The Pikler Approach

Dr Emmi Pikler was a paediatrician in Budapest, Hungary where she began a unique residential home for orphaned and abandoned infants in 1946. The ethos in the home was of respectful care and allowing self initiated exploration and play. You can read more about Emmi Pikler here.

Pikler came to a new understanding of child development from observing many babies over many years. Her research shows there is a natural sequence to a child’s motor development that will follow the same steps when the child is allowed to unfold at their own pace, unhurried by adults. Each child will meet these motor development milestones at their own speed; for example one child may be taking steps at 9 months where another may not until 18 months – neither is right or wrong. Often we are eager to sit our children up and support them to walk before they are ready. What Pikler found was that if we allow children to come to the milestones at their own time they will develop those skills with more confidence and it will support their overall development.

The Pikler approach to caring for our babies balances time of close respectful care, such as during nappy changes, baths and eating, with times of allowing babies uninterrupted exploration and play. Each one complements the other: a baby who has a secure attachment with their caregiver, one who sees them and cares for them with love, will have more confidence in spending time on their own exploring the world, knowing their loving attachment safety figure is nearby.

Pictorial demonstration of how the balance of respectful, kind care and self initiated movement and play support each other.

Encouraging and allowing your baby to participate in their own care is also important. Practice working together with your baby to get them dressed, change nappies and have a bath. At first this may sound messy! However, the idea is that by ‘doing together’ rather than ‘doing to’ children will help them to learn the wonderful skills of self care. You are modelling respectful care from birth: for themselves and for them to care the same way towards others.

All these topics are ones we can explore during the parent and baby groups and I am happy to bring information to share with parents as food for thought and discussion.