The Magda Gerber Philosophy (RIE) and the Regio Emilia approach

Monday 28 June 2021, 1:59PM
By Adam Jay

When it comes to pre-school education, there are a lot of different principles and approaches. The Magda Gerber Philosophy (RIE) and Regio Emilia approaches are two examples that work in conjunction with one another. Both approaches centre around parents, teachers and children working together to support the education of the child. Here is a deeper dive into the principles of both the RIE and Regio Emilia approaches. 


What is the Magda Gerber Philosophy (RIE)? 

The Magda Gerber Philosophy is also known as RIE (pronounced “rye”), which stands for ‘Resources for Infant Education. It was founded in 1978 by Magda Gerber, a Hungarian immigrant and childhood educator living in Los Angeles. 

According to Gerber, parents and caregivers should have respect for children as they can understand the world around them. They learn and flourish if given space and freedom from the adult direction. The ultimate goal of RIE is to nurture what’s referred to as an “authentic” child, meaning children should move about in their daily life feeling secure, competent, autonomous and connected to their environment. 


What are the principles?

Gerber outlines the following principles of RIE:

Provide a safe environment

It’s important to foster a safe environment for children as it allows them to move about naturally without too many restrictions. Beyond standard baby-proofing, this means paying attention to their emotional and cognitive needs when it comes to things like toys.


Allow time for uninterrupted play

The focus is on giving children opportunities to play alone and uninterrupted by caregivers. 


Involve the child in their care

RIE requires caregivers to have the child actively participate in their care, such as bath time, diaper change and feeding. How can a baby help with these tasks you may ask? At first, the process is about clear communication. Letting them know that you’re going to change their diaper, or bathe them and what the process involves is important. As they get older, you can involve them by giving them small tasks such as getting diapers and wipes and undressing.


Observe the child and understand their needs

This requires the caregiver to watch and listen to the child to discover their needs, for example letting them cry to find out what’s wrong. The idea behind this is that caregivers will see a tremendous amount of change and learning in the first two to three years of a child’s life. 


Be consistent in everything you do

This principle has the most overarching importance. Consistency creates clearly defined limits and expectations which ultimately leads to discipline. 


What is the Regio Emilia approach?

The Reggio Emilia approach to education was developed after World War Two by a teacher named Loris Malaguzzi. He opened the first Reggio Emilia preschool in 1963 and the approach has since evolved and gained popularity in the UK and around the world. 


What are the Regio Emilia principles? 

There are seven guiding principles to the Regio Emilia approach:


Children are capable of constructing their learning

In Reggio Emilia, children are the pioneers of their learning process. They should be treated as an active collaborator in their education, rather than passive observers.


Children are collaborators and learn through interaction within their communities

Learning is based on interrelationships. This means having closer interactions between teachers, parents and children and working in small groups rather than independently.

Children are natural communicators and should be encouraged to express themselves however they feel they can

Children should be encouraged to communicate through whatever means they can, such as words, movement, drawings, paintings and buildings. They should be encouraged to use as many of these as they can for discovery, communication and even demonstration of what they understand, feel, question or imagine. 


Parents are partners in education

Reggio Emilia sees parental participation in their child’s education as a critical component of the learning philosophy. Parents are very valuable in every Reggio community and are positioned as "the second teacher". 


The classroom environment acts as a "third teacher”

It is important to build a classroom environment that acts as a "living organism" where children, parents and teachers come together and collaborate. Classrooms should also use natural furnishing to encourage real-life interactions.

Teachers are partners, nurturers, and guides who help facilitate the exploration of children’s interests 

Reggio Emilia believes that teachers are partners in the learning process. Teachers should listen, observe, question and seek opportunities to encourage further exploration of children's interests and they should allow projects to emerge based on this. 


Documentation is a critical component of communication

Teachers should document the learning process within the classroom. They may take photos and videos to better understand the children and assist parents in becoming more aware of what their children are doing. This also allows a child to finish their pre-school experience with a portfolio of projects, pictures, scripts and quotes which represents the steps they’ve made throughout their pre-school education.