From the moment we are born, we are learning: every new breath, step, and interaction teaches us how to live in the world and who we are in it.

And at Open Air Studio, a downtown education center that opened last summer, it’s all about letting kids safely find their own paths to those lessons.

Last month, the News spoke with owners Nicole and Brian Gay and instructor Simone Steve Demarzi at Open Air Studio, located at 213 Xenia Ave., upstairs from The Winds Cafe. Open Air Studio is an offshoot of the Open Air Village Early Learning Center, which Nicole and Brian Gay opened in the summer of 2020 on the campus of Antioch College.

Get news at home, sign up for Yellow Springs News today

Just as Open Air Village’s pedagogy is based on child-led toddler and preschool education, Open Air Studio’s Natural Baby Movement classes focus on letting babies move freely through the world and helping parents learn how to best support their babies. babies in the training itself.

“We believe that babies are full human beings from the moment they are born,” Nicole Gay told the News.

Demarzi added: “We say that children are equal participants [parent-child] relationship”.

Open Air Studio was originally conceived as a space of creative movement for toddlers and preschoolers. A life-long dancer herself, Nicole Gay loves sharing movement with children, and she and Brian Gay have secured a downtown space for Open Air Studio in mid-2021. Her vision of teaching dance, she said, would be closely related to the rest of Open Air’s educational methods.

“I’d like the kids to wear what they’re comfortable with, I’d like the kids to lead the class – just a different approach [from traditional dance programs]” said Nicole Gay.

Still, she added, her full-time job with Open Air Village didn’t leave much time for new classes — though she said she hopes to find a dance teacher to fill that role in the future. With the open-air studio empty and quiet, Nicole and Brian Gay sought to find another way to use it.

Demarsie, who originally lived in the village as a young woman in the 60s and 70s, moved back to her former home from California several years ago after her husband retired. Upon meeting her in late 2020, Gay was surprised and delighted to learn that Demarzi, a longtime early childhood educator, was trained in Resources for Infant Educarers, or RIE.

“I had never met anyone who was an RIE employee or even knew what RIE was, so we hit it off right away,” said Nicole Gay.

With plans for dance and creative movement on hold, Nicole and Brian Gay approached Demarzi and began discussing RIE-inspired children’s classes in an open-air studio.

“Basically, we all thought it was a great idea,” Nicole Gay said. “We started doing Saturday morning classes and now our class has grown from maybe three regular kids to about 10 families who take turns.”

Demarzy described the RIE model, which has been developed and developed since the late 1970s, in terms of “education” means teaching babies and young children how you care for them, but understanding and respecting this play is often how children teach themselves.

“When you have a caregiving moment, like feeding a baby or changing a diaper, that’s when they learn from you — they learn the routine, you can talk about body parts and things like that,” she said. “But when they play on the floor, it’s not like there are no safety issues. RIE teaches you how to be with a child and how to stay away from a child.”

The physical dimensions of the Open Air studio reflect its name: most of the space is open to the movement of young residents under wide, bright skylights. During the natural baby movement classes, parents sit on the floor next to a large soft rug strewn with toys of various colors, shapes, and sizes for their children to play on.

Parents are encouraged to sit back and watch, and be there with open knees if the child needs a moment away from their peers. Based on her RIE training, Demarzie is ready to show parents how to verbally acknowledge babies’ movements and difficulties without disrupting their play.

“We really want this to be a place where parents feel relaxed and where their kids can explore the area and talk to other like-minded parents,” said Nicole Gay. “And then they get advice and wisdom from Simone about what babies can think when they’re moving — and reminding parents to let them play.”

Nicole Gay said parents of young children – especially first-time parents – can feel anxious about letting their children roam and explore on their own. For this reason, she said, RIE can sometimes seem counterintuitive, but added that interacting with the world and, importantly, with other babies on their own terms is part of a baby’s natural growth.

“For example, when a child reaches for something, many parents want to pick it up and hand it to them,” she said. “We’re saying, ‘Wait—wait and see what your child does.'”

Brian Gay added: “It’s hard for parents to learn that it’s playtime [a baby’s] time—and it may seem like you’re interacting, but really you’re just interfering.”

It’s true, Demarzi said, for parents of children of any age that sometimes acknowledging that a child is working or struggling, but letting them find their own way forward, is the best way to support them.

“We don’t have to fix everything — we help and support, but you don’t have to fix,” she said.

Demarzi added that over her long career, she has seen many babies learn to crawl and walk completely on their own simply by watching the older people in their lives demonstrate these actions to them.

“It’s innate and we shouldn’t interfere,” she said. “We don’t sit kids down before they can sit up, and we don’t help them walk before they can walk.”

Demarzi pointed to a small squat table in the center of the studio’s play area, which was only a few inches off the ground. This table, she says, is essentially a jungle gym for babies in a natural baby movement class. As babies grow, they learn to climb onto the table and—often a more difficult skill—how to get off the table.

Allowing children to climb on their own is paramount, she said. Repeatedly helping a child onto a climber may mean that they don’t learn to safely test their own limits, but giving them the space to experiment with each new inch of height at their own pace is a key aspect of the RIE method.

“They learn to take risks, but they also learn to fall,” Demarzi said. “[RIE founder] Magda Gerber said that one of the most important things in life is learning how to fall and how to get back up again – and that’s something that children can learn from the very beginning.’

Demarzi said RIE’s approach is based on respect for children. Just as you would tell a fellow adult if you needed to leave the room or do a task and wait for a response, she said, respecting children means doing the same.

“But parents often don’t,” she said. “It’s important to tell babies what you’re going to do before you do it — you say, ‘I’m going to change your diaper now,’ and then you wait for a response before picking them up.”

Young children’s nonverbal response, Nicole Gay added, simply means the child is acknowledging that they heard you, such as looking in your direction.

“It’s a lot of waiting and it takes a lot of patience,” she said. “And you have to trust that your child can communicate with you, even though they may not show typical signs — it’s not just about talking.”

At the end of the day, Demarzy and the gays believe that the RIE method aims to help children be independent. When children learn and do things independently, they leap forward into life with a sense of confidence in their abilities.

“I believe it creates a positive sense of well-being that develops from within, not because of external factors,” Nicole Gay said. “I think that’s the purpose of parenthood.”

And for parents, Demarzi added, helping to raise confident, independent children can mean working to be open to new ideas — and perhaps most importantly, being gentle with themselves. Adults, like babies, are always learning after all.

“When you learn something new, you have to let go of the guilt,” she said. “There are many ways to climb a mountain – RIE is just one way to think about it.”

The open-air studio offers natural baby movement classes on Saturday mornings and will add weekday morning classes to its schedule this summer. For more information contact by email or visit

Previous articleZelensky met in Italy with Pope Francis and Giorgia Meloni
Next articleNorth Carolina governor vetoes bill to restrict abortion access, setting stage for ‘showdown’