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Third Annual Pikler® USA Conference: Observation, Care, and Free Movement as Keystones for the Healthy Development of the Young Child

Observation, care, and free movement are key elements to improve children’s well-being. Pikler/Lóczy USA’s 2019 Conference will focus on the praxis of Piklerian observation of infants and toddlers, the benefits of natural gross motor development, and the tenets of attentive care. A distinguished group of Lóczy and global scholar-practitioners will share with participants current research findings and practical strategies to foster neurodevelopment and promote optimal growth.

“Piklerian observation may be considered a type of care, and more precisely, an overarching care strategy carried out in a spirit of openness with respect to the individual infant or toddler. It enables the observer to be attentive to the child and their current stage of development, taking into account what they are expressing and 'adjusting to' accordingly, to meet their individual needs. This kind of observation radically changes the role and attitude of the professional or parent towards the child.” –Pikler® International Symposium, Budapest, April 2018

For the first time outside of Budapest, Hungary, Dr. Peter Mangione, and Professor Oleg Palmov, joined by five Pikler® experts from Lóczy, will be presenting at the Pikler/Lóczy USA conference in Los Angeles on October 26, 2019.

The conference presents a unique opportunity for those who follow and admire the lifework of Dr. Emmi Pikler and the Pikler® House to gain in-depth knowledge about key elements of her pedagogical approach. Presenters span several generations of Dr. Pikler’s colleagues and the many aspects of the work that has happened over eight decades.

The stellar instructional team from Hungary includes: the long-time head of pediatric care at Lóczy, the current director of the Lóczy Foundation for Children, a clinical psychology researcher, a hands-on caregiver, and the lead pedagogue at the Emmi Pikler Childcare Center. The conference will be a unique opportunity to see how the connection can be as individualistic as it is universal.

Janet Gonzalez Mena to receive 2019 Pikler USA Founders Award. Presented by Bonnie Neugebauer for her outstanding commitment and dedication to the children of the world.

Janet Gonzalez Mena

Pikler USA is thrilled to announce this year's recipient of the Pikler/Lóczy USA Founders Award – Janet Gonzalez Mena.Janet is a member of the Pikler/Lóczy USA Board, and she's been working in early childhood development since 1966. Janet is the author of 13 books related to early childhood, including the seminal textbook "Infants, Toddlers, and Caregivers" (co-author Dianne Widmeyer Eyer), a well-known textbook used throughout the country, and internationally, in college and university child development programs.

Janet is a tireless champion for respectful caregiving and for strengthening early childhood programs. She has worked closely with a number of other childcare experts, including Anna Tardos, and has taught many adults at the college level, as a Head Start trainer, and in numerous seminars and trainings. She has traveled to Budapest many times to study the work of Dr. Emmi Pikler at the Pikler Institute.

Her advocacy has rippled throughout the lives of the adults she has touched and, because of this work, the lives of countless children are no doubt better because of Janet's influence.

Please join us at our third-annual conference in October where we will be honoring and celebrating Janet. Register for the conference NOW to ensure your spot because we WILL have another sell-out year!

Eszter Csillag, PhD – Security and freedom as the cornerstones of growth

Proper care for biological, physiological, and relational-emotional needs at an early age is crucial to the healthy physical and psychological development of a young child. If the child’s care environment is unable to provide these conditions or to provide adequate protection and care, the child’s defense system may become overloaded, and psychological trauma may develop. Prolonged nervous-system overload results in stress responses and psychosomatic symptoms that inhibit healthy physical, psychological, and social development, and ultimately the development of the personality as a whole.

The approach and practice of the Pikler pedagogy can be considered one of health promotion and protection, which is in line with trauma-conscious care. In the course of her work, Dr. Emmi Pikler realized early on that children need a physically and emotionally secure environment and relationship for healthy development, for developing psychological immunity and coping mechanisms, and for the prevention of overload.

It is, primarily, a personal and constant emotional relationship in which a child is cared for and thought of, with individual attention and affection, as an individual whose well-being is important. In this way, children can experience their own competence, have the freedom to express themselves, to develop at their own pace, to explore their environment, and to unfold their abilities.

Judit Kelemen – Freedom in a Safe World

Emmi Pikler trusted and believed that children develop through their own efforts, at their own pace, triggered by their own initiatives.  Free motor development and free play take place if the adult can resist intervening in the development of these areas.Freedom in itself is, however, not sufficient. Besides a good relationship with the adult, which provides a sense of security, it is also necessary to create the right environment that takes into account the physical and intellectual maturity of the child.

Furthermore, the daily routine, a transparent order of everyday life made up of a predictable order of events that builds upon the child’s signals and his individuality, is also important.

