What Is the Pikler Method?

The Pikler method seeks to offer a quality childraising alternative. The pedagogy is based on respect for the child's abilities. Learn more.
What Is the Pikler Method?
María José Roldán

Written and verified by the psychopedagogue María José Roldán.

Last update: 01 April, 2023

Education changes over the years, and not all parents are satisfied with a methodology that focuses only on what’s considered more traditional. That’s why we’re going to talk about the Pikler method. It’s a pedagogy that was born thanks to the ideas of Freud, attachment theory, constructivism, and the Montessori method, among others. But what does it consist of and where does it come from?

The creator of the Pikler method was Emmi Pikler, a Hungarian pediatrician. Her method focuses on two basic concepts of childhood: The need for attachment and the need for autonomy. This pedagogy is increasingly popular. Here’s what it’s all about.

Letting babies move on their own

Pikler argued that babies should move freely. She argued that little ones should be allowed to move freely and innately and, therefore, adults should trust them. This means that they shouldn’t be put in any position that they couldn’t achieve on their own. It’s a way of trusting in the baby’s ability from birth so that they grow up with autonomy and confidence in themselves and their abilities.

A baby in a crib reaching up to grab a stuffed animal from his mother.
Adults must be patient and increase confidence in little ones. There’s no need to demand that they do things they’re not ready for yet just to meet socially established goals.

Don’t compare little ones with other babies

When we’re parents, we can’t avoid comparing our children with others and seeing who has achieved developmental milestones first. In this regard, the Pikler method makes us change the way we think. According to the pediatrician, babies shouldn’t be compared. Rather, each one has their own learning pace and, therefore, should be respected.

A different concept of parenting

Emmi Pikler was the director of an orphanage in the city of Budapest, Hungary. All the theories she developed were aimed at preventing the children in her center from having physical or socio-emotional problems. At that time, many children raised in these institutions grew up with great deficiencies and problems on an affective, personality, or psychomotor level.

To prevent this from happening to the children in her care, she developed a pedagogical system based on two fundamental pillars: The need for attachment and children’s autonomy.

In this regard, it was essential for the children to create stable emotional bonds with the orphanage’s reference persons, who provided them with physical and emotional security. At the same time, their own freedom had to be taken into account and there had to be no direct intervention in the children’s motor development. The aim was that they could enhance their autonomy, competence, and self-confidence.

Parents watching from the couch as their baby learns to crawl on his own.
Pikler wanted a change in the relationship between adults and children. In this regard, respect for little ones was fundamental in order for them to feel confident in their abilities and to be able to develop them on their own.

The basic principles of the Pikler method

The Pikler method is based on respect for the child’s abilities. In this regard, the adult becomes an observer and guide, but must respect the pace of the child’s development and learning. In any case, there are some basic principles that are important to know in order to better understand this type of pedagogy:

  • Allow autonomy in children, as they’re capable of learning on their own.
  • Help the child to become aware of themself and the environment in which they find themself. The adult must offer affective security so that the child is able to focus on their own movements and thus explore and discover the environment.
  • To have a quality emotional relationship. The adult must respect the child’s developmental rhythms and provide security and daily routines.
  • Don’t neglect the child’s physical health.
  • Allow free motor skills from birth.

A quality alternative upbringing

As you can see, this pedagogy was initiated for a specific reason: The development of children in an orphanage. However, today all the ideas that Emmi Pikler developed are taken into account to provide an alternative but quality upbringing for little ones.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Pikler, E. (2005) Moverse en Libertad: Desarrollo de la motricidad global. Editorial: Narcea

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.