"Sensitive observation of the child in order to understand her needs."
For me, there are a few parts to this RIE principle, but the primary goal of it is to be able to predict the needs of the children in your care. We do this through slowing down, observing what the child is actually doing, which brings our awareness to their needs. This happens to me frequently through our day.
With infants, I find it can be easy to focus simply in the tasks throughout our day. Diapers are changed, meals are eaten, we go outside and do art with all of the transitions in between. I am fully present and aware and intentional during these moments, but it is not until I purposefully slow down and notice that the experience becomes enjoy able not just for the child but for me as well. I have noticed that this intention of slowing down is a gift to the child. When we breathe, pause and wait it gives the child a chance to participate and initiate interactions. Sometimes a diaper change takes 15 minutes. Most days this is not only okay but desired. However, there are also those days when everyone else is crying at the same time. How do we find our peace and slow down then? While this is an extreme example it brings to light the need for taking the time to slow down and see each child for what is truly happening in the moment, without getting wrapped up in our adult mind's need to fix a situation immeditely.
When we slow down, this ability to truly observe occurs. When we take the time to see what is happening, amazing things can be found and the children are telling us more than simply they are hungry or uncomfortable. The key for me is being available for them to tell us things. It's a tricky thing for adults, to look to the infant for direction. I have found that it takes more time than we are used to, to truly 'hear' an infant. I say 'hear', because their way of speaking often has more to do with how their body is moving or eye contact or a mixture of those things connected with sound. Every child is different, yet there are similar motions they make when they are hungry or uncomfortable. Observing the the cues of an individual child and narrating them can help us come into tune with what they are telling us.
"Oh, I see you are moving your arms and legs back and forth. I wonder if you're ready for a fresh diaper. The last time you did that, it helped you feel better." Reaches forward with both hands, smiling. "Can I pick you up?"
"I see you chewing on your hand. I remember that the last time you chewed on your hand, you were ready for milk. I have your bottle right here. When you're ready you can crawl to me." Show bottle and open arms in welcome.
These are just a few examples of ways I would outline the observation for myself either silently in my mind, or out loud to share the moment with the child , while bringing their attention to the cues they use. When we narrate and respond to these cues, it helps the child feel seen and continues the foundations for basic trust.
I build my day around this dance, watching with an open mind and heart. Ready to trust the child to tell me what they need when they need it, yet balancing it with what I know come next. This ability to predict comes with time and being together. Once we develop the flow of our day, using observation and knowledge of the child's individual
cues, helps to create an environment of trust and ownership.