Emmi Pikler was a Hungarian Pediatrician who developed a new theory of child development, based on allowing the child to move freely and develop at his or her own pace. (Magda Gerber, who founded RIE, was Emmi Pikler’s student.) In practice this means that parents and caregivers don’t put the child into any position they can’t get into by themselves – often a hard thing to do as a parent when you want to make sure your child meets the next official milestone ‘on time.’
We flubbed the rule when it came to sitting; we did help Carys to sit mostly because we did it once or twice and she liked it and once you start doing that stuff it’s hard to stop. Plus I really wanted to try Baby-Led Weaning and the baby needs to be able to sit unassisted to do that (so they don’t slide backwards and potentially choke on food). There’s some debate about whether BLW fits with RIE (the purists say ‘no’), but I personally believe it is a respectful way to teach kids about eating so I decided to do it anyway. BLW ended up working out fabulously well for us; Carys is starting to get a bit more picky about food now but she will try pretty much anything once and likes things I might not think she would (like posole, spiced with a little chipotle chili, for dinner last night).
We stuck to the rule fairly hard and fast when it came to standing and walking; we didn’t stand her up before she could pull herself up and we never allowed anyone to ‘walk’ her. She was a little later to walk than some of her peers but one of Alvin’s friends whom he hadn’t seen since college came over for dinner recently and was shocked to learn that Carys had only been walking for three weeks, given how confident she was even on the cobbles in our back yard. Check out this video of a (pre-walking!) baby climbing a play structure, titled “Would you let your child do this?” – my answer would be an emphatic ‘yes’!
As part of encouraging her to move and climb, I’ve been building wooden toys for her – she’s gotten far more use out of the rocking boat/steps than Alvin ever thought she would, and she loved the Pikler Triangle from the first time she saw it in RIE class so I knew I had to make one for her. I started out using 2x4s for the sides which made it very sturdy but frankly it seems a bit over-engineered for a small child – the rungs will fail LONG before the sides. I also mis-measured the rung spacing on one side (duh!) so the rungs slope slightly (not enough that Carys has ever seemed to notice). I see regular requests on the RIE Facebook groups I’m in for advice on where to buy or build these things so I wanted to put something up on Instructables, and didn’t want to put up photos of an imperfect product…so I decided to make a new one for us using 2x3s.
And so to the part for which you’ve patiently waited – I need to give away the prototype model as we don’t have space to store it. It works excellently well as a fully-assembled climbing structure. It has two aesthetic problems – the aforementioned slightly sloping rungs, and an extra hole drilled in one of the connector pieces when I was trying to figure out how to get the big side pieces to swing past each other. It also doesn’t fold perfectly flat (because the sides are too wide). But if you just want a triangle that works for climbing and you don’t need to fold it away then that won’t be a problem for you! Warning: it is heavy (perhaps 20lbs) so it would be best if you live in the San Francisco Bay Area and can pick it up. If you’re willing to pay then I’m willing to ship, but it could be expensive.
If you’d like to throw your name into the hat then just sign up to follow my blog. If you’re already subscribed, you’ve already entered! I’ll use a random number generator to select the winner on Friday October 23rd and I’ll be in touch after that to discuss logistics.
And if you want to make one yourself, go check out my Instructable…