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Original RIE Manual


Many parents are concerned about the hows, whys, and whats of toys. Toys should be sturdy but simple. I do not like busy toys. I like busy children manipulating their toys in many imaginative ways. Balls of all sizes, boxes big and small, wooden boxes and stepstools to climb on and off of, kitchen utensils, pots and pans, stacking toys, containers that objects can be dropped in or out of, open-and-close toys, dolls, picture books, push and pull toys, cars, and, of course, water, sand, and a climbing/playing area in which to experience the toys.

When you are trying to decide whether any object or a toy is appropriate, you may test each object using some of our guidelines for free play. The environment should be:

  • Safe.
  • Have enough space for the baby to move freely. 
  • Include objects that are safe and simple. These objects should be basic, able to be manipulated in many ways, and not requiring adult help or supervision. They should require the child to be active, not passive. They should also be cleanable; show variations in size, weight, and shape; and embody different functions (e.g., containers, push and pull toys, role-play toys). The arrangement of objects should be orderly, and the furnishings should be geared to the child re: scale, placement, etc.


As for educational books and toys, I feel that the best thing to teach a young baby is everyday life. 1) About his needs: “Are you thirsty?” 2) About his belongings: “Where is your shirt?” 3) About your concerns: “Where are my keys?” “The food is hot.” Babies have to learn the most important things in life—who they are, how to communicate, what makes mommy and daddy happy or angry. Teach them about yourselves, and they will learn about themselves.

(Photo by Jude Keith Rose)

The RIE Manual for Parents and Professionals Part I: Practical Suggestions for Parents
Copyright © 1979 Magda Gerber

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Black and white ink drawing of an infant laying supine and reaching towards an adult hand which is reaching back to the infant

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