What if someone told you that you don’t need thousands of dollars in toys to entertain your baby? What if someone told you that you don’t have to cram tiny tot dance lessons and early literacy courses into the schedule every week? What if sitting down and just watching your little busybody do their own thing was a requirement every day?

What’s the Philosophy Behind It?

The RIE (Respect for Infant Educarers) parenting method says less might be more for babies and children. Following the RIE philosophy means paring back on noisy, blinking, whirling toys to let babies get creative with what’s readily available. It also means having expectations that our babies have the ability to do things like use utensils, and all we need is the patience to teach them how.

Instructors in RIE say the key is providing babies with the opportunity to discover their world while respecting babies’ natural progress and development. RIE’s founder, Magda Gerber, believed children were remarkably capable beings who naturally look for opportunities to learn and grow. Gerber’s philosophy called for a fairly clear set of things RIE parents can provide for their children:

  • a safe, nurturing environment
  • time to play freely and opportunities to play with other babies
  • communication about all aspects of childcare
  • observation of your baby so you can really understand their needs
  • consistent limits and expectations
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Let Them Explore Freely

RIE parenting resources, including those provided by published author Janet Lansbury, promote a baby-proofed home so your tiny explorer can safely go anywhere he wants as he begins to move on his own.

This will give your baby the chance to find what interests him at his own pace. That includes playing with whatever they might find on their journey, like a pillow or a stack of coasters. The RIE philosophy says freedom to explore teaches your child self-confidence and self-reliance.

Let Them Socialize

It’s also important for your child to start playing with other children early on to help develop problem-solving skills.

That doesn’t mean letting two toddlers duke it out over the same toy. Rather, RIE teachers suggest stepping in only when it is apparent that children can’t resolve a situation on their own.

Let Them Know What’s Next

Those who teach RIE parenting also say it’s important to tell your child what you are doing as you go through your daily routine. Give your child the opportunity to prepare for activities like getting into a warm bath.

According to the RIE philosophy, saying, “Now we’re going to put your little feet into the water,” will help prevent surprising your baby with a change in the environment. It will also help your baby begin to understand the order of routines and help them talk about it in the future. The key is to speak in natural adult language, not baby talk, so your child can develop language comprehension and communication skills.

Let Them Have Your Full Attention

In addition to talking to your baby in real, plain language, RIE parenting includes unplugging, slowing down, and paying attention. When you give your little one that bath, don’t check your fantasy league standings while they splash.

Instead, take that time to completely unplug from devices and plug into the moment with your child. This kind of modeling may help your child learn focus and concentration while also building confidence because you are interested in what’s happening as well.

Let Them Move at Their Own Speed

Babies will meet dozens of milestones throughout the first year and you might be tempted to push your baby toward the next one when you hear other parents bragging.

RIE parenting warns against getting ahead of your child’s real abilities. By waiting for your child to roll over or sit up on their own, you give them the chance to gain the strength and skills they need to do so without anxiety and with confidence to try the next thing. You will also learn what makes them uncomfortable or anxious so you can anticipate ways to help them through roadblocks.

The Takeaway

It’s important to remember that not all RIE parenting recommendations will work for every family. Perhaps you don’t want to listen to baby bang on any more pots and pans or grandma won’t baby-proof her house enough to make it safe for a free-ranging toddler.

That doesn’t mean RIE parenting isn’t right for you and your child. If you want to use just a few techniques, such as putting down your tablet during dinner and bedtime, or setting up plenty of play dates, you may find the rewards of those interactions are worth the effort of ignoring that vibrating cell phone for a few minutes.