It is only possible to live with the freedom, to find joy and security in it, if the adult creates a well-arranged, supportive environment around the child.

Peter L. Mangione, PhD – The Heart of Responsive Nurturance: Being Mindful of the Infant’s Point of View

In this presentation, I will explore the power of ideas that are foundational in the Picklerian approach to observing infants--open interest and empathic attention. When we approach observation from a stance of not knowing, we open our minds to learning about each infant's developmental capacities and focus of exploration. We can appreciate the infant's needs as well as how the infant is making sense of the world of people and things. We gain insights into the infant's point of view. Through observing and wondering about the meaning of the infant's exploration and communication, we increase our capacity to be responsive, engaging intuitively and spontaneously in ways that, to use a common definition from research, are prompt, appropriate, and contingent. As we continue to observe, we discover how the infant responds to us--how our words, movements, and facial expressions are received by the infant. We learn about ourselves as we learn about the infant. As part of my presentation, I will highlight research on the benefits of responsiveness and show video clips to illustrate how observation and wondering are at the heart of responsive nurturance.

Eszter Mózes, PhD – When a Young Child Needs Care Outside the Home: What Do they Need?

When parents cannot care for their child full time, infants and toddlers often need to spend time in some kind of group care setting. This applies to all young children whose parents have chosen a childcare placement for them. These placements include not only orphans and disadvantaged children, but also children living in developed nations.

Several studies in Europe, looking at institutions that provide placements for children, have concluded that institutional settings may have a detrimental effect on the development of young children having to do without the care of their family.

At the same time, however, most developed countries seek to increase their childcare capacities, and parents sometimes start looking for a care facility to ensure a place for the child before they are even born. Many parents, as well as professionals, believe children need socialization and all the other things these institutions can teach them.

Of course, the majority of children in childcare or other types of care facilities have loving and caring parents. But they are away all day!

What is the task of the childcare professionals taking care of children then? What do children in this situation really need? If living in a children’s home is deemed to be detrimental, are there steps we can take to better support the children in our care?

Prof. Oleg Palmov, PhD – Pikler Approach versus “Institutional Culture”: Implementing the Pikler Pedagogy to Increase Caregiver Sensitivity and to Promote the Mental Health and Development of Young Children in Orphanages.

Szilvia Papp, RN – What Can Fidgeting Teach Us About the Child?

Dr. Emmi Pikler’s observations and research on free motor development reveal the particular regularities of the motor development of infants and toddlers.

The results allow us to draw conclusions not only regarding motor development but also about the mobility of children. The observations point out how active young children are, how much they move, and how they pay attention.

Mobility is the essence of young children. They frequently change position; they are not at rest for prolonged periods of time. It is not true that, as they progress, they stay in the same place for longer and longer periods.

Children with slower or faster motor development are often equally agile/mobile – the level of agility/mobility can be considered constant.

Fidgeting, however, does not necessarily mean an inability to concentrate. Whenever a child has the opportunity and the space to move around, they will enjoy moving. During this active activity/functioning they are still interested, attentive, paying attention, observing, and gathering experiences.

Gabriella Püspöki, MD – Praising Slowness

While growing and maturing, infants and young children develop in multiple areas of life, both in body and intellect. Every area has its own developmental range, by which we mean the period of time within which a new stage of development is supposed to be reached.These intervals vary in length, but the ranges of gross motor development are undoubtedly the widest. For instance, among children with healthy motor development, there may be up to 20 weeks of difference by the time they stand up freely.

“Slowness,” i.e. a new stage appearing later, does not imply pathological development; it simply means the child needs more time to work out, practice, and improve upon a new form of movement.

This “slow” style of motor development needs to be acknowledged, accepted, and supported by early childhood professionals and parents alike.

Time and location information:

Saturday, October 26, 2019, 9:00 am–4:30 pm

(Registrations open at 8:15 am)
Pepperdine University Graduate Campus
6100 Center Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90045
West LA Campus

Driving directions, parking instructions & map
Hotels, entertainment and transportation

To register and pay with Pay Pal or credit card.

$250 – Breakfast and lunch are included

Cancellation policy: Once enrolled, your registration fee will be forfeited if a cancellation occurs thirty days prior to the start of the event (September 26).  If a cancellation occurs from August 26 to September 25, you will receive 50% refund. If your cancellation occurs before August 25, you will be entitled to a 75% refund. All cancellations must be submitted in writing to Elsa Chahin at

Watch a three-minute clip from our 2017 conference


Eszter Csillag, PhD
Judit Kelemen
Szilvia Papp, RN
Peter L. Mangione, PhD
Eszter Mózes, PhD
Oleg Palmov, PhD
Gabriella Püspöky, MD
Elsa Chahin
Alex Kajtar (Translator)