Pikler & RIE
In the pedagogues of Infant development, two renowned approaches are always referenced. They are the Pikler approach by Dr Emmi Pikler, and the Resources for Infant Educarers (RIE) approach founded by Magda Gerber.
These two remarkable educators were instrumental and prevalent in the development of official mainstream infant-toddler curricula, operational policies, and course books used commonly today.
Who is Emmi Pikler?
Dr. Emmi Pikler
Dr. Emmi Pikler was a Hungarian paediatrician, author and teacher known for her revolutionary approach to early childhood care and education. As a practicing doctor, she worked closely with parents of babies and young children and through her weekly visits, observation and research, developed a perspective on infant and toddler education.
At the birth of her daughter Anna, Dr Pikler and her husband decided to give their daughter the freedom to develop at her own pace. She also applied principles of giving careful consideration to all aspects in the care of children and to build respectful and authentic relationships on her daughter and her paediatric practice. In the 1930’s, she became well-known in Budapest as an excellent paediatrician caring for over 100 families. The children she cared for were less ill and had hardly a major disease. Dr Pikler thus became more interested in promoting healthy physiological and psychological development to prevent illnesses.
After the Second World War in 1946, Dr Pikler set up a residential home with the support of local authorities to provide care for the many children abandoned and orphaned in Budapest as a result of the war. The orphanage became known as the “Lóczy Institute” (now known as the Emmi Pikler Institute), after the name of the street it was located and took in children from birth to 7 years old.
At the orphanage, Dr Pikler was able to implement her approach to early childhood care on a large scale. Her goal was to create an institution where the occupants would not become “institutionalised”. Her approach introduced manners of which adults and care-givers can support the initiative of children via non-stimulation or non-forceful intervention practices in order for children to unfold naturally through freedom of movement, independent play, grounded in a safe and respectful relationship. Her approach emphasized the importance for an adult to understand the natural path of child development in order to allow for a child’s instinctive skills to develop.
Over the decades, the orphanage’s reputation grew internationally and the “Pikler approach” was proven to be very successful. Children in its care developed well above standards both physically and psychologically. Across national standards for orphanages, graduates from the Pikler Institute assimilated well back into society and did not display the “typical conspicuous signs generally considered characteristic of the subsequent development of children reared institutionally in their first years of life.” (J. Falk and E. Pikler, ‘Data on the Social Adjustment of Children Reared at Our Institute.’ Published in: Magyar Pszichológiai Szemle 29. 488-500.pp.1972.) In 2011, the institute no longer operated as an orphanage and was converted to a day-care centre.
Through the large amount of data collected from working with children at the orphanage, Dr Pikler started to publish her research in books, scientific papers and videos in the 1960s. Her work attracted the attention of many professionals whom would travel to train with her. She continued her work until her death in 1984.
Today, the Emmi Pikler Institute is headed by Dr Pikler’s daughter and child psychologist Anna Tardos. The Pikler Institute continues to inspire people and bring the core of Dr Pikler’s approach across the world through their research, day-care centre, adult training school and parent-child classes.
Who is Magda Gerber?
(not known - 2007)
Magda Gerber met Dr Emmi Pikler in her role as a paediatrician for local families in Budapest when Magda’s daughter was sick. Shortly after, Magda’s family came to be in Pikler’s regular paediatric care after Pikler’s work left such a great impression on Magda.
"Historically, I was the same bewildered mother as many of you, although at a different time (decades ago), and at a different place (Hungary). When I met Dr Emmi Pikler, her ideas seemed so natural, sensible and simple that I tried to learn more about them. Dr Pikler developed her unusual approach to caring for infants during the ten years she functioned as a private pediatrician to a few selected families in Budapest, Hungary. In 1946, she applied the same philosophy to infants without families raised at the National Methodological Institute for Residential Nurseries (Lóczy) in Budapest. Her talents as a scientific investigator and a practitioner involved in the most minute details of the everyday care of infants make her sound approach both practical and believable. Since my days with Dr Pikler in Hungary, I have applied her philosophy to my work with infants in California.” (Magda Gerber, 'Welcome to Educaring' - Vol I No 1 Winter 1979)
Incorporating many of Pikler’s theories into her own philosophy, Magda Gerber, together with Tom Forrest, M.D. established a non-profit organization named Resources for Infant Educarers (RIE) in 1978. Magda Gerber was also the individual who coined the terms “educaring” and “educarer” in order to emphasize on the bi-directional relationship and influence of caring and educating.
At RIE, Madga Gerber gave adults and parents the skills to wait, watch and observe their babies without preconception. She taught adults to recognize the needs of infants and toddlers and to know when and how to intervene, if ever needed, in a calm and non-judgemental way. Magda often gave her learners “new eyes” in their perspective of infants and their initiations and competencies. She has allowed generations of professionals and parents alike to see how infants are active participants in their own development from the very first moment of life.
Today, RIE continues to offer classes and certificate programs for parents and professionals and is recognized around the world across various cultures. Madga Gerber’s work has also been included in countless professional journals and videos with her approach forming the core foundation of infant teachers in the United States.
Why does Greentree Montessori adopt the approaches of Pikler and RIE?
Ms Charmaine Soh, founder of Greentree Montessori has had the privilege to be under the direct tutelage of Magda Gerber back in the year 1993.
Ms Soh always attributes Madga as one of her greatest inspiration behind her pursuit for perfecting early childhood education for children from birth to 3. It was through Magda that Ms Soh was introduced to RIE and was responsible for bringing the theories and approaches of RIE to the masses in Singapore.
When learning with Magda, Magda would frequently mention her teacher Dr Emmi Pikler. It was only in the year 2018 when Ms Soh brought teachers of Greentree Montessori to the Pikler Institute, Budapest, to learn from the Pikler team and Anna Tardos, the daughter of Dr Emmi Pikler.
Today, Greentree Montessori enjoys great friendship with educators and practitioners in the Pikler and RIE community.
Click HERE to read Ms Charmaine Soh's reflection on meeting Magda Gerber.