What Is An Educarer®?


RIE’s educational philosophy is referred to as the Educaring Approach, and summarized as follows:

The infant needs an intimate, stable relationship with one primary person (e.g., a parent figure).

This relationship can best be developed during caregiving activities. These activities offer excellent opportunities for teaching cooperation, language, speech, positive body image, and mutuality in task-oriented experiences. The infant is an active participant rather than a passive recipient while being cared for.

The infant needs a safe and carefully designed environment in which to move, explore and manipulate.They thus achieve the stages of gross motor and sensori-motor development in their own time. Spontaneous, self-induced activities, which the infant pursues freely and autonomously, have an essential value for physical and mental development. The pleasure in the process of exploration and mastery is self-reinforcing. The infant becomes intrinsically motivated to learn.

Meanwhile, the Educarer must learn to observe, understand and respect the individuality of the infant and to respond with sensitivity and empathy to the cues the infant gives.

BW photo of an adult hand with palm facing upwards holding an infant's hand

Did you know the word “educate” comes from the Latin “educere” — “to bring out that which is within.” In RIE, we don’t “teach” so much as create opportunities to observe how much infants already have within themselves and how they are learning all the time.

What is an Educarer?

An Educarer is anyone, parent and/or professional, who provides care for infants and is imbued with the concept that education of the infant is an integral part of the caregiving process.

Educarers do things differently than many adults. While all types of caregivers may love the child, Educarers demonstrate love by showing and teaching respect. Here are some key examples:

Whereas many caregivers:Educarers:
Infants’ abilities
Rely on infant curricula, books, and packaged programs as prescriptions to teach, drill, and speed up new skills in the areas of gross motor, social/emotional or language development…Trust the infants’ abilities to initiate their own activities, choose from available objects and work on their own projects without interruption.
Free movement and exploration
Place very young babies on their stomachs…Place very young babies on their backs, where they can see and hear better, breathe with more ease, and be in the place of most mobility and stability.
Teach and encourage postures and means of locomotion which the infants are not yet able to do on their own, thus hampering free movement and exploration and sometimes creating bodily discomfortProvide appropriate, safe space for infants to initiate their own movements freely, without interference, thus helping them to feel comfortable, competent and self-reliant.
Sensitive observation
Focus on eliciting responses to their stimulation…Focus on observing the whole child, their reaction to the caregiving person, to the environment, and to peers, thus learning about the infant’s personality and needs. Infants find stimulation everywhere.
May swoop up an infant unexpectedly from behind, thereby startling and interrupting the infant, creating resistance…Always tell the infant before they do anything with the infant, thus more often getting cooperation.
Encouraging independence
Select and put objects/toys in the infant’s hands…Place the object/toys so that the infant must make an effort to reach and grasp. The child works towards what they want.
Encourage dependency by assuming an active role, such as “rescuing” crying infants immediately or solving their problems for them…Observe closely and wait a moment to see if the infants are capable of consoling themselves and finding their own solutions, thus encouraging autonomy.
Often use bottles and/or pacifiers to soothe a crying child, creating a false oral need for food and sucking…Accept a child’s right to show both positive and negative feelings. Educarers do not try to stop the crying, but rather they try to understand and attend to the child’s real needs, such as sleepiness, hunger, or cold. If the infant soothes himself by thumb-sucking, Educarers accept this as a positive self-comforting activity.
Infant-Infant interactions
Restrict infant-infant interactions (such as infants touching each other) for fear of their hurting one another…Facilitate interactions by closely observing in order to know when to intervene and when not to.
In a situation of conflict between infants, others resolve the problem by separating, distracting, or deciding who should have the toy or object in question…Offer impartial comments such as, “Both you, John, and you, Anne, want that toy.” Often after such comments, minor conflicts resolve themselves.
May become aggressive in controlling an “aggressor,” thereby reinforcing the aggressive behavior…Model appropriate behavior by touching the “aggressive” child gently and quietly saying something like, “Easy, gentle…”
May rush to pick up, to rescue, and to console the “victim” of the “aggressor”…Squat down, gently touch, and stroke the “victim” saying something like, “Gently now…” By concurrently stroking and talking to both the “victim” and the “aggressor,” Educarers model and console both children without reinforcing a pattern of becoming a “victim.”
Individualized Caregiving
Like to have more people or helpers in the room…Want to become the steady person to their own small group of about four infants.
May become exhausted from picking up one child and putting down another, as if extinguishing one fire after another…Calmly observe and can often prevent the “fire.”
RIE® Founder Magda Gerber speaking about RIE's name on morning talk show in the 1980's.