RIE in Real Life – More Lessons from Snack Time

Snack is still on my mind this week because of the sweetest moment I had with one of my RIE ‘grads.’ He and his class are all 3.5 or older, and as it happens, life has just gotten too busy for a regular RIE class. It’s bittersweet when a class ends…bitter for all the reasons you can think of, but sweet because it’s so amazing to realize these children are going off into the world to astonish and inspire new adults.

But I was able to have a moment with this particular child because he attended his younger sister’s RIE class yesterday. To be honest, he was kind of the hit of the class. While he did his own thing on the periphery (or in the middle), the children in the class were clearly enamored. At one point, the toddlers discovered how to move my wagon (first time for this group!) and they seemed to be headed for the hills, and he corralled them back. But my favorite moment was when he ran up to me toward the end of class, with two handkerchiefs behind his back. He said “Hey Melani, it’s snack time! Which do you want, the blue one or the yellow one?!”

Children pay such close attention to us, all the time. As Magda said, “What the parents teach is themselves, as models of what is human, by their moods, their reactions, their facial expressions and actions” (The RIE Manual, 2013, p. 15).

It reminded me of an old Pikler video I watched…oh my goodness, about 20 years ago when I first started my RIE training (and the video was old then, too!). I clearly remember watching Loczy children playing outside, using careful hands to bathe, dress, and feed their teddy bears and dolls. You could clearly see those children had been treated with gentleness and care. It stuck with me…and then I had that moment yesterday! By watching their play, we get a glimpse into what they are learning.

And then something else happened that reminded that not only do children learn from us, but we learn from them.

It was a small class one afternoon, and the parents and I were chatting as I started to set up for snack. I was in the middle of talking about Magda’s origin story, while offering washcloths and bibs to the children at the table, splitting my attention…when suddenly, both children bailed! We hadn’t even gotten to peel the banana. It took me a beat, but then I realized…I wasn’t giving them my full attention because I’d been chatting with their parents! I immediately apologized to the children, told the parents we’d pick up the conversation later and proceeded with snack! Both children came back and settled into snack, maybe pushing limits a little more than usual…but they came back. It was a good reminder to me…if I want their attention and cooperation, I have to give them mine!

What things are you learning from your children’s play? What lessons are they teaching you? I’d love to know!