A Deepening Journey with Pikler®

“The joy of learning, by the way, does not always depend on the result. Trying something out without arriving at the goal can be as joyful an experience as a successful experiment. The moment itself brings joy and it would be difficult to decide in which instance the child learns the most ‘successful’ or ‘not successful’. These playful experiments are necessary parts and form the basis of future development.” – Dr. Emmi Pikler

Since 2007 I have been on a journey of deepening, of deepening my sensitivity and “tact” of deepening and widening the space inside myself. Of slowing down when I’m around children. Spaciousness and timelessness. Of noticing the quality of touch I use. Of deepening my trust and respect of each infant’s individuality and rate of development. This journey began when, in June of 2007, I first entered the doors of the Pikler® Institute in Budapest, Hungary. I was privileged that summer to be in the presence of such great teachers as Anna Tardos, Ute Strub, Eva Kallo, Gabriella Püspöki, Judith Falk, Maria Vincze. I was privileged also to be in Loczy—to sense what was practically emanating from the walls– deep thought and regard for infants and young children. Care giving that was so respectful it made me cry with gratitude that there is a place on this earth where baby humans are welcomed into this difficult earthly life with true warmth, care and respect.

Since that first summer, I have traveled to Budapest 2 more times and all over the US for training. In my own work as a birth to three parent child teacher and dance/movement psychotherapist, I have grown and profoundly increased my knowledge of early childhood development. I think I became a better  mother to my now two adult sons. At the core, though, it is really me as a person that has undergone the transformation. I am a better person, warmer, kinder, more respectful and more authentically me.

On this journey, I am honored to have the opportunity to be a Pikler® Pedagogue candidate.  But that will not be the destination, I will not be done. I will continue to deepen and broaden—to offer to others what I have internalized from my teachers.

I have profound gratitude to the Pikler Institute, to all my Pikler teachers and and colleagues in the journey. And for my luck or was it ‘destiny’ to discover this place. This has been and continues to be a journey of joyful learning.–Liz



Boundaries: How to help your child feel secure

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This post is mainly  my notes form a lecture given by Nancy Foster, a master Waldorf early childhood teacher and teacher trainer. She has given me permission to share these, and to embellish with my own thoughts. It’s long, but I think worth it to read…. Please let me know your thoughts!

We give children boundaries to strengthen a child’s  sense of security. If a little child grows up without appropriate boundaries, that child feels the effects throughout life. It’s like a premature baby who doesn’t get the full time in the protective womb. Boundaries are how we experience personal space. Skin is a boundary.

Boundaries are a loving gesture. Like a hug, an embrace. Young children need to be safely held physically, and with our love.

Rudolf Steiner said that the child has different needs at different developmental levels–from birth to age 7, the child needs to experience “the world is good”.  Boundaries are one of the things that let the child feel secure and that all is well–that the world is good.

Sometimes, we lose patience, we flounder around because we don’t know what to do. We stop and say ‘is this really me? Is this the best I can do?”

I can’t tell you which boundaries to set—it’s your family’s culture. Think of boundaries as a human embrace you want an embrace that is warm and protective but not restrictive. You have to consider the whole family—consider your own needs– it’s no good if you are feeling frazzled. I offer you 4 proverbs to guide us when working with children.

  1. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure (or a stitch in time saves nine).

You have clear expectations and can communicate them when you see something beginning to happen—not wait until it is a crisis.

You structure something so that it is not a problem. For instance giving small helpings at mealtimes.

Rhythm– every day has a particular flow from one activity to another.-This makes the child feel secure—they know what to expect. Regular rhythm avoids trouble as the child can ‘rest in the flow of time’ Its helps to just say “it’s time to go to bed” or “it’s time to wash your hands” instead of “I want you to wash your hands now” This takes it out of the personal power realm and into stating the rhythm.–if every day before dinner we wash hands, then there is a hand washing time—its just what happens—its in the flow of time.

  1. Out of the mouths of babes.

Children can teach you what they need. Not necessarily by what they say. Observe them—you will learn what they need. It is good to give them what they need even if they protest. For example, you observe that they are tired, but they are screaming that they don’t want to go to bed.

Our goal is not to seek for them to love us. They do love us. It is egotistical to seek their acceptance.

Observe your child. For example, through observation, you learn that a particular child doesn’t handle crowds very well. So you can then plan accordingly by avoiding as much as possible taking this child to big, crowded events.

Observe, then act.

  1. Honey catches more flies than vinegar.

Tell young children what to do, not what not to do. If you tell them to stop doing something, they are left empty—not knowing what to do. For example, a child who is helping stir cake batter suddenly starts waving the spoon around, and batter starts to fly. This is where the adult’s self discipline comes in– maybe our first reaction is wanting to say in a loud voice “stop! You’re making a mess!” But instead, we say in a firm, kind, but dispassionate tone: “the spoon is for stirring” then gently guide the spoon back into the bowl and stir with them a couple times.

