Shhh…Babies Playing (Scenes From a RIE Parenting Class)

I have a reverence for babies at play. Actually, any child at play. Even when my 9-year old builds forts, or creates stories with his soldiers, knights and dragons (sadly, becoming a rare occurrence) my husband and I are careful not to interrupt.

So, I had very mixed feelings about filming the 7-10 month old babies playing during “observation time” in my RIE parent/infant class. As I’d feared, holding up my new Flip camera (thanks for the early Christmas gift, Mike) distracted these ultra-aware infants a little. But when I saw the videos,  I decided it was worth it for the thrill of sharing a sample of the wonders we experience with babies every week!

I’ve isolated the clips below because they provide different examples of babies “playing” together, sometimes (when we want to sound fancy) referred to as “infant-infant interaction”.  Infant expert Magda Gerber strongly believed in giving babies time for free exploration with their peers and recommended forming play groups. “Children have different agendas with adults than with their peers, and they learn from each other.”

I think you’ll agree after seeing these videos that watching babies play together is good for parents, too.

1. Ouch!… My Ear. (When we allow babies the freedom to interact, there are going to be minor bumps and upsets. Babies learn from these, too. We can’t have the wonderful, spontaneous moments if we over-intervene or micromanage.)

2. Like Feet. (Each parent/infant group has its own unique dynamic. The babies in this group are particularly fascinated with each other’s feet.)

3. Lean On Me. (Making friends, infant style.)

Tips for encouraging self-directed infant play…

Safety. Create a safe, enclosed play space. For group play, babies have the most freedom to interact safely when they are grouped with children of a similar age or stage of development. At RIE we use a lot of light, plastic, cleanable toys for safety reasons.

Give babies your focused attention. To be able to play independently and confidently babies need periods of our undivided attention, especially during feedings, bathing, diaper changes. (At RIE we have a separate area for parents to nurse, bottle feed or change their babies.)

The play habit. Provide plenty of opportunities for uninterrupted, independent play each day. Groups work best for babies when they meet regularly and include the usual suspects.

Minimal interruption. Stay in responsive mode. Intervene calmly and gently when babies are hurt (or better — about to be hurt), as beautifully demonstrated by the parents in the first video clip.

For more about play groups, please read: The Baby Social Scene

Please share any thoughts or questions about the videos!


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

  1. This is a little slice of heaven! Thank you, Janet. And thanks to the babies and parents who participated. What a gift to anyone who can’t come to a parent/infant class. If seeing is believing, I don’t know how anyone could doubt the fact that little babies are capable of exploring, and playing peacefully on their own without being entertained,after watching these clips. I was mesmerized, but then, babies always have that effect on me! I can’t wait to share!

    1. Lisa, thank you! I knew you’d appreciate this. I’m in love with the babies in this class…and admire the parents, too. This is just a small slice of what I’ve experienced with this group… The camera has been a long time coming!

  2. How lovely! I think Belle would llove the class, I hope you do have a spot available.

  3. Just curious, how old are these babies?

  4. Thank you Janet so much for sharing these videos! Its great to finally see RIE in practice with real examples! Its amazing to just sit back and look… There is so much we dont pay attention to when we entertain our baby!! Its just annoying when someone (granparents) just come and interrupt this play time and starts to talk to my 3 month old baby girl, she responds with smiles and giggles. When i politly ask them not interrupt her play they tell me “but she likes it, she is probably tired from just sitting there”. Its a challenge to educate people around you to appreciate and respect your parenting style! Thank you once again for your inspiring articles!!

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