Magda Gerber is one of the most influential and impactful early childhood theorists of all time. Gerber was born in Hungary and attended university in France for linguistics. She later grew a sincere interest in children and how they learn and grow from pediatrician Emmi Pikler.

Emmi Pikler was a Hungarian pediatrician who introduced new theories of infant education. She put them into practice at the orphanage she ran in Budapest, finding that mutual respect and tender care must exist between the infant and adult. For children to develop in their natural way, Pikler believed certain things had to be in place, like free movement, respect at all times, and caring touch (Emmie, 2009).

Gerber’s dedication to the field and her partnership with Pikler inspired her to go on and positively affect the lives of many children and families.


In 1978 Gerber founded the nonprofit Resources for Infant Educarers® (RIE®) in Los Angeles with pediatric neurologist, Tom Forrest. Gerber’s work and RIE has been transformational in the childhood development arena.

Gerber’s teachings continue to revolutionise how infants and toddlers are seen and treated.

And the number of child care centres that follow her philosophy grows each year.

Gerber’s RIE philosophy is a fundamental component of how we approach life and learning at our Harmony child care centres.

Because of Gerber’s key observations and practices, we believe in the perspective that every child is incredibly capable of learning, living, and growing.

In fact, we’re thankful to Magda Gerber for a lot of inspiration. Her lessons, theories, and philosophies are found in the everyday at Harmony centres.

Here are 5 things Magda Gerber inspires us to do.

1. Respect all babies and children

Respect was central to Gerber’s child care philosophy and what she believed about early childhood development. She was dedicated to the element of respect because it helps foster a child’s authentic self.

Respect for and trust in children allows them to be initiators, explorers and self-learners.

At Harmony, every time we interact with your baby or child, we demonstrate respect.

We see them each as beautiful, capable human beings.

What this looks like at Harmony:

  • We communicate respectfully with children both verbally and nonverbally
  • Our educators model calm and peaceful behaviour. They clearly define limits and expectations to develop discipline.

2. Show appreciation and genuine interest in every child

When Gerber showed sincere interest in a child, she observed that it made them feel loved, secure, and competent (RIE, 1998).

She also described that an authentic child is “one who feels secure, autonomous, competent, and connected.”

At Harmony, follow Gerber’s lead and help children feel secure, appreciated, and that “somebody is deeply, truly interested” in them.

What this looks like at Harmony child centres:

  • We look, listen and interact in ways that empower a child’s authentic self
  • We show appreciation for what children do, share and say
  • We provide environments that allow children to express themselves and explore at their own pace
  • Our educators carefully observe and alter activities to meet the needs and desires of each particular child.

3. Provide a safe, emotionally nurturing environment

Gerber believed that infants and children need a safe space to naturally explore. Rather than being handicapped by an environment that is too small or contains unsafe features, she knew spaces that allowed for free roaming and exploration were the best for children.

At Harmony we take great care in welcoming all children into our physically safe, emotionally nurturing and cognitively challenging environment.

What this looks like at Harmony child centres:

  • Our facilities have minimal clutter
  • Our centres offer open spaces for uninterrupted play
  • We give children freedom to explore and interact with their peers and surroundings
  • We provide open-ended resources and heuristic play opportunities which are sourced from the ‘real world’, e.g., baskets, shells, rocks, bowls, utensils etc.
  • We encourage children to play creatively and in depth.

4. Be consciously present in every moment

When Gerber was building the RIE philosophy, she encouraged educators to be fully present. She knew it was important for the child’s development to have that level of attentiveness.

Gerber also encouraged educators to include children by way of communication and eye contact so they are aware of what’s happening to them at all times and are active participants in activities.

Following Gerber’s lead, our highly trained educators understand the importance of remaining present during all care moments. When we do this, we see that children are more engaged, happy and involved.

What this looks like at Harmony child centres:

  • We provide explanations and seek permission from children to ensure we are doing things ‘with’ children’ and not ‘to’ them (e.g. blowing their nose, nappy changes)
  • We observe children in their natural state, which gives us key insight into their unique needs.
  • Through engaging a child in everyday activities (i.e. bathing, feeding), we help children become active daily participants of life.

5. Recognise that infants are innately competent

Believing and recognising that infants are competent encourages them to explore and engage in the world on their own. By becoming humble, we can teach less and allow for an environment of learning.

Magda Gerber once stated, “When you approach your baby with an attitude of respect, you let him know what you intend to do and give him a chance to respond. You assume he is competent and involve him in his care and let him, as much as possible, solve his own problems. You give him plenty of physical freedom and you don’t push development.” (Emmie, 2009).

Gerber saw all children as highly capable and believed in giving them the space, creativity, and confidence to learn independently and with others (RIE, 1998).

What this looks like at Harmony child centres:

  • We practice trust in the baby or child to be an initiator, “to be an explorer eager to learn what he is ready for.” Because of this trust, we provide help necessary but allow the child to “enjoy mastery of her own actions.”
  • We give time for uninterrupted freedom and play, we can admire how much they are doing on their own (RIE, 1998).

Magda Gerber was a passionate advocate for both children and parents. She also found ways to make educating and caring easier and more enjoyable.

At Harmony we remain inspired by Magda Gerber and all that she gave to the field of childhood development.

And we try to live out her philosophies each and every day.

Her teachings and the RIE philosophy are embedded in our practices, routines and interactions.

Through these practices, we create a calm and peaceful place for your child to build confidence in themselves and their abilities.

Our RIE framework fosters and prepares your child for their school years. Our experienced educators take care with each child to ensure learning fits their unique personality, needs and interests.

If you’d like to know more about our nurturing facilities, staff and teaching philosophy, book a tour today.


Gerber, M. (1998). RIE® Basic Principles. Retrieved November 06, 2016, from

Emmi Pikler’s Guiding Principles. (2009). Retrieved November 14, 2016, from

Magda Gerber (2016). Retrieved December 20, 2016, from