An Open Letter on Child Care

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This letter appeared in my inbox the other day and I thought it was so wonderful I asked if I could share it.  I have worked in daycares and as a nanny and I’ve seen some of the things Helen speaks of.  It is so important that we understand how the care we provide for our children either ourselves or via others will impact them for their entire life.  This is a beautiful reminder of that.

Dear Tracy,

I am quite overwhelmed by reading your first ‘sleep lesson’ post and will pass on the link to parents who need our support.

I so believe in what you write about. I have only recently subscribed to your blog and commented today on your wonderful interview with Dr. Darcia Narvaez.

I am a ‘recovering daycare worker’(!) and as such have become distressingly obsessed with the many instances of profound neglect I have observed.

Before I worked for four years in a Montessori daycare with infants and toddlers I’d educated both my sons from birth to 18 – probably beyond that age since learning together is more of a lifestyle thing for us. Plus given family care one-on-one to the infants of working parents.

The permanent affects, good and bad, of early care on babies and young children is something that is largely missed in the world of academic research on the subject.

With due respect to you, your research and studies, I think too few people have worked in early childhood care for any length of time before conducting research on the subject. Most of our theories are correct as far as my experience tells me but the lack of knowledge and implementation of those theories out in the real world of early care, be it with parents, families or daycare workers has proved to be worse than I initially thought. By my calculations – based on more than 50 families I’ve observed over twenty+ years – only about 20% of children are on what used to be a true neurotypical developmental trajectory.

The impoverished nature of teacher training – most particularly Montessori training here in the US (often just six weeks of residential training!) – has much to answer for. Even my own three years of British teacher training for the 3-7s had severe limitations and certainly didn’t in any way prepare me for the numerous children with (mostly undiagnosed) developmental delays I’ve worked with. My list is inordinately long, sad to say.

Experienced early care colleagues in England, now running mother and baby classes, have told me that they are reluctant to even suggest that a child might show signs of having a delay. And yet even the Early Start Denver Model for autism treatment promotes early delivery of their program – certainly well before three years of age if any good is to come of it.

I still do not believe that the Montessori Primary class practice of a three-hour work period is necessarily good for a child who is speech delayed. No amount of speech therapy once a week will rectify five mornings a week at school for 3½ years where you are rarely spoken to!

Our family successfully incorporated caring for one baby at a time into our home education program – what a lovely learning experience for our sons in their elementary years not to mention the warmth the babies felt being lovingly cared for. Our sons learned about early care and at the same time how their young cousins overseas might be growing up. I can now say that ‘our’ babies grew to be healthy, responsible and wholesome adults.

Then in 2001 I started caring for a friend’s 18 month-old granddaughter, P., in the child’s home. This was the first child I’d cared for outside my own home environment and the only one I’d known to appear to have developmental delays/issues: panic attacks at any sudden sounds, couldn’t be held, no communication skills (except for the panic attacks), a tuned out/glazed eyed thumb sucker at mom’s appointed nap time – it was a long litany of astonishing missing puzzle pieces.

I started studying, every day. What could be the cause, what was P. suffering from, and furthermore, what could I do to improve the quality of her life?

As I observed nuclear and extended family interactions with the child and had limited conversations with the family (quite telling really!) I started to build a picture of her first 18 months.

At first glance I thought I was seeing an autistic child for the first time, then over time I suspected it was some type of attachment disorder. Neither of these conditions was particularly covered in my three year British teacher training course in the early 70s, although I know John Bowlby’s books were on our reading list – they actually make more sense now that I’ve got 35 years of early childhood care experience under my belt!

Suffice it to say I learned so much from working with little P. I learned to have even greater patience and flexibility than the primary skills that took me into caring for little ones 40 years ago.

I went slowly and communicated every detail of what we were doing and what was happening around us. The information I obtained from her family included:

“My child never crawled” – so we played crawling games and I never used the activity center she was regularly in while her parents were home. We always played together on the floor.

“My child doesn’t watch TV” – yet ‘educational’ TV or a Disney DVD was on every day when I arrived. So my rule became “No TV while Helen’s here”.

