RIE Changes Lives – A Student Reflects

Nineteen years ago I began studying with infant specialist Magda Gerber, and my perceptions of babies, parenting and life were permanently altered. Resources for Infant Educarers (RIE), the non-profit educational organization Magda founded in 1978, continues to inspire parents and professionals and transform lives through courses offered in the US and abroad.

Ingrid Lawrence is one such student, and she has allowed me to share her impressions:

I enjoyed every moment of the RIE Foundations course in June. I find the RIE philosophy to be beautifully insightful, profoundly practical, deeply inspiring, and yes, personally challenging. I came away asking myself this question: “RIE is so good, why is it not catching on rapidly everywhere where there are young ones?” I did not have to look far for my answer. I had only to notice my own struggle to live out this philosophy to begin to understand.

I’ve come to realize that RIE is much more than a brilliant set of useful tools to be considered and applied to the care of infants and toddlers. It is a way of life, a way of being that challenges us to be present, attentive, respectful human beings, and to see clearly not only the child but ourselves.

Ultimately, RIE calls us to love – in the form of sincere respect – not only the child but ourselves, the parent, our coworker, everyone. In this way, I see RIE as a kind of high spiritual calling, one that invites us on a journey of becoming rather than to a final destination point. And, like the young child, we must be passionately determined, willing to get up from our falls and try, try again, filled with the sense that if there’s a will, there’s a way, convinced that the goal is worthy.

If we will let the children be our guides, we will become people who can love and guide them well.

As I consider embarking upon this great journey, I am aware that I must be willing to relearn what it is to be child-like in key ways. I will need to be willing to step out from what I think I know into the unknown in order to have the possibility of learning something new. I will need to be willing to fail in full view of everyone, to accept and learn from it (potentially after a good, loud cry), and try, try again. I will need to rekindle a sense of faith and wonder in this world and its people, and in myself, and know that it’s perfectly okay to be what we call an adult and a work-in-progress. It’s a tall order, and a profoundly inspiring one. The children are calling, and I am nearing the leap.


Ingrid attended the RIE Foundation’s course in Seattle, Washington, facilitated by my friend and associate Polly Elam. Thank you, Ingrid…and Polly!


(Photo by Nanagyei on Flickr)


Please share your comments and questions. I read them all and respond to as many as time will allow.

  1. This is the real key: “I’ve come to realize that RIE is much more than a brilliant set of useful tools to be considered and applied to the care of infants and toddlers. It is a way of life, a way of being that challenges us to be present, attentive, respectful human beings, and to see clearly not only the child but ourselves.”

    What an insightful woman Ingrid is!

    1. avatar Polly Elam says:

      Alex, I so appreciate your comment and agree that it is a way of life. In my work as a RIE Associate and Consultant I am often called on to conduct management and coaching seminars for programs who want to implement this work. I have adapted Magda’s 7 Principles (with her permission) to apply them with adults. The management teams and I have found this approach to be very effective. And while challenging at times, I always find myself at peace when I apply them to my own daily life.

  2. As a fellow student who completed the RIE Foundations course last year with Polly Elam and Maureen Perry, I cannot agree more with Ingrid. She has found words to explain the feelings and emotions behind the RIE philosophy and caring for infants. The joys, challenges and passion behind it. Very well written and heart felt! -Jenna, Melbourne AUS

  3. I haven’t yet completed the RIE training (i do intend to as soon as I can afford it). I keep updated with the blog and also have read multiple books on the topic. I am currently studying Education (early childhood) at a Brisbane university (QLD) but am thinking of relocating to Melbourne next year.
    Jenna – would you be interested to meet up? I would love to be involved in bringing RIE to Australia – we so desperately need it as more and more infants are in long day care centres from such a young age. Are there any groups/communities or child care centres/play groups that are already incorporating RIE philosophies into their practice?
    Sorry if this isn’t the right place to post these questions – I really want to meet other like minded people in Australia!

  4. I just saw the course ran in NZ-any chance of one running in Australia? I’d love some more solid understanding of what I’m trying to do!

  5. avatar Eleanor Pearson says:

    Jenna and Letishia,
    I’m located in Griffith, NSW, about 5 hours north of Melbourne and I am very interested in training in RIE. I am a primary school teacher, currently on maternity leave and am captivated by RIE, both in terms of parenting and teaching. I would love to get in touch with you both. You can contact me at eleanorjpearson@yahoo.com.au or find me on facebook 🙂

  6. avatar Debra Schnarr Lombardo says:

    I have been a student of Magda Gerber for many years. I oversee a child development center that serves infants, toddlers and their families. I found this description of the work that we who follow RIE principles an excellent, profoundly stated “picture” of how the philosophies change your life in deeply meaningful ways. Thank you Emmi, Magda and now Janet for sharing those insights with all of us. Let’s work towards a better world, beginning at the “beginning”.

  7. Someone is inspired! This reminds me of “Magical Parent–Magical Child,” when it says, “Everyone knows that childhood is a developmental journey for children. Few realize that guiding, learning from and mentoring children is a developmental process for adults, a transformative practice every bit as demanding and powerful as found in any martial art, monastery or athletic training camp. ….Helping adults rediscover the “childlike” genius of their own nature, as they guide, learn from and mentor children, awakens and develops in adults new capacities and possibilities. Infusing the adult-child relationship with this creative energy and attention transforms the adult and therefore provides a radically different learning environment for child development.”

    I have found that putting RIE knowledge into practice has created a window into my own childhood, and opened up a greater “seeing” of what I “learned” and why. This has given me the ability to understand and more easily let go of that which doesn’t serve me, that which isn’t “real.” RIE, in effect, has parented me, which is the “transforming childhood by transforming adults” that J.C. Pearce talks about in MP–MC.

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