RIE and Waldorf

RIE Associates, Kimberley Lewis and Simone Demarzi Share Their Views on RIE in the Waldorf Birth-Three Setting

This writeup provides a synopsis of the video discussion between two Waldorf Teachers, Kimberly Lewis and Simone Demarzi who discovered RIE after they had been trained as Early Childhood Waldorf Teachers.  Both have taught mostly in programs in Waldorf settings.  The discussion centers around how the different modalities work together.  Most of the discussion centers around the RIE techniques in a Waldorf classroom.  

Both teachers found that using RIE in a Waldorf setting works seamlessly.  It’s important to note that the Waldorf pedagogy from Rudolf Steiner originally goes down to age 5 or Kindergarten.  From a historical standpoint, the Waldorf Preschool movement began in the 1980s, and the concept of teaching Parent-Child classes (Birth-3) wasn’t introduced until the mid-1990s.  Home daycare programs did the best they could mixing these age groups and largely used the format of a Waldorf Kindergarten Day to guide them. With few indications from Rudolf Steiner on Infant programs, Waldorf teachers began to reach out to other modalities, and RIE and Pikler became the favorites.  

This video helps to explain how RIE methods work and beautifully augment the Waldorf pedagogy.  One area that stands out in RIE is respect for the other.  In Waldorf we honor that this little person is a developing being both physically and spiritually and honor the miracle of rising-up to standing and walking.  

Magda Gerber emphasized that children have an equal part in the relationship, which includes trust in the others’ ability to achieve whatever is being worked on. We talk to the child about what we are doing, and we wait for a response from the child out of respect.  In both modalities we use observation as our main tool as we give the child time to learn.  We don’t rush children into the next stage/milestone. We slow down and give time. 

Free play is another area both modalities use widely.  For a child under the age of three, play means learning to move their bodies in the safest way for each child.  Play means learning to interact with other children, for example, watching them or crawling over a child or taking an item from a small hand.  Play means exploring the world (safely) in all that it has to offer, indoors and outdoors.  In RIE we say that the child is the director, the actor, and the initiator of the play and this holds true in the Waldorf classroom as well.  

Environments are set up to be age-appropriate in both modalities.  In the Waldorf School Classroom, most of the toys are simple, open-ended, and made of natural materials, so that the imagination can fully take hold.  In a RIE infant classroom, the environment is set up to be appropriate for the infant depending on his/her physical development.  For example, a play kitchen in an infant space is not so helpful, but rather a low ramp, or a platform to crawl up on and toys that have many different qualities to explore are key. 

Predictability in care moments and predictability in the rhythm of the day are found in both modalities.  Oral traditions help to define rhythms and rituals of the day and seasons.  Waldorf and RIE work closely with the dignity of being human, they both acknowledge wonder and beauty through observation.  An added advantage in combining both modalities is that it has been well-received by the parents and the children attending the classes.  

By Simone Demarzi and Kimberley Lewis

April 28, 2023

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