“You can’t change her diaper, she won’t let you” – so I worked out how to make her feel comfortable for a diaper change – standing up looking out the window worked very well!

I introduced foods she’d never seen before like yogurt and apples – which prompted language, at last. Mom did start to buy the foods I suggested. P. also learned turn taking skills when using a spoon or a fork at mealtimes. We spread newspaper on the kitchen floor and blew bubbles together; ‘bubble’ and ‘apple’ are such lovely first words that roll off the tongue!

P. had beautifully healthy brown hair but no one seemed to brush it so as a way to ‘touch’ her gently I instituted a once a day hair brushing session – slow and deliberate, talking to her all the time. It worked.

We started exploring the neighborhood on our daily walks, admiring the plants and birds, ‘Stop’ signs, everything we saw – labeling everything with its proper name. Taking the time to look at the colors of the flowers and how the birds walked and ate, always stopping at Stop signs; not just walking by.

It was so exciting to hear her say “Ibis, Daddy, ibis” one day when the flock of ibis we’d seen every day on our walk was feeding in her back yard! Dad’s response to his non-talking daughter? “Uh huh”. Very telling! I was thrilled the day P. discovered the power of the word ‘Wait’ when she yelled at me to stop before leaving for the day! Another lovely and useful language tool.

When P. was age five the family impulsively moved away. Finally raising my hourly rate after three years of work, just a couple of weeks beforehand (hindsight), but still not telling me the truth about the impending move; they ensured I stayed working for them.

The second child, three years old (with no developmental delays – because she’d mostly been cared for by me? Continuity of care?), very perceptively told me just before they left “I’m never going to see you again”. I had to promise that I would always be her friend and we would exchange cards.

Suddenly they were gone!

Two months later they returned briefly and I went to spend time with the girls. P. put her head on my lap for the very first time (the closest we’d ever come to a comforting hug in over three years!) and asked, “Will you be my mommy?” What was I supposed to say?

I told her ‘no’ because ‘she had a wonderful mommy’ – she just cried and cried. I lied, and lied some more!

However, with continuity of care (in my opinion the big missing piece in the daycare puzzle and in this case the child’s developmental puzzle) she made sufficient wholesome progress in her three years with me (25 hours a week was all it took) to be mainstreamed into Kindergarten and at age eight she was admitted to her school’s gifted program.

My work was done.

As a daycare worker (an even longer story as to why I was working part-time in a daycare) the lack of knowledge of continuity of care by staff and parents just boggled my mind. I stayed in the job at the Montessori daycare for four years simply because of my belief in continuity of care. I stayed way beyond the time that was healthy for me.

Change in the school’s philosophy just wasn’t possible. Tight swaddling of every crying baby was the order of the day in the Infant program where I mostly worked because of my love for the age group. Children who cried too much weren’t the staff favorites obviously, but I’m drawn to reassuring anxious children so I took on the ‘worst’ of them and we got along fine.

Swaddling horrified me – I’d never swaddled a baby in my life. I now know swaddling can be gently and appropriately done to ensure no damage to a baby’s hips and joints (never mind what swaddling does to their psyche!), but I’m still not in favor of it.

Could this really be Montessori’s way? Of course it wasn’t – it was Montessori’s way misinterpreted for the American market and the convenience of working parents and profiteering on the part of the daycare owners.

My parting words were “Don’t break the babies”. Just one or two staff members knew what I meant; the others were oblivious.

After I left I read even more prolifically the work of researchers in the world of early childhood. The majority seems to have had little or no experience working full time in daycare programs so in my mind they are still basing their work on old theories, some of which are their own!

The realities of modern daycare life are unimaginable, even a Montessori facility (were you aware that no one owns or truly monitors the Montessori name here in the US?). I think the only way research can be conducted into the effects of daycare is by a participant observer and they probably need to work undercover for several years in a facility to get the full picture. A 90% staff turnover can’t be good for any child, can it?

I am now convinced that many instances of autism and developmental delays all began with early care and early carers, even when those carers are related to the child. Unless you’ve seen a child gentled through their trauma and anxiety you cannot understand the extent to which tender, kind and slow care by one or two special people makes a world of difference and improvement in a child’s development.

