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There were many pioneers of Early Years education. We have been sharing the stories of a number of influential figures and today we are looking at Magda Gerber.

Who Was She?

Magda Gerber was an early childhood educator from the United States.  Born in Hungary, she was educated at the Sorbonne in Paris and eventually emigrated to the United States. She is best known for teaching both parents and caregivers how to understand babies and how to interact with them from birth.

She coined the terms Educaring® and Educarer® which refers to a parent or another caregiver and how they should both educate and care for the children they were looking after. Gerber was passionate about the care of infants and believed they should be guided to help them reach their full potential.

Many people originally dismissed her approach but gradually those in child development began to turn around to her way of thinking.

What Was Her Educational Theory?

Magda Gerber believed that babies are complete and competent beings from birth and should be treated as such. She believed that parents and caregivers should demonstrate their respect for the child in all interactions and treat them as human beings and not objects.

In the 1970’s, Gerber and Thomas Forrest co-founded the organisation Resources for Infant Educarers® (RIE®) in Los Angeles. The organisation is still around today and follows the principles of her approach. The RIE philosophy sees respect as a large component which stems from Emmi Pickler’s original methodology – someone who impressed Gerber and who she truly admired.

There are some basic principles to Gerber’s educational theory. These are:

  • A basic trust in the child to initiate, explore and self-learn
  • A physically safe, challenging and emotionally nurturing environment
  • Time for uninterrupted play
  • Freedom for exploration and interaction with other children
  • Involving the child in all care-giving activities and letting them participate
  • Observation of the child to better understand their needs
  • Consistency and limits and expectations so that the child can develop discipline

She believed that the goal should be to have an authentic child who feels secure and appreciated. Trust in the infant’s competence and allowing them to explore safely were all important parts of the theory.

What Was Her Contribution To Early Years Education?

Magda Gerber’s training tools are still used to educate infant teachers and Early Head Start teachers in the US to this day.  The RIE organisation has offered teacher training and teaching materials for many years, enabling families with infants and toddlers to benefit from her approach.

What Legacy Does She Leave?

The legacy she left is absolutely incredible. The RIE continues to offer classes for parents and their children, and the approach is now used all around the world with plenty of associates teaching and practicing across a number of continents.

Her work has been used in many professional journals and videos and she has plenty of published work that can be explored too.

The approach is still used to this day as it offers a kinder and gentler way of parenting than some other approaches and it enables teachers and other caregivers to care and educate too.