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A Childcare Provider's Guide to Implementing the RIE® Method

Foster independence and self-reliance in children through the RIE® method. Learn about the pros and cons of this method and how to apply the practices in an early childhood education setting.

A Childcare Provider's Guide to Implementing the RIE® Method

A Childcare Provider's Guide to Implementing the RIE® Method

Childcare providers are responsible for ensuring the safety and well-being of the children in their care. Therefore, early childhood education is an essential factor that contributes to the growth and development of young children.

In recent years, one particular approach, the RIE® method, has been growing in popularity, focusing on improving the lives of infants and toddlers through respectful care. This article will discuss the RIE® method, its pros and cons, how to apply it in early childhood education, and training opportunities.

What is the RIE® method?

The RIE® method is a child-rearing philosophy developed by Magda Gerber, an educator who founded the Resources for Infant Educarers (RIE)® organization. RIE® (pronounced “rye”) can be used by parents and professional caregivers and emphasizes the importance of respectful caregiving and relationship-based interactions with infants and children up to three years old. It is based on the belief that children can learn and participate in their own care and that caregivers should provide a safe and predictable environment that fosters exploration and independent thinking. 

The RIE® approach focuses on respectful caregiving, emphasizing the importance of treating children with dignity, patience, and trust. It also aims to create a relationship-based caregiving approach that promotes the development of children's autonomy and self-reliance. Additionally, it encourages reflective observation, where caregivers observe children without interruption, judgment, or interpretation. 

The ultimate goal is to nurture an "authentic" child, meaning they can go about their daily lives feeling competent, secure, autonomous, and connected to their environment. Many parents and caregivers find the approach helps establish a connection between them and the child in their care.

Teacher helping toddler stack colorful legosSource

Pros and cons of the RIE® method

Like any philosophy or method, the RIE® approach has advantages and disadvantages. 

Some of the advantages of the RIE® method include:

Fosters independence

The RIE® method promotes the development of children's autonomy and self-regulation. Children learn to make choices, problem-solve, and take risks, which are essential life skills. Parents and caregivers support them by creating a safe space for play and exploration, ultimately empowering them to explore their feelings, learn independently, and experience new things while knowing they have support when they need it.

Improves communication skills 

The method emphasizes the importance of verbal and non-verbal communication to promote understanding and connection between caregivers and children. Parents and caregivers communicate effectively with the child by asking permission to do certain things, explaining what's happening in situations, and supporting the child when they need help. Modeling this behavior enables the child to communicate similarly when they're older.

Accelerates development

Children often pick up gross motor skills more quickly and independently through this approach. They can explore their environment through movements such as crawling, walking, and running as they go through self-directed play.

More vivid imagination

RIE® methods can help stimulate a child's imagination through hands-on opportunities. Instead of learning through lessons and books, the child learns from their surroundings. This can include music, arts and crafts, exercise, and other creative activities.

Respectful caregiving

The RIE® method highlights treating children with respect and dignity. This approach promotes the development of secure relationships essential for healthy emotional and social development.

Consistency

This childcare approach focuses on the importance of consistent caregiving. Children thrive in predictable environments where they know what to expect.

Some of the potential disadvantages of the RIE® method include:

Less physical connection

Because the RIE® method focuses on independence and self-reliance, children are often left to self-soothe and cry out their feelings. With less touching and cradling, they don't feel as safe or at ease and lack comfort from their caregiver.

Failure to meet developmental milestones

Since the method relies less on lesson plans and is less rigid, parents and caregivers don't assign goals or deadlines to the child's development. While they may grow in one area, such as motor skills development, they may be behind in other areas without regular preschooling.

As an educator, it's important to track each child's progress and provide families with updates to identify areas where they may be falling behind. Brightwheel's daily activity report feature is a great way to record their progress and build their learning portfolio.

Requires a lot of patience

Certain RIE® techniques, like not responding to a child’s every behavior, including crying, can require a lot of patience from parents and caregivers. In addition, asking permission from a child to do certain things like change a diaper or brush their teeth, can sometimes be met with resistance from the child, which can be extra challenging for parents. 

Too much free time

Since this method is more relaxed and involves the freedom of exploration with no set timelines, children may become less productive and too relaxed. Over time they may not understand setting goals or acknowledging timelines.

Toddler playing with wooden puzzle.Source

How to apply the RIE® method in an early education setting

The RIE® method can be implemented in any early education setting. Here are some tips for applying it in the classroom:

Create a safe environment

Since the RIE® method allows for exploration and independence, children need an environment that allows them to move around naturally without many restrictions. It must be safe from hazards and meet their emotional and cognitive needs, including age-appropriate toys and furniture.

Observe without judgment

The RIE® approach emphasizes the importance of observing children without interruption or judgment. Take the time to observe children's behavior and interactions to gain insight into their development. Let them know that you're there to help if they need you.

Involve them in their own care

Effective communication is a key element of the RIE® method. As you care for a child, speak to them calmly as you communicate your processes and plans. For example, if they need a diaper change, tell them you're about to pick them up and change them.

As they get older, include them in the plans and processes by giving them small tasks to complete or offering choices on what they’ll do, such as asking, “Do you want to have story time, or do you want to do arts and crafts?”

Encourage exploration

Create a safe and predictable environment that encourages exploration and independent thinking.

Foster independence and solo play

Encourage children to make choices and problem-solve on their own. This can be as simple as allowing children to choose their own activities or clothing.

Provide consistent care

Create a consistent caregiving routine that children can rely on. This can include consistent meal and nap times, as well as consistent expectations for behavior.

Educare training on the RIE® method

The RIE® organization offers several Educare® training opportunities for professional caregivers. These developmental courses are designed to improve their skills and competencies revolving around caring for children and training others in infant care and development. The program includes online courses, in-person workshops, and mentoring opportunities, providing educators with various resources and support to implement the RIE® approach in their classrooms.

Educare® training also includes options for ongoing professional development and collaboration with other early childhood educators, promoting a community of learning and growth.

Other RIE® training opportunities, such as the RIE® Foundations Course through the Respectful Caregiving organization, are available. This RIE-certified course implements the Educaring® Approach through lectures, reflections, videos, discussions, observations, and in-person and online readings. Tuition is $1,395, and there is need-based financial assistance available.

Bringing the RIE® method to your classroom

The RIE® method is a great way to promote relationship-based interactions with infants and children. While it has disadvantages, the advantages can help children develop gross motor skills while instilling the importance of effective communication, trust, independence, and self-reliance. Ultimately, the RIE® method can benefit early childhood education and caregiving.


Brightwheel is the complete solution for early education providers, enabling you to streamline your center’s operations and build a stand-out reputation. Brightwheel connects the most critical aspects of running your center—including sign in and out, parent communications, tuition billing, and licensing and compliance—in one easy-to-use tool, along with providing best-in-class customer support and coaching. Brightwheel is trusted by thousands of early education centers and millions of parents. Learn more at mybrightwheel.com.

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