A casual approach to early care of any sort is no better than letting your child cry it out. How many times have you heard parents say “They always cry when they start…daycare/kindergarten” REALLY? It doesn’t have to happen!

Thank you for listening. My story is long and my care experiences range from infants to elderly people (up to 104) with Alzheimer’s, related and unrelated, institutionalized and not. The same sort of care applies and works well across the ages.

I look forward to reading more of your past posts and keeping up with everything you write in the future.


About Helen:  I am English by birth and education, and have lived in Florida since my marriage in 1972. I arrived in the US as a British trained teacher of the 3-7s. From the mid-1980’s I educated both our sons at home (they are now 35 and 32; our youngest son is 100% home educated, the oldest spent one year in a US school). I have worked as an early care specialist in various environments and remain an avid researcher of the causes of developmental delays and the impoverished state of early care.  I improved my oldest son’s health from age 2, largely through dietary measures. In 1999 with our home-educated sons I fought to rehab my husband from devastating surgery using many of the same skills we’d all learned together. I contributed to my mother’s at-home care in her 90s and other people’s elderly parents, plus Down’s Syndrome adults and children, in the same way.  To pass on my 40 years of knowledge I started a weekly mum & baby/nanny & baby class in September 2012, called Bradwell Baby Cottage. My goal is to embody all that I know and have experienced to bring kinder and gentler care to babies. Plus provide a very necessary open support group for the adults involved – it works!  My list of educational heroes/mentors I’ve vicariously learned from is too long to mention here. My hobbies are reading and gardening and, despite rarely being on the water, I still consider myself a sailor at heart! We are passionate supporters of our sons’ hobby of singing barbershop harmony!  I love spending time with our 3 month-old granddaughter, who has already given me opportunities to learn more, including reminding me to hum her favourite barbershop tune at every opportunity!


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  1. Beth says

    I fear for my child sometimes, being in daycare as I am a single, working mother. But, she only goes to actual daycare one day a week, and the rest of the time is spent with family.

    I did enjoy the horror at swaddling! I could not figure the damn swaddling folding method at home, and had only one zip up swaddling gown, so my lil has not been swaddled. And she does okay without, I believe.

  2. says

    This letter felt like an arrow through my heart. I know those children Helen speaks of. I know them and I watch them and I feel powerless to help them.

    My own experience of working in day care (for less than six months– I just could not keep going to that place!) in my mid-20s is what convinced me that I would have to move heaven and earth to stay home with my twin boys when they were born.

    Now I work at my boys’ preschool where my mother is the director. It is a happy, play-based place with emergent curriculum and the children are all loved. But it is only three hours a day, four days a week, and it is only for ages 18 months and up. Who is taking care of the babies?

  3. Jayne says

    OMG I just took my son (2 years) to a Montessori Daycare here in Australia. Having heard for years that this method is one of the best, I was excited that my son had been accepted! I can’t believe how wrong I was!!! My husband picked it straight away, but I persisted, thinking that having time away from me would be a good developmental step for my son. Within an hour of orientation, my son was reprimanded 3 times (‘touching’ another child’s bag – it had Lightening McQueen on it & he was showing me!), ‘playing’ with a ‘learning tool’ – a toy plane on a tray!! & refusing to sit at the table with the other children whilst they ate & he watched!! I refuse to see how these scenarios ‘educate’ a child, particularly when the educator didn’t even introduce herself to my child prior to reprimanding him nor try to include him in the daily activities! He was supposed to start in this class next year….where was the ‘orientation’? All I could envisage was my child sitting in the corner crying for me all day, without a single gentle word spoken to him – exactly like a 2 year old girl in the classroom that day, who was left to sob on the mat on her own for an hour!! When I decided after the hour that I had seen enough & said to the Director that I didn’t think it was for us, her reply was ‘no we didn’t think it would suit him…he needs a more play-based daycare’!!!! All I could think was ‘you’re right! All of those poor lifeless looking children need a play-based, caring, friendly environment, not this quiet, intimidating, detached environment!!’ It was so sad :(((( something should be done before more children are ‘broken’ as this letter’s author notes!! It’s a disgrace!

