Posted by: Roseann Murphy | March 3, 2011

Educarer, Magda Gerber Her Babies Teach Parents and Teachers

This beautiful article further explaining the Magda Gerber RIE philosophy was written in 1982 and published in The New Age Source.  The flattering title reads:

Educarer, Magda Gerber Her Babies Teach Parents and Teachers

Until recently the care of infants in this country has largely been the concern of the family and family physician.  Only in the last two decades has the need for alternative care become increasingly apparent.  Magda Gerber has been a pioneer in this field and through the years of study and work with young children she has developed a program entitled RESOURCES FOR INFANT EDUCARERS.  Much of her philosophy was nurtured along by the eminent Hungarian Pediatrician, Dr. Emmi Pikler.   Dr. Pikler was her family pediatrician.  So profound was Dr. Pikler’s influence that Magda decided to study and specialize in the care of young children as her own life’s work.

At the National Methodological Institute for Infant Care and Education there were guidelines Magda absorbed and have guided her work throughout the years.
One is that children are not artificially stimulated.  That is “the infant is never put in more advanced position, in order to promote gross motor development, than he is able to attain by himself from a supine position (Pikler).”  He is never put in a bouncer, or his attention drawn to a toy by placing it in his hand or dangling it over his head.
Magda: “This new scientific knowledge that infants are more competent than we thought they were created a evolution…which has meant, let’s make them more competent, they are capable of perceiving-let’s teach them.
We follow this thinking and what parents end up doing is programming their children.  But the programs are not appropriate; they don’t make sense with the child.  Learning is taking in and organizing.  Today the child is being programmed with unrelated tidbits, fragmented knowledge, which is crazy in our time because when we have computers we should free our heads of these bits of knowledge because we can ask the computer.”
It is a matter of principles in the R.I.E. model that educators and parents refrain from teaching skills and activities which under suitable conditions will evolve through the child’s own initiative and independent activity.
This leads us to wonder what sort of environment is suitable for growth and the acquisition of knowledge.
MAGDA:  “We should learn from what is.  If we could accept that our path is to provide safe and large enough environment and put in a few simple objects; the child will learn the basics; what is hard , what is big, what is heavy, all these things.
A child raised in this manner is always an initiator, always finds from the available things what they are.  This child will allow himself/herself to be sleep, to be alert, to pay attention or not pay attention. These are all the ways we learn to be authentic, how to listen to our inner needs and how to respond to outside stimulation.
There is one thing, I believe, that all of us want, no matter whatever differences are between us, the one thing we cherish from another human being is attention.

I am very much for creating one place, one room (and yes everyone will be horrified), and put a gate in front of that room because the whole place cannot be safe.  Allow the child to freely move around without restricting, without teaching, without stimulating, within one room.

It has been hypothesized in child development theories – that infants do not readily distinguish themselves from their surrounding, including the people within their environment.  If this is true, it may explain the importance placed upon maintaining a familiar and predictable environment.  We tend to take for granted that children need a relationship with their parents, but in this day of divorce and parents without custodial care the nature of the parent/child relationship can become foggy.  What is helpful to the child?  What is it that enhances a child’s positive sense of themselves?  Pikler found that it was important for young children to interact consistently with one or two stable adults regardless of whether or not they were the parent.  Bathing, dressing, and being attentive for at least some period of time each day was found significant.

MAGDA:  “There is one thing, I believe, that all of us want, no matter how old we are, no matter whatever differences are between us, the one thing we cherish from another human being is attention. Love…is not certain.  Some people will love us, and some people will not.  But the one thing that anyone can give to any other person is simple attention.  It is not as involved as in love.  This attention may last 20 minutes or many hours.  If you live with somebody it is repeated.   ‘You are worthy of my attention that, I think, is the greatest gift we can give each other”
For the working parent it may seem overwhelming to juggle the home hours and tasks and to make room for quality time.
MAGDA:  “If the parents have to work and the child is still very important, then they must find time for that special quality time—to be attentive.  They must ask themselves what sort of solution to their life style would be satisfying to both them and to the child.  I believe that if you want something strongly enough you will find it.  I would like to see those parents who can’t be with their children find one adult, who they feel confident, feel warmly towards and pay them to take care of the child.  This person would feel they are a professional, and would take great interest in the job since it would be doing the most important profession that exists.”
“The R.I.E. program is geared primarily toward the education and nurturing of the infant, and yet there is within each of us an infant, one that has been vulnerable and so to understand the infant is potential to understand an aspect of the adult.
MAGDA:  “I teach at many different places and lecture at others; and I had one wonderful student, a psychologist, who had pre-teen children.  I asked him why he was taking a class on infancy.  He said, “I believe that if I take the class, I will understand myself better.”  It is very difficult for many adults to be around infants.  Infantile amnesia made us want to forge that time.  Often I have seen it bring up emotions you would never think, when you start watching the infants, that that could be the reason some don’t like to be around them, they would rather get busy with them.
Teen-agers go through a rep-birthing of the infant, but in big bodies.  It is easier for infants because they can be picked up.
Abraham Maslow wrote about it so beautifully, about the security vs. adventure.  Adventure is going out, leaving the secure base, leaving the parent.  Then the world is tough and you go back to the parent. It is a lifetime process begun in infancy.
The key word in Magda Gerber’s philosophy is respect…respect for the child as a unique personality and respect for each adult as a provider, an “educarer.”  The approach involves constant attention to the subtleties of inter-personal contacts and attention to the opportunities inherent within the environment.
End of actual interview with Magda…
But the journalist went on to say what Magda was doing at the time of the interview so I added the past tense:
“While Magda was alive she shared her insight and time with professional care providers, with expectant parents and parents of young children.  She taught at Pacific Oaks College, through the R.I.E. program; sponsors film series at Children’s Hospital and a program to educate and certify professionals. She has published a resource book using the same name as the program, Resources for Infant Educarers which may be obtained by writing R.I.E., 1550 Murray Circle, Los Angeles, CA 90026.

Post by: Roseann Murphy


  1. Thank you so much for reading Magda’s Interview. I must have experienced a bit of nostalgia. Magda’s address was on Murray Circle for what seemed to be forever. Not only did she live there, but I feel certain all of us who knew her and all the parents and children who passed through the doors are forever blessed. Thank you for reading to the end of the article…and here is the new address for RIE
    Resources for Infant Educarers
    6720 Melrose Avenue, Suite 1,
    Los Angeles, CA 90038


  2. This is really a beautiful article, Magda seemed to have so much love and devotion to her work.


    • Dear Maria,

      Thank you so much for your comment. Magda Gerber was an extraordinary individual. Her research and insight into infant development is timeless. The articles written about her and her work could have taken place today. We continue to advocate for the rights of children, with the hope that parents and early childhood educators alike honor each child’s individual development. We are inundated with the “do everything quicker-sooner…push push push……We would love to keep in touch. Join us on Little River Facebook Page…and the Magdalena Palencia FB page and blog…


  3. Reblogged this on Essence of Child Caring.


  4. What great women, Magda and Emi before her.
    I am an educational couselor in daycare centers in Israel. I am passing on to parents and childcarers their words of wisdom.
    I translated Janet Lansbury’s ideas from her books – with her permission- into Hebrew for the parents and childcarers.
    In fact we just started the new school year and I used some great ideas on transitions for the young children. How to help ourselves so that our children will transition easily.
    Miriam Blau


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