“Lets” is a magic word here.. It is aligning yourself with the child. Then you do accompany the child. [You want to be on their side to accompany them on their journey –not putting yourself in opposition to them]. “Let’s put our hats on “ “Lets wash our hands” “lets have a nice rest”

Also, don’t wait to respond to your child until they are whining.

  1. As you sow, so shall you reap.

This has to do with being prepared. First of all, it is important to know what kind of seeds you’re planting, and what kind of blossoms you hope for.

Set aside some time each evening to review how things are going—what went well, when did you feel good? “Timmy was upset getting into his car seat again—he probably will tomorrow” So then you can plan for tomorrow. It feels better when you know you have a plan—you are on top of the situation—even if what you try doesn’t work. Then the next evening, you can say—“well that didn’t work, is it worth trying a few more times, or should I try something else?”

The benefit is that since you have a plan, you don’t lose your patience. That in itself helps because your child doesn’t feel you getting upset.

This kind of self discipline is a great example for your child.

Self discipline aligned with regular rhythm can help retain that feeling of warm embrace of boundaries.

  1. Bonus Proverb: Don’t cry over spilled milk.

It is your striving that really means the most to children. (Rudolf Steiner said this to the first Waldorf teachers) Don’t lament all your parenting mistakes, just keep striving to be better.

Picture an angelic image of your child sleeping peacefully. They feel totally secure and at peace. We as adults need the same feeling– to rest, feel taken care of.

If we hold a loving, peaceful image of our child before we go to sleep, we can wake up with an idea or inspiration of how to support them.

Notes on some of Nancy’s answers to parent questions:

Sometimes doing things the way you know is best and healthiest is so hard, we wonder if it is worth it. [For example, leaving the store immediately when the child is in a tantrum or otherwise ‘out of themselves'(eg: yelling, demanding, whining). This means we don’t get our shopping done, but it is best for the child—they are over stimulated.]

Concerning ‘melt downs’: They are out of themselves. There is nothing much you can say to a child in the middle of a tantrum. Some children you can pick up and hold tightly in your lap in the rocking chair. Other children need to be left alone.

One parent asked about respect. That a lot of psychologists are saying we need to talk to children to find out what they are feeling that this is respect.

Nancy said again they cant hear you, or speak about it when in tantrum, and then they are ready to move on.. it’s not good to bring them back to talking about it.

Liz’s 2 cents on this topic of respect:

I agree with Nancy that it is not fruitful to try to talk to or reason with a young child in the middle of a tantrum. An adult can show even more respect with non-verbal communication. Holding them and rocking them, or just accompanying them with our grounded presence helps them feel less out of control, and then they come back ‘into themselves’ we can move on to the next thing “now we can have our snack” or “now we can look at a book”. They may say something about the tantrum-listen don’t dig, or maybe you can say ‘I wonder what was so upsetting’ and wait to see if they say anything—listen and accept what they say if you dig for more information, it could prolong the upset. For them, the storm is over, the sun is out and all is well. It is your job as the adult to use your observations to discover the possible reasons for the tantrum.

Infant Toys, or “play objects”: a list of thoughts


“The best toy is 90% child, 10% toy.”–Joan Almon, founder of Alliance for Childhood.

“Passive toys make active babies, active toys make passive babies”–Magda Gerber founder of RIE

“The infant’s hands are the first play object”–Emmi Pikler MD, founder The Pikler Institute

“The first doll should be simple: a cloth with  knots tied for a head and hands” Rudolph Steiner, founder of Waldorf Education

What toys do babies need?

Birth to 4 months:(and beyond)

Connection to their primary caregiver through sensitive care giving– a dance of connection and communication!

A warm environment that is nourishing to the senses

  • physical warmth
  • soul warmth
  • time in nature–bird song, wind, dappled light of trees…
  • singing (real voices, not digital)
  • touch–plenty of time in arms of caregiver–some time on back on firm surface for free movement
  • Let her discover her hands–endless interest here!

A simple square of cloth–a cotton napkin–just on it’s own, or tied as above

starting at 3 months put some more things in piles around where you put the baby down on her back:

Here are a couple things I have in my classes:

links: Pikler ball

natural teething ball

light weight objects a baby can eventually get hold of

Here is a great post by Janet Landsbury on toys: Creative Toys engage babies





Fall 2016 Parent Infant & Toddler Classes Now enrolling



Silver Spring

Acorn Hill Waldorf Kindergarten and Nursery

Parent Infant I -For a parent and infant 6 weeks to creeping- Thursdays 11:30-12:45 Sept. 29-Dec. 8
Parent Infant II- Parent mobile babies and new walkers to 16 months Fridays 11:30-1:00 Sept. 30-Dec.9
Parent Toddler– Parent and Toddler 14 months (w/confident walking)- 2 years 3 months Choose:
  • Thursdays 9-11   OR
  • Fridays   9-11

September 22/23 to December 15/16


Washington Waldorf School

Moon Garden For parent and infant 6 weeks -9 months–Wed. 11:00- 12:15 Starts September 21

Star Garden Parent Toddler for parent and baby/toddler 10 months- 2 years  Starts September 20/21                    Choose:

Tuesday mornings 9:45-11:30 OR

Wednesday mornings 8:45-10:30

About the classes

My Parent Infant and Parent Toddler classes are based on insights about the young child   from Emmi Pikler, Magda Gerber, Rudolf Steiner, and Infant Observation community. I also highly value the individual parent’s ‘parenting intuition’ and work to strengthen that so a parent can make informed parenting choices based on good current research, along with  the observation of THIS child in front of her.