  4. Jen says

    As a working mom who has no choice but to rely on daycare, I must emphasize that there ARE great options out there for those who need it. There are also terrible ones and a ton in between. Unfortunately, the best ones are harder to find and very expensive. The amount we pay for two kids in daycare is mind boggling… However, after experiencing a few options out there, I know they are in a wonderful environment that provides additional resources that only a school could, and if they need to be in daycare then I am definitely going to pay for the best I can find. They both are thriving there and I love hearing about their day. They have continuity of care well beyond their teachers at school: their loving and very devoted parents!!! The tone of this article was somewhat offensive at times!

    And…to this statement..”I am now convinced that many instances of autism and developmental delays all began with early care and early carers, even when those carers are related to the child. “..WOW, you have to be kidding right? Way to place the blame for a child with ASD on parenting. As a mom to a kid born with some special needs, this is so far off the mark that I don’t even know where to begin. ASD is a neurological disorder, as are the vast majority of developmental delays. The journey of a family with a child who is not neurotypical is intense and difficult and emotional, and the last thing they need is a daycare worker trying to blame them for causing their child’s autism or delays. To even imply that could be a cause is so off-putting and just shows a major lack of understanding of what autism is and looks like. Poor care givers and parenting may lead to other emotional/psychological issues and attachment disorders, but not autism. Not even close.

    • Helen Rubin says

      Jen – I have spent several days mulling over your comments and drafting this response, so please know that this is not impulsively written.

      I don’t know where you live but I’ve had personal feedback from users of many of our local daycares and I now don’t have one I can recommend. I totally understand the needs of the working parent and have on many occasions been ‘the daycare worker’ who stayed late to be with a child whose parent may, or may not, have advised us that they would be late for pickup. My responsibility was to care for the child until the handover to the parent. I often remained alone in the school with the last child. The owner never enforced late fees so I had nothing to gain financially; I just viewed what I did as my professional responsibility.

      I’m so glad for you that you’ve found a place you can entrust your children to. However, simply thinking that ‘paying for the best’ guarantees ‘the best’ is not necessarily always the case, as I wrote in my original post. $1200 a month for infant group care is very expensive.

      It is vital to understand that many children now spend 50 hours a week in daycare and also that parents frequently hope to go out at the weekends and then hire ‘a babysitter’. For me that largely puts the parents on the back seat as regards ‘continuity of care’, unless they and the daycare and the babysitter are all totally on the same page.

      I am sorry to hear that one of your children has special needs – always a challenge. We thought that our youngest son might have had a speech delay – but it turns out (now that he’s 32) he simply doesn’t think like everyone else! Fortunately we educated him (and his brother) at home and so he learned all he knows totally at his own pace. No sign of speech delay that’s for sure.

      I don’t know your child’s specific ‘special need’ but I do know that I have seen too many developmental anomalies (the increase is well documented; Tracy probably has that information closer to hand) associated with the specifics of mothercare, familycare or daycare, not to attribute some of those anomalies to care styles. Had our youngest son gone to daycare or school he would have been consigned to a special needs classroom and would never have accomplished what he has done in life thus far. In my opinion a teacher would have negatively affected his development.

      I’ve encountered many young children with developmental delays that I thought might be signs of autism (a parent in the daycare even described their son’s behavior at home and asked me if I thought he had autism – so I wasn’t the only one who was suspicious, but I did observe his behavior while in care and I know how he was neglected in the daycare when I wasn’t around!). I then worked very hard (especially with P) to avert such a diagnosis – successfully. I would not be suggesting that it was caregiving style that contributed to the delays had I not had these experiences.

      You write: ‘…the last thing they need is a daycare worker trying to blame them for causing their child’s autism or delays’.

      To be referred to as ‘a daycare worker’ is very offensive…to me. I’ve spent 40 years ‘on the caregiving job’ (between my real UK teacher training and practicums, caring for children in their homes and mine, and in two Montessori daycares, children with and without developmental and speech delays – not forgetting the number of adults, with and without Alzheimers up to age 104, I’ve cared for too!). I think I put most of that in my bio though – perhaps you’ll take time to read it at the bottom of my original post?

