Learning Story: Responding to Our Communication

Dear Levi:

You are barely 3 months old and already you are responding to your mother’s encouragement toward learning what words and non-verbal communication movements and gestures mean.  Your mother told me a story about you, when you were responding to her conversation with you.

You were resting on your back in the supine position on your changing table.  Your mother was ready to put socks on your feet.  She looked into your eyes and said to you, “Levi, I want to put your sock on one of your feet.  Can you stretch your leg out so I can put the sock on?”  YOU FOLLOWED HER REQUEST!  You stretched out your leg for her to apply the sock to your feet and toes.  Then, when she asked, you stretched out the other leg and foot for the other sock to be put on.

This was quite a special moment for your mother.  Since you were born, she has been talking to you about what she is doing with you and for you.  She would say to you, “I am going to pick you up, now” or “I am going to wash your face.” She would even tell you when she was going to leave you in your safe place for a few minutes while she did a household chore or something personal.  She trusted that you were listening and that one day you would try to respond in some way.   This happened today when you responded to her request by participating in the putting on of your socks by stretching out your legs and feet.  You are so young still, yet, at this moment you demonstrated that you had grasped the understanding of the event and showed the desired response.

In the RIE philosophy, it is claimed that parents who talk to their children regularly, even their youngest infants, are establishing the “groundwork” for future communication.  Also, when an alert, aware adult shows a child respect by thoroughly explaining  the events of the environment and the events that directly relate to the child, respect is being shown the child and the child will reciprocate.  This reciprocal respect may be shown through cooperative actions from the child and predictions from the child about what is to come and what is expected.  In the situation discussed in this story, Levi, you showed your mother that her respectful  conversations with you gained your respect for her caregiving actions with you.  As you stretched out one leg and foot, you probably predicted that there would be a need to stretch the second leg and foot in her direction and this is just what you did.

Another principle of the RIE philosophy suggests that adults will be most successful in their parenting practices if they engage their children in what is really important to them.  As you are only beginning this life, you are already realizing that putting on clothing and taking off clothing occurs for you many times per day and is of great interest to you.  The textures of the fabric that touch your skin are many.  Some fabrics are soft and comfy.   Others are rough or scratchy.   The pulling and pushing of your body to get the clothing on and off is a regular occurrence for you.  Your mother is making these happenings so interesting and more comfortable for you when she tells you about your clothes and how she is going to move you around to put them on and take them off.  This must be why you responded to having soft, warm socks placed on your feet.  You were interested and ready for what was to happen to your legs and feet.

I know that your mother will be telling me of other events that are RIE-like moments between the two of you. I will be waiting to hear about them.

Smiles from your friend and your mother’s friend,


Ezriel it was so much fun to observe your play while in our RIE® class together. I was particularly drawn to your ‘orderly’ play in the final months of class. I had noticed a few times that many of the children loved to dump items which didn’t really surprise me as this was a typical play pattern of young children. However, you were one person I thought might also have another plan during your play. Over the weeks, I decided to test my theory in the materials I set out for you and your friends.

The first month most items were in containers available to dump. Just as children like to dump, eventually play expands and the interest in filling containers is also present. I had watched you play for a few weeks and notice that you paid careful attention to the details of items and so I thought you might be one that would be interested in this idea. I had noticed over the weeks that you were often drawn to the star/sticky blocks. At first, you carefully just played with each one- inspecting all the elements, sometimes offering one to mom. Then another week, I put out an empty container nearby to see what that might provoke. Sure enough, you began transferring the objects – dumping out one, and filling the next!

Each time you played, your careful inspection always was there. Another week I set out a stacking toy and you spent time taking it apart, noticing that it somehow all went back together. You tested a few pieces to try out that theory before moving on to other things. After noticing this play exploration, I decided to put out other stacking items that really had no particular “right” way to go together. Sure enough, you found them again and I noticed your exploration went to the cups- stacking and un-stacking them as if to figure out exactly how it all worked.

Your intense focus always was present in your play, as well as your awareness of mom (often for a quick check in or cuddle) and your other friends explorations. As you explored, I noticed your consideration for others and how you took the initiative to invite them to play using non verbal cues- offering mom a toy or later a peer from class.

Your careful focus and intent to your play was never deterred. Although you offered items, and engaged your peers, if you wanted to finish with something you made sure to stand your ground and hold on tightly to ensure the other person knew your were still using the item. I even noticed a few times that if they pulled on something you weren’t done with you would offer them something else instead.

Your intrigue motivated your gross motor development, balance and movement skills. It seemed you often had a plan well before venturing to the other side of the classroom. You carefully observed, checked in with mom (with a look or a quick play nearby) and then ventured off for more exploration.

The playful exploration that took place showed so many profound life skills Ezriel. You demonstrated the building blocks of problem solving and critical thinking skills- stacking, observing, negotiating,and planning out your actions. Your offerings of materials or willingness to play near others showed beginning friendship skills and turn taking as well as a consideration for others that has obviously been modeled to you.

It was such a joy observing you and seeing your personality shine through over the weeks Ezriel. I can see that you are a kind, thoughtful and considerate boy eager to explore the world with an intense focus. I am excited for where these dispositions will take you in life! Thank you for the time we had to play together. I hope that we can spend more time together in the future!

RIE Associate Kristy Thomas