About Emmi Pikler
Excerpted from Charlotte Selver’s forward to the winter 1994 SAF Bulletin* devoted to Emmi Pikler
Already in the 1930’s, during my study in Germany with Elsa Gindler and Heinrich Jacoby, they spoke often of Emmi Pikler and her work. Pictures were shown of the babies in the families for which she was the pediatrician – and of babies who were exercised, “helped” and taught by their parents. Through the contrast seen in these pictures, Elsa Gindler demonstrated ‘that the seed of natural development is in every living being; be it plant, animal, or human it does not need to be “helped” to develop.
We thought of Pikler, Gindler and Jacoby as a triumvirate, three pillars of a total “work with the human being.” Emmi Pikler proved that teaching a baby something she could learn by herself was not only unnecessary but harmful, depriving the beginning being of experimenting independently and of the energy this involves, as well as the delight of reaching a goal. Elsa Gindler and Heinrich Jacoby recognized the damage brought about by early interference with the baby and the growing child, interference which inhibited his curiosity and spontaneity; so they called their work Nachentfaltung, unfolding at a later stage of life.
In the forties, after I had come to live in the United States, I read Dr. Pikler’s first book (a portion of which is included in this Bulletin) and saw the pictures. That made me wish to have the book translated into English. At that time, however, young parents followed Dr. Spock’s advice – already a step away from being so restrictive with babies, but nothing like the revolutionary findings and advice of Dr. Pikler. I tried to interest publishers here in her book, but they were only interested in Dr. Spock and turned away from the unknown Hungarian pediatrician.
*This Bulletin is available from the SAF