      I’ve been a participant observer researcher in so many different situations – I believe that is what gives me the right (the obligation) to make my comments. I’ve been formally trained in a far more extensive way than most AMS Montessori teachers (six weeks training, then an on the job practicum – if you’re very lucky you are properly supervised, counseled and evaluated by an experienced Montessori teacher – you probably won’t be paid).

      You must be aware that ‘daycare workers’ are notoriously poorly paid so when you find one who is passionate about their work, despite their poor pay, then I suggest you recognize and appreciate them – not with money or gifts, simply with great respect! Otherwise you are treating us like slaves! I can’t tell you how many times I came home feeling like I’d done a day of thankless slave labour when I worked in that expensive Montessori daycare.

      Why would you even dream of consigning your beloved child to a facility that employs people you refer to as just ‘daycare workers’?

      Did you hear about the family that maxed out their credit cards to take their young autistic child to Outer Mongolia to see the shamans and ride their horses? The boy loved to ride borrowed horses at home in Texas before they took their trip. I suggested to the boy’s mother that it might have been cheaper to have bought him a horse and stayed home – she was as angry as you were in your comment and signed off her tirade with the litany of academic qualifications she has, and her personal website – I think it was on ‘compassion’ – yikes!.

      Should I say that the boy’s father, a journalist/adventurer, then wrote a book and produced a documentary about their Outer Mongolia experience and they now have a foundation that…provides horses to ride to children with autism here in the US. No further news on the current status of their child, but we surely know about the parents’ exploits.

      This past w/end I was in the company of a friend, in her late 30s, career mom – she’s worked very hard to get where she is, we’ve been with her all the way. Her daughter has shown signs of developmental delays since her earliest months. Their first pediatrician wanted to do more tests but the parents refused and changed to a different pediatrician.

      [A very experienced speech therapist friend of mine saw a photo the mother had of her child as an infant and immediately knew she was seeing problems…experience told her.

      That same wise speech therapist saw a child as a patient who was talking as though he had a cleft palate (which she recognized from…experience). Neither parent had a cleft palate so the cause of the speech impediment was increasingly hard to diagnose. THEN by chance she visited the grandparents, where the child spent most of his time…and there was the person with the cleft palate and associated speech impediments!]

      This weekend I befriended our friend’s 3 year-old daughter in about an hour, not having visited in over a year – only then did she begin to smile. Speech is delayed (should I mention that her primary caregivers speak Spanish-only when English is the home language and the mother even says that she can hardly understand what the carers tell her (!).

      The child spends lots of time on her tablet at home and is adept at using it. In the three hours we were there she didn’t have her diaper changed (they are in the midst of toilet training and because of her delays – recently confirmed and re-diagnosed making her eligible for services – her mother has asked that she remain in the 2s program until she is toilet trained – so ‘just daycare workers’ are going to train her I guess?). She was offered something to drink and was given a frozen meal after 3 hours – something we had observed on a previous visit of over 6 hours when the child wasn’t fed, changed or offered a bottle the whole time but most importantly…she didn’t cry at all.

      We love both parents and the mother’s family, they are old friends; but this grandchild is obviously being neglected as well as having some developmental anomalies. Her mother said “I’m not a stay at home mother, I can’t keep driving her to speech therapy” (her child is now on the state registry as needing special therapies) WHAT! So the child spends two hours each morning at a school that provides speech and developmental therapies and then mom picks her up and returns her to the non-English speaking daycare!!!

      I mentioned in my post that I cared for little P for three years. I know her grandmother well – she is very anxious (when you hear the stories of her early life in war time England it is so obvious that she was neglected as a child too). I saw P’s mother recently for the first time in several years and she was as cold to the group of old friends we were with as I recalled her being at home with her children.

      Oh I forgot we’re not supposed to imply that ‘cold’ parenting is a problem for children. But how many ‘cold’ friends do you have? All mine are warm because those are the people I like the best and who make me feel good inside – wouldn’t a child feel the same way? Children and adults thrive in the warmth of my care – I know I make a difference every day.

