The Pikler Approach
Emmi Pikler (1902 -1984) was born in Vienna and studied medicine there, where she encountered and worked with two innovative paediatricians of that time. During her studies, in the accident statistics, she noticed that children of lower-class families who played out on the street had fewer fractures and concussions in comparison to children of well-to-do families who were kept inside under the careful watch of a governess. Emmi Pikler also noted, when looking further into ways children were being raised from a physical perspective, that children across all social classes were being assisted, sat, propped, and walked. When, in 1931, she became a mother herself, together with her husband that also held progressive pedagogical views, they decided not to force their daughter’s development with exercises, by propping her to sit or by steading her to walk. They allowed plenty of space and time for her physical development to unfold naturally through freedom of movement and independent play. In 1935, after moving to Budapest, she qualified as a paediatrician and set up a private paediatric practice and worked closely with parents of babies and young children. Through her innovative ideas and weekly visits, she supported parents to build a trusting relationship with their children, notice their competence and allow time for natural development.
After the II World War, she set up an orphanage for abandoned or orphan children from 0-3 years old. Emmi Pikler was able to implement her approach to early childhood care on a large scale. She observed and documented for decades how children’s motor development unfolds naturally without an adult’s direct interference when a secure-trusting relationship is built between the carer and infant. This orphanage, known as Lóczy, is today home to the Lóczy Street Daycare Center, Pikler Parent-child groups, and to highly skilled professionals who not only deliver Pikler Training but also train trainers.
The Pikler Approach recognizes, therefore, the importance of a kind and respectful relationship between the adult and infant/young child for their overall well-being and physical and emotional development. It places great importance in the care tender moments, particularly during times of bodily care like feeding, changing, and bathing. During these moments the infant/young child is invited to be an active partner who can contribute to the event and influence the relationship. This means that all the aspects of the care routine are carried out ‘with’ and not done ‘to’ the infant/young child. Through these focused and gentle moments of care, a secure attachment is established, and the baby gains the confidence she needs to explore her bodily movements freely and the environment without interruption from the adult.
Rudolf Steiner (1861 – 1925) was an innovative academic born in Austria whose ideas founded the basis of Anthroposophy. He applied his ideas to education as well as agriculture, medicine, architecture, and social reform.
The first Waldorf school was opened in 1919, when Emil Molt, the managing director at the Waldorf-Astoria cigarette factory, asked Rudolf Steiner to found and lead a school for his workers' children.
Waldorf education, also known as Steiner education, is based on his anthroposophical view of human development and aims to inspire life-long learning in all children and fully develop their unique capacities.
According to Rudolf Steiner, there are seven-year life cycles, and the broad principles of child development unfold in the first three cycles - 0-7; 7-14; 14-21. Each child's developmental phase has a particular set of physical, emotional, and intellectual characteristics which require a specific educational response in return.
In the first seven years, occurs the greatest physical growth and development. Gradually, children conquer their own bodies, learn to master and adapt it to their own individuality. They learn about the people and world around them. During this period, children’s primary mode of learning is through doing and experiencing. Children learn through movement, repetition, and imitating everything around them. It is through this experimental, self-motivated physical activity that is done, over and over again, that children ‘grasp’ the world with their entire being and understand it. This understanding of the world through ‘doing’ is an essential prerequisite for the later activity of grasping the world through concepts. Children are also like an open sensorial-organ that absorbs everything around them and therefore, their senses need protection.
With this understanding, life around children is simple and based on the practical and meaningful activities of daily life in a beautiful, peaceful and creative environment. Children are welcome to take part in the activities but not required to help. Adults offer themselves as an example rather than an instructor and hope to be an inspiration for children to become independently active, finding their own learning situations in play. For this reason, one of the most important tasks that Rudolf Steiner places on the adults is that they become very conscious of themselves so they can be worthy of children’s unquestioning imitation. Rhythm and repetition are two educational principles as they give structure and form to each child’s daily life and enable them to feel safe, secure and to know where they are in the world.
I believe that together with you, and inspired by these two approaches, we can offer the protection and respect for the dignity of childhood and lay the foundations for your child’s later learning and healthy development, including life-long physical, social, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual growth.