Down (both physically AND mentally).

3. Build Trust, and your Relationship, during the Caring Activity Times.

4. ‘With’ – and not ‘To.’ (work together on caring activities)

5. Babies are never put in a position that they cannot get into themselves.

6. Allow babies (and toddlers) uninterrupted time for play (they CAN entertain themselves, if you let them)

7. Babies send us cues all the time. Tune in respectfully.tumblr_mgu7q884uO1rqpmtro1_500

Emmi Pikler knew that in order for babies to develop perfectly in the way that nature had intended, certain things must be heeded:

  • The long term impact of free movement on a baby’s spirit, intelligence and physical being.
  • Respect being shown to babies at all times – and clarifying what that entailed.
  • The importance of a way a baby is touched and supported in the important birth to two years period.
  • That no babies needs ‘help’ to reach their milestones in life. We can however support them with patience. 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.”


Like every other parenting philosophy, there are some that don’t like the RIE philosophy. That does not mean that you can’t marry this philosophy with many others you like. :)

Setting your baby down flat on their back is not only OKAY, but recommended.

Setting limits honestly for you children rather than distracting them. (Limit THEN redirect.)

Less rocking, bouncing, shushing or swaddling.

Crying is not a ‘problem to be fixed;’ it’s communication. (more here, here and here.)

Where can you find our more about RIE?

Hilarious and slightly inaccurate article about RIE

Article about RIE: Raising a Confident Child

Mama Eve on RIE

Janet Lansbury on RIE and a GREAT article by Janet

Lisa Sunbury on RIE

Nicole Vigliotti on RIE

Anna and Nadine – Mama’s in the making on RIE

Ruth Anne Hammond

The Pikler Collection

Essential RIE book!

Hopefully this LONG post was informative. Please let me know I have forgotten anything or made any errors. I am not an expert on RIE, just an avid follower who hopes to be a RIE expert one day. :)


22 thoughts on “Why RIE?”

  1. This is such a great round-up Sydney! You do such a nice job of keeping information together. I read The Self-Confident Baby from the library recently (maybe from one of your other blog posts recommendation?) and I was a bit afraid it was going to be a “praise every moment” kind of thing based on the title – but I thought it was an eye-opening and very balanced look at how to let your child be without overly intervening. It’s so tough to know when to step in when your instinct is to want to protect their innocence!!

    1. Thank you for your comment. I’m glad that this gave you a better idea of RIE. I feel that RIE is all about encouraging independence; at least this is how I have interpreted it. She has another book that I almost like better. :)

      1. I am new the RIE philosophy and need clearer picture of following the child’s needs and cues. This infant is new to the program and has already communicated that he needs to be held. However the program practices the RIE philosophy and will not comfort or hold this baby and insist he must learn to be independent. Also what role does cultural practices play in this philosophy especially if families don’t follow the philosophy?

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