Posted by: Roseann Murphy | April 27, 2012

Magda Gerber’s RIE: Very First Conference

The first Resources for Infant Educarers conference, held in June 1979, presented a unique opportunity, for those 500 participants, who attended to hear Dr. Emmi Pikler.  The conference, which was held in both Los Angeles and Belmont, California on back-to-back weekends, served to introduce infant educarers to the R.I.E. philosophy of infant growth and development.
The International Infant Conference was the (as yet) largest undertaking by R.I.E. and it seemed appropriate that Dr.Pikler should be the featured speaker.  The philosophical roots of R.I.E. extend from the founder and director, Magda Gerber to the National Institute for Residential Nurseries (Loczy) in Budapest, Hungary and Loczy’s Founder, Dr. Pikler.  In a collaboration which extends beyond the Institute’s founding in 1946, Magda Gerber and Emmi Pikler have consistently worked to improve infant caregiving practices.  Dr. Pikler has been nominated to the Hungarian National Academy of Sciences for her pioneering work on the learning of motor skills on the basis of self-induced movements.
Dr. Pikler’s lecture on the “Competent Infant” seemed to spark within us a renewed sense of respect and appreciation for the young children in our care.  She reminded us that the need for competency is basic to human development and one which effects later personality development.  It is exactly the day to day experiences which most influence the child’s feeling of self-esteem and autonomy.  Dr. Pikler presented competence as a result of an infant who is allowed to interact and adapt effectively within an environment.  The infant needs to be able to (1) select from the environment and form a schema and plan, then (2) be allowed to initiate a sequence to achieve objectives, and (3) be able to learn from the experience and formulate new behaviors.  Thus, on a practical level, as we re-asses our own infant environments, we need to examine whether our worlds are safe enough to foster and encourage competence.
Magda Gerber’s charismatic presentation of the applicability of the R.I.E. philosophy was welcome reassurance that through respect as a basic guideline, it is possible to watch the competent infant unfold into an authentic adult.  She defined the role of the educarer as one who “facilitates the development of an active child who is challenged by problems, enjoys his autonomy, and trusts adults.”  Magda left us with the feeling that she understood our dilemmas,”  ….breast-feed, bottle-feed; wean abruptly, wean gradually; start solids at birth, breast feed for years; feed according to the clock, feed according to demand; give the pacifier, pull out the thumb; don’t give the pacifier, allow the thumb; both…neither…..” As a way of understanding these contradictions, she encouraged us to critically examine current child-rearing practices in light of those which encourage our own goals and ideals for children.
As the conference came to an end, many of us were left with unanswered questions, and the feeling that we wanted still more information.  The conference served to provoke challenging and thoughtful discussion among us, and many will return to their work with new insight to their day to day problems.  Yet for some participants, the weekend was only the beginning.  The conference proved to be a valued introduction to the R.I.E philosophy to the infant carers who attended.  It was only an introduction; we hope to share much more in the months and years ahead.”  (Article taken from Educaring Resources for Infant Educarers.   Volume I Number I Winter 1979   by Rhonda Garcia
After thirty three years RIE continues to share the teachings of Magda Gerber and Emmi Pikler.  For those of us who participated and attended this marvelous conference..The memories are very vivid.  Although Magda and Dr. Pikler are no longer with us…their research and teachings continue to live on.

Post by Roseann Murphy


  1. Reblogged this on Little River School Online and commented:

    A repost of an article from “Educaring Resources for Infant Educarers.” Vol 1 Number 1 Winter 1979 by Rhonda Garcia. The very first Conference presented by Magda Gerber and Emmi Pikler at the University of California, Los Angeles Campus thirty-four years ago. If this conference was held today, their words would hold the same importance today as it did then. Hope you enjoy revisiting the past…

    Liked by 1 person

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