Thursday, January 31, 2013

New Program - Naturally Social Babies

So, I'm ready to try something new with Isla!

Over the past year I have taken a real interest in the philosophy of Resources for Infant Educarers (RIE) and I have put many of the ideas into practice with Isla. To begin, I stopped using all of the baby gadgets that are marketed as a necessity. The baby swing, the exer-saucer, bright, loud and flashy toys - all gone. And I have to admit it was really nice to rid our house of so much baby gear and replace it with a simple blanket and simple toys - balls, scarves, cups and teethers. I then began waiting and watching as she 'played' laying on her back on her blanket. First with her hands and then her toes. Then reaching, grasping, rolling, etc. All at her own pace. No expectations of her, simply letting her body dictate her development. It also never got her into the habit of being constantly entertained - by music, by lights or by movement that comes with all of the gadgets. Isla is able to focus and play for great lengths of time - the reason could be because she is a second child, but I really like the simplicity it has brought to our home and the ideas behind the theory make sense to me.

The idea behind RIE, created by Magda Gerber, is to encourage babies to be attentive, active, exploring and to be aware of their own bodies and others around them. RIE also focuses on encouraging babies to develop naturally at their own pace and to begin socializing at an early age with other babies to learn important social skills naturally through interactions as opposed to being taught by an adult. RIE helps parents to be confident in their supportive role and to trust and offer respectful communication with their child.

This is not an all or nothing philosophy. Many of the ideas have resonated with my natural parenting inclinations. The ideas are simple and straight forward and have been very insightful. I have taken many of the suggestions and added them to my own parenting tool box. For instance, the very idea of spending more time observing your child to get to know their interests and abilities from infancy as opposed to doing so much for them from the start. This is not to say that infants are not dependent on us, but it recognizes that they are not simply objects to be moved around and entertained, they are individuals from the very beginning. I like the goal of fostering a child's creativity, motivation and self confidence by simply waiting more often and allowing your child time to try, to solve their own problems, and to feel the joy of doing something by themselves.

Isla exploring her basket

From talking with many parents about these ideas, there seems to be quite a lot of interest in learning more about the program or in taking part in discussions on how to work RIE principles into their parenting. I would like to begin a playgroup that is open to interested parents and their infants to take part in at A Gym Tale. The play group would come together in a relaxing, infant friendly environment to take pleasure in observing their child's unfolding development and play. Janet Lansbury, a proponent of RIE, highlights beautifully the benefits of successful infant playgroups in her article 'The Baby Social Scene'.

This is not a structured program like the New Magic class, which is a 12 week program in which your space is guaranteed each week and introduces parents and babies to songs, baby massage, mirror play, gross motor and sensory activities. This program would be complementary to the New Magic class and allow greater time for the infants to move freely and interact with other babies and parents to discuss their observations. The curriculum would follow the parents and infants in attendance and what they observe their child doing at A Gym Tale as well as their observations of their babies at home. Some of the topics may include age appropriate expectations, the importance of play and observation, balancing parents and children's needs, sleep and setting limits.

This would be a pilot program as I am still learning much about the philosophy and will not be available to take the full training until the summer. But I thought this would be a great opportunity to gain more experience and to introduce the concepts to interested families.

Currently, the program will be open to infants under one year and it will take place on Tuesday mornings from 11:30-12:15 in the Enchanted Forest for the same rate as Drop In Play - $3 per visit. There is no preregistration and I can have up to 10 babies and parents at a time. If the demand is high, then I will open other time slots.

I am looking forward to meeting new families and babies and putting these ideas into practice.

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