      There are multi-generational factors that participant observer researchers see that parents (and more importantly academic researchers – with due respect to Tracy!) often don’t have the opportunity to see.

      We ‘daycare workers’ are not ‘out to get you’ when we might suggest other ways to care for your children – we are out to make a difference in their lives, which will also improve the general quality of your family life.

      I personally read and researched many of the books and academic materials available to gain understanding about the autism spectrum, attachment and a myriad of other issues when I first started caring for P in order to better provide the care she needed. I started with Leo Kanner’s original eleven reports on the children (and their families) that he initially diagnosed in the 1940s. I am currently reading as much as I can about Hans Asperger’s first diagnoses of children presenting with similar issues during the same era in Austria. Asperger and Kanner did not know each other.

      I do not base my comments on what I saw as ‘just a daycare worker’ (which I am very far from!).

      If you choose not to listen to our wisdom (your free choice) – and in my experience that’s the majority of parents who put their children in daycare – we will still care for your child in the best way we know how (at very low wages). Your children just might not be the best they could be if we were all on the same page.

      I hope you will come to view your children’s ‘daycare workers’ with greater respect and learn more about their educational, experiential and personal background.


      • Annie Potts says

        Attachment disorder and autism are two different things. Autism is a disorder of neural development characterized by impaired social interaction. However this is not caused by lack of social interaction. It has a strong genetic basis, meaning that if a child born with autism was raised by the most loving and attentive parents, that child would still manifest symptoms. I am sorry that you are confused about the causes and that you have read false information regarding the causes of autism. I would recommend restricting your readings to articles published within the last decade or so. Please do not spread false information about autism to others. Thanks.

  5. Heather says

    “They always cry when they start…daycare/kindergarten” REALLY? It doesn’t have to happen!

    I also commented on Facebook but thought maybe I could get a response here. This quote from your article really resonated with me. I have been struggling with the daycare experience for my daughter. I recently left one daycare because of the emotional stress my daughter was having, and I didn’t even leave her there alone. I have pondered the same question, “does she really need to cry? does it have to be a stressful event for her?” and “why?” I have been reading the No-Cry Separation Anxiety and Nap Solution in order to prepare for the next daycare, as I would like the transition to be as stress free and smooth as possible for her. Could you share any guidance, advice or research you know of that touches upon this topic? Thank you kindly Helen!

    • Helen Rubin says

      Hi Heather, Thank you for your response.

      Here’s a link to a fantastic (and very long!) transition – but it worked and they had proof of its effectiveness by observing the child and the mother several years later.

      Enid Elliot Ph.D. wrote this sensitive and very aware article for the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and I’ve never forgotten it:

      It is the pace of the transition that is so important, we need to be respectful and sensitive to the child’s reaction to the new situation, routines and people.

      You don’t mention your daughter’s age – some ages are more challenging than others when transitions – nor the size of the group, number of staff members, general atmosphere (indoors and out) of the facility you are thinking about. Are you under pressure work wise for your child to be in care any time soon?

      I am currently counseling a wonderful parent (the family’s primary breadwinner) whose child transitioned at 6 months so well into the infant class I wrote about from his at home care with mom and grandma.

      The child is now 2.75 yrs in a Toddler program and was supposed to transition into Primary (Montessori 3-6) after Christmas when he would have been 3 yrs and toilet trained. But the child and parent have been put under pressure to move him now before he is really ready. He is a very bright child, totally bilingual and communicates well with his mother about his problems and also his happy ideas. The Primary class is not geared towards toilet training and already has several 2.5 yr olds transitioning into daycare for the first time!

      The parents of several of the children in his age group pulled their children from the school in the summer because they were so unhappy with the program.

      His mother wants to maintain continuity of care and facility (and not be constantly switching him from one daycare to another, hoping that at age almost 4 in August 2014 he can go into a school where he will stay until at least middle school age) despite numerous changes in staff in the past 18 months. She has been very distraught in the last few weeks because of all the pressures so we have been going back and forth trying to think of ways to ease his problems at the same time as appearing to cooperate with the desires of the school and remaining politically correct with the staff!

      Inadequate staffing often precludes an extended transition – no matter how expensive the facility.

