I’ve always been asked this question, “What do you actually do with Ellie?” followed up with the statement, “You seem to be doing a lot with her when I see your pictures online.” My only answer is, “I just really observe her.”
Believe it or not, Ellie spends most of her day exploring, and I simply assist her during these times. Aside from the usual routines of feeding, bathing, changing and sleeping, Ellie gets to spend a big chunk of her day for play.
When I asked my mentor, Kathy Ramirez, (an infant specialist, and past program director at Infant-Toddler Village Preschool in Burbank, California), what’s the best activity that I can give Ellie, she told me four important things: ” 1) She’s stimulated enough 2) Let her observe and explore, 3) talk to her when you do your basic routines, and most importantly, 4) Don’t rush.
I know this seems to be a different philosophy. In a society, where we are pressured to keep up with the fast-paced motion of things, and to have that ready answer when others ask you, “when will your child talk? or has he started walking yet?” We are wired to believe that faster is better.
Magda Gerber, a renowned infant specialist and proponent of RIE (Resources for Infant Educarers), spread this philosophy that working with babies requires RESPECT. She explains, “we urge parents to relax, observe and enjoy what their babies are doing. A parent’s role is provide a secure and predictable environment. You don’t have to teach. You don’t have to buy more gadgets. ” Her famous motto is, “Observe more, do less.” She stresses that by asking parents to do this, she is really asking a lot from them.
When Ellie was about 2 months old, I started making a curriculum for her. I used as many books I can, made a weekly plan of activities that she can do day in and day out. I thought I had everything planned out. When I told Kathy about this, she laughed at me. She told me to re-read Magda’s book, which I had in my library. I read it right away.
After reading, I realized that I needed to trust that God will lead the way in Ellie’s development. To accept that she can stimulate herself is a big challenge for me. As a teacher, I somehow felt that I needed to do a major part to ensure that she’s learning. Little did I know that I can help her more by giving her opportunity to explore and to assist her while she does it.
I really believe that there should be a balance between both. We serve as the facilitators for our child’s learning, by providing adequate environment and materials and at the same time, respecting their own pacing and development.
So, what’s part of your to do lists for your baby? Does it consist more of what you want for her to learn or what you think she willingly wants to learn at this moment?
In my next article, I’ll talk more about how to support your baby during this exploration phase. In short, tips on how you can play with your baby. 🙂
To know more about Magda and the RIE Philosophy, you can check out her book entitled: Dear Parent (Caring for Infants with Respect), available online, and her website: www.magdagerber.org
Photography by: Nicolai Melicor