Each class begins with a quiet settling in and observation time. A time to just be, to let our babies and toddlers be, and to observe the unfolding of their natural development.  The environment is calming and nourishing to the senses with developmentally appropriate, natural materials. In this way we can learn about who this child is, and begin to unpack and sort our expectations/projections from the child’s self.  We have a circle time to learn simple songs , baby games and lullabies, and in the toddler classes, there is a snack and outdoor time.

About the teacher (me)

I am a board certified dance/movement therapist, a Waldorf Birth to Three specialist, a RIE® intern, and I have taken  level I and II, and advanced Pikler™ courses in Budapest (2007, 2010, 2016), and continue my Pikler™ studies. The focus of my work is in supporting free, self initiated movement within a secure, warm, consistent relationship. I am currently enrolled in the Infant Observation Seminar at the Washington School of Psychiatry.

RIE® Foundations in DC this June!

With Ruth Anne Hammond -June 20-July 1

Are you having a baby, work in the care giving profession with any age group (babies, the elderly) or just curious about learning more about children ages birth-age 2 and what respectful interactions look like with babies and toddlers? There is an awesome opportunity to participate in a RIE foundations course this summer here in DC. See below for more info. and message me if you’d like to hear more about it. For more info. on RIE, you can check out their website rie.org

The course provides an overview of the Educaring® Approach including psycho-motor, fine motor, social- emotional development of the infant, designing the environment, planning the curriculum, and issues in parenting. This course is designed to enhance the skills and competencies of parents and professionals who work in the field of infant care, teach in a college environment, work with parents, or train students in infant care and development. Participants will actively learn about Magda Gerber’s Educaring®

Approach through lectures, videos, discussions, observations, reading and writing. Each student will be mentored according to his or her goals and background.

Cost: $1395

Trainer: Ruth Anne Hammond is a RIE AssociateTM who trained under Magda Gerber and is the author of Respecting Babies: A New Look at Magda Gerber’s RIE Approach (Zero to Three 2009).

About RIE® and the Educaring® Approach:
Resources for Infant Educarers® (RIE®) was founded in 1978 by infant specialist and educator Magda Gerber and pediatric neurologist Tom Forrest, M.D. RIE is an international, non-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality of infant care and education around the globe.
Through our approach which honors infants and young children as equal members in relationships, we are dedicated to creating a culture of people who are authentic, resourceful and respectful. Our work is inspired by the natural integrity of infants and the formative power of relationships in their lives. When allowed to unfold in their own way and in their own time, children discover, manifest and inspire the best in themselves and in others. We are profoundly committed to sharing the opportunity to see infants with new eyes.

Laughing at/laughing with

IMG_0330Here is a something I wrote awhile ago, but the topic came up again in one of my Parent Infant classes, so I thought I’d share it again..
I was recently with a group of toddlers and their parents when a couple toddlers had an exchange that was quite ‘cute’  we all chuckled, and the volume of our combined voices really shocked one toddler, who started crying, and the other toddler switched into ‘performance mode’; she started smiling up at all the adult faces with what looked like her ‘picture’ smile.  None of us meant to be so jarring, but there you are, we were.  It made me remember what one of my teachers from the Pikler Institute said last time I saw her: ‘Never laugh at a child.  It is disrespectful’
So I have been pondering this-along with what I know from Waldorf Early childhood education—that joy actually helps young children grow…
So this is where I am with it at this point—I would love to hear your comments!
Yes, we need to take toddlers seriously as they explore and learn about the world, but we don’t need to surround them with somber seriousness…. I have been thinking recently about the idea in Waldorf early childhood education that young children need to be in an atmosphere of joy.  A buoyant environment where adults are not dragged down by the weight of the world, or the seriousness of life.  Warmth and joy (along with a predictable regular rhythm of the day) are life giving and protective, and make children feel safe and free enough to grow and thrive.  So while it is true that we don’t want our little ones to feel like objects, or to need our approval, (extrinsic motivation) we do want to accompany them in the joy of discovery and the joy of life–we can laugh with them.
I keep trying to convey the pleasure every parent and teacher could feel while observing, appreciating and enjoying what the infant is doing. This attitude would change our educational climate from worry to joy. Can anybody argue about the benefits for a child who is appreciated and enjoyed for what she can do and does naturally? …I believe this issue is so basic, so important, that it cannot be overstated.” – Magda Gerber