      It is important to have a child’s favorite blanket and perhaps soft toy as part of the transition.

      Please email if you have further questions. Thank you for reading what I wrote!

  6. Beth G. says

    I would love to know where a parent could go to learn some of the skills the author speaks of! I’m a new stay at home mom and I think I’m doing pretty well but I am a logical, somewhat introverted person and think I could stand to learn some of these skills. Crawling games sound fun! Where do we sign up?

    • helen Rubin says

      Hi Beth,

      Don’t know where you live. I played crawling games with P because I so believe in the neurological benefits of crawling. Once you see developmental delays and discover more about a child’s earliest months and first couple of years it’s often clear that they haven’t had enough time on the floor and have been containerized.

      Are you familiar with the work of Magda Gerber and her RIE (Resources for Infant Educarers) Educaring Approach in the US? She was mentored by Dr. Emmi Pikler in Hungary while raising her own children. In England and Europe a similar philosophy often combines Pikler and Steiner together.

      I took RIE Foundations in 2009 and it simply confirmed what I had been doing for many years! I never could work out what it was that made my own two sons and other babies I cared for in my home so very different from the mainstream.

      RIE recommends being present with your baby, respecting the child, using no containers (except for a car seat) or overhead dangly gym mats, and plenty of time on the floor (spread a large white sheet over your carpet or rug) – a little at a time when babies are tiny and it increases over time.

      When babies spend time on the floor with just the right number of play objects (A simple O Ball, a colourful hankie standing up teepee style and perhaps one other item) nearby (just slightly out of arm’s reach) they can’t stop themselves from moving – it comes naturally to them to explore their environment, which eventually leads to many different forms of motion, including crawling.

      I personally like strollers where the baby can face me while lying on their back and also looking up at the trees and clouds – picture an old fashioned English pram or similar. Strollers like this don’t have to be expensive. Outdoor time is great for mum and baby – big sheet on the grass under a shady tree.

      We also try to slow down in all things, talk to babies (in real words!) from day 1 and explain what’s happening during caregiving and transitions – you’ll be amazed if you try this. You will also start to realise/observe how few people talk to their babies and how rushed everyone is when handling babies!

      Try these links and see if they help – perhaps Tracy has some posts too. I believe she is somewhat familiar with RIE.

      Janet Lansbury has a blog. She is a protege of Magda Gerber and I like how she writes and explains the philosophy:
      (full of interesting mostly non-American links)

      Be grateful for this time being at home to get to know your baby – doesn’t matter if you’re introverted just be your true self!


  7. Jo says

    My daughter started daycare 3 days a week the day after her first birthday. We couldn’t afford to “ease” her into it, so I just had to take her and leave :-( she coped OK for the first 2 months until the 2 carers she had bonded with were put in with other age groups. My girl did not bind with the new carers and my husband and I were increasingly unhappy with the quality of care there. I phoned a local church group (even though I’m not religious!) who ran many Family Daycare centres in the area. These are where a carer looks after a maximum of 4 children (only 2 under 2) in her own home. I went to visit a lady who had recently started and she seemed lovely and attentive. I had to wait a month to start my girl there (meanwhile she was getting worse and worse at the other daycare and was only sleeping 30min a day). She has now been there 3 weeks and she LOVES it. She is so happy to see me in the afternoon (instead of crying from stress) and her day naps have improved, back to 1.5hrs like at home. The carer thinks my girl is gorgeous and I know really cares for her. I’m so glad we switched and we will never go back to traditional childcare again. So your experience does not surprise me at all!!

  8. Sandra says

    I know this is an old post but perhaps you will reply. I have been considering a Montessori school for my son when we move in a few months because he is an independent child that likes to explore and take things apart. He is currently in an in home care with a very caring woman that we will be sad to leave. It sounds like your experience with Montessori is a very cold and uncaring environment (my son will be 22 mos when we move). Are there better programs/teachers or is this a hall mark of the program?

    • says

      I can’t speak for the author, but I can say I’ve heard very different things from parents in different Montessori programs. Some report amazing experiences, some not so great. I think it’s about checking the individual programs where you are to see if you think they look good for your particular son.

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