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Dear Magda

“Dear Magda, Dear Parent” is Magda’s quarterly column for RIE’s Educaring newsletter. She shared her recommendations for parents and early childhood professionals on topics such as infant learning, toys, and respectful care, made announcements about RIE events, and responded to questions parents sent to her. 

Let babies move without interference

Do babies need to be taught to walk? Sensory motor development happens as the first stage of the intellectual learning of babies. In many cultures, people have been led to think that unless infants are taught they don’t learn. All “normal” children learn to walk. Gross motor development happens naturally when an infant has plenty of space to move in a safe, age-appropriate, and challenging environment. When allowed to move freely and without interference children learn to move gracefully and securely and, through endless repetition and practice, they become well-balanced.

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Who is Dr. Emmi Pikler

Everyone in Budapest who had a young child knew about Emmi Pikler. She has been an extremely controversial figure in Hungary. There were almost two camps. One for whom Emmi was the prophet and whatever she said they would do almost blindly. Then others who absolutely hated her. [Many professional pediatricians] couldn’t believe that a person really truly would want to visit a family every week, which she did. Every week. And then she’d spend hours, just watching the children.

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How Can We Help Them Learn To Share?

Sharing is based on the knowledge of ownership and use. The owner lets someone else use an object with the knowledge that it will be returned later. But the infant also has no concept of time. Only “now” exists. Even two minutes may seem like forever. We cannot expect a young child to perceive what sharing means.

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Discipline is Learning and Nurturing Combined 

Children, like adults, need rules and guidelines. I conceptualize discipline as being a system based on and facilitative of mutual respect among family members. We could easily exchange the word ‘discipline’ for the word ‘educaring’—they are both a combination of learning and nurturance. The goal is inner or self-discipline, self-confidence, and joy in the act of cooperation.  

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Biting is instinctual. While in early infancy biting is rather exploratory, toddlers bite when frustrated, angry, or tired. If I have to deal with a chronic biter, I must use a sensitive but strong strategy. Both ‘victim’ and ‘aggressor’ need to feel that the adult is in charge and can protect them. I say to the biter, calmly but firmly, ” I will not let you bite any child or big person. If you feel like biting, here are things (teething rings, rubber or plastic objects, etc.) you can bite.”
I watched him very closely in order to predict what would trigger his aggressiveness and prevent him from doing it. I would hold him firmly but not punitively, telling him that I would not let him bite and that he needed to learn to trust me.

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Thumb or Pacifier

Sucking is an instinctual need and adults have an instinctual rather than objective reaction to it. Throughout history thumb-sucking has aroused strong feelings. It was called a bad habit and was blamed for producing protruding teeth and a disobedient, withdrawn or insatiable child. The pacifier is a plug. It does stop a child from crying, but the question is, does an infant have a right to cry? Should an infant be allowed to express her feelings and communicate them. By plugging her mouth, the message given is, “Don’t do what comes naturally. Do what pleases me, your parent.

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First Dear Magda Artice

“I often feel insecure because I am unsure whether what I am doing with my child is right or wrong. What can I do to help my baby feel secure, self-confident and relaxed?”

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Defining Educaring

What are the infants’ needs, beyond those for food, rest, warmth and hygiene? Most people would respond with the following: love, as demonstrated by rocking, fondling and body contact; and cognitive stimulation as demonstrated by an abundance of objects, teaching materials and lesson plans. These needs have become largely accepted and most centers try to meet them in different ways.

To attain a balance between adult stimulation and independent exploration by the infant, we focus on two areas of the infant’s life: the time spent with the adult who cares for the infant and the time the infant spends alone freely exploring his environment. Only a child who receives undivided attention from his educarer during all routine care-giving activities will be free and interested to explore his environment without needing too much intervention of the educarer. If the educarer understands that the infant needs both concentrated attention while being cared for and time to explore alone, she (he) also gains time for herself (himself).

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Welcome to RIE

When I met Dr. Emmi Pikler, her ideas seemed so natural, sensible, and simple that I tried to learn more about them. …The interest we have in common is the desire to improve the care of infants. … many organizations, schools, classes, and publications professing to the same goal, yet we believe there is a difference in the way we see the infant.

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