Emmi Pikler (1902 - 1984)

Emmi Pikler was educated in Vienna and settled in Budapest as a pediatrician in 1930. Her vision of the little child - a human being active, competent, and able to take initiatives - brought about to convince families to accept the idea of autonomous motor development, and of the importance of self-initiated activity undertaken by the child on his own. Attentive also to the importance of relationship, Pikler explained how to live it during care-time in an intimate, profound sharing between parent and child.

In 1946, Emmi Pikler was entrusted with the responsibility of establishing a children's home in Budapest, the present Pikler Institute on Lóczy street. Through her continuing work with families, she sought a means of giving the very young children living at Lóczy, as the home was called, an experience of life which would allow them to develop naturally and avoid the dramatic difficulties created by the absence of a significant connection with their parents.

At Lóczy was born an original, innovative way of bringing up very young children (infants to toddlers). Without trying to reproduce the maternal relationship - a vain undertaking in an institution - Emmi Pikler and her colleagues made it possible for the children to establish warm relationships with their nurses. This came about thanks to the exclusive attention offered to each child during care-time; a coherence in the organization of the every-day life and their responsive behavior, finely adapted to the particular needs of each child.

Great confidence is put in the capacity of each child to develop under these conditions through her own activity, in following her own interests. Autonomous motor development and autonomous activity are the rule. The child is perceived as competent, worthy of attention, and recognized in his individuality. In short, he elaborates a confidence in himself which enables him to grow up in harmony with himself and the world around him.

Much research into this way of raising children was and still is undertaken by the team at Lóczy, resulting in many important publications and films. Until 1979 Emmi Pikler directed the Institute which, today, bears her name. She died in 1984. In 2002, one hundred years after the birth of its founder, the Pikler Institute is continuing to care for children, with the same rigour and the same mindfulness for their wellbeing, the same tireless willingness to offer to each one exactly what that child needs.

We think that you may be interested in reading two articles:

      "My first meeting with Emmi Pikler" by Geneviève Appell
      "How I became a psychologist?" by Agnes Szanto-Féder

These were published in the special issue of our Bulletin No. 13, which celebrates the centenary of the birth of Emmi Pikler.