Tobey Maguire is among a slew of celebrity parents who are shunning the recent trend of over-stimulating babies — instead they’re opting to take a much more laid-back approach called RIE, which is short for Resources for Infant Educarers. But experts have mixed feelings about the philosophy.
A lot of the new parents I know are already concerned with their kids eventually getting into college. I’m talking about friends with infants and toddlers and they’ve already got them enrolled in dance classes, musical instruction, Chinese and Spanish language classes as well as dozens of other activities that would make a high school senior weep! When did childhood stop being about Fisher Price toys and Saturday morning cartoons? Now, stars are following in father-of-two Tobey Maguire‘s footsteps and focusing on a parenting philosophy called RIE (Resources for Infant Educarers) which focuses on simple toys and keeping babies lives calm.
This little-known LA based group was founding in 1978 by Gerber and Tom Forrest, a pediatric neurologist. The main idea behind RIE (it’s pronounced ‘wry’) is that kids need relaxation and natural stimulation, which comes from being outside as well as being with other kids, but not in a forced learning environment, like a soccer practice. They also discourage parents like 35-year-old Tobey and his wife, Jennifer Meyers, who have two children Ruby, 4 this month, and Otis, 17-months, from singing or rocking their babies. Playpens, mirrors and dangling mobiles are also major no-nos, which seems a bit strange to me.
“Any philosophy that teachers respect and sensitivity towards babies can’t be all bad,” Beverly Hills psychiatrist Dr. Carole Lieberman, M.D.tells HollyBaby.com. “But no lullabies? No rocking? No dangling mobiles?
These are longstanding techniques that have been shown by research to be very nurturing and important in a child’s development.”
But parents who are already devoted to this method — including Desperate Housewives‘ Felicity Huffman and her husband William H. Macy, Helen Hunt, Jamie Lee Curtis and Jason Alexander — insist that it’s a welcome change of pace from the mainstream belief that babies need constant stimulation. And this month RIE is going to get a lot more attention when 1,700 federally funded Early Head Start programs receive the methods teaching materials.
Dr. Lieberman doesn’t think that’s such a great idea. “RIE seems to be throwing the baby out with the bath water,” she says. “Parents need to be careful that RIE’s alphabet lessons don’t spell C-U-L-T.”
But, Los Angeles based marriage, family and child therapist Dr. Jenn Berman has studied RIE extensively and disagrees. “There is absolutely nothing cult-like about it. I think it’s fantastic and has a lot to offer parents and their children,” she tells HollyBaby.com. “I’m a big fan of RIE and especially agree with their ideas that kids shouldn’t have electronic toys. I support their turning off the TV philosophy because studies have proven that television exposure is detrimental to young children.”
Dr. Berman feels that RIE is a very misunderstood practice. “It teaches parents to be sensitive observers. That means sitting back and watching your child play, not ripping a toy out of their hands and waving it wildly in front of their face. People mistake that to mean that they’re not supposed to play with their child, but it’s just the opposite, they’re not supposed to lead the child in play,” explains Dr. Berman, author of SuperBaby: 12 Ways To Give Your Child A Head Start In The First 3 Years. “It’s a very back to basics technique.”
We’re curious, HollyMoms, would you try the RIE method on your kids?