The Child Under Eight
E.R. Murray and Henrietta Brown Smith
Part 2 out of 4
is a joy to children, as is shown in the woolly lambs, etc., provided
for babies. A little one of my acquaintance had a bit of blanket which
comforted many woes, and when once I offered her a feather boa as a
substitute she sobbed out: "It isn't so soft as the blanket!"
In one of Miss McMillan's early books she wrote: "Very early the child
begins more or less consciously to exercise the basal sense--the sense
of touch. On waking from sleep he puts his tiny hands to grasp
something, or turns his head on the firm soft pillow. He _touches_
rather than looks, at first (for his hands and fingers perform a great
many movements long before he learns to turn his eyeballs in various
directions or follow the passage even of a light), and through touching
many things he begins his education. If he is the nursling of wealthy
parents, it is possible that his first exercises are rather restricted.
He touches silk, ivory, muslin and fine linen. That is all, and that is
not much. But the child of the cottager is often better off, for his
mother gives him a great variety of objects to keep him quiet. The
ridiculous command, 'Do not touch,' cannot be imposed on him while he is
screaming in his cradle or protesting in his dinner chair; and so all
manner of things--reels, rings, boxes, tins, that is to say a variety of
surfaces--is offered to him, to his great delight and advantage. And
lest he should not get the full benefit of such privilege he carries
everything to his mouth, where the sense of touch is very keen."
[Footnote 17: _Early Childhood_: Swan Sonnenschein, published 1900.]
Among the treasures kept for special occasions there may be pipes for
soap-bubbles, a prism of some kind with which to make rainbows, a tiny
mirror to make "light-birds" on the wall and ceiling, and a magnet with
the time-honoured ducks and fish, if these are still to be bought, along
with other articles, delicately made or coloured, which require care.
Pictures and picture-books should also be considered; some being in
constant use, some only brought out occasionally. For the very smallest
children some may be rag books, but always children should be taught to
treat books carefully. The pictures on the walls ought to be changed,
sometimes with the children's help, sometimes as a surprise and
discovery. For that purpose it is convenient to have series of pictures
in frames with movable backs, but brown-paper frames will do quite well.
The pictures belonging to the stories which have been told to the
children ought to have a prominent place, and if the little ones desire
to have one retold they will ask for it.
It is of course not at all either necessary or even desirable for any
one school to have everything, and children should not have too much
within the range of their attention at one time. Individual teachers
will make their own selections, but in all cases there must be
sufficient variety of material for each child to carry out his natural
desire for observation, experiment and construction.
"ALL THE WORLD'S A STAGE"
A wedding or a festival, a mourning or a funeral...
As if his whole vocation were endless imitation.
In every country and in every age those who have eyes to see have
watched the same little dramas. What Wordsworth saw was seen nineteen
hundred years ago in the Syrian market-place, where the children
complained of their unresponsive companions: "We have piped the glad
chaunt of the marriage, but ye have not danced, we have wailed our
lamentation, but ye have not joined our mourning procession."
Since the very name Kindergarten is to imply a teaching which fulfils
the child's own wants and desires, it must supply abundant provision for
the dramatic representation of life. Adults have always been ready to
use for their own purposes the strong tendency to imitate, which is a
characteristic of all normal children, but few even now realise to what
extent a child profits by his imitative play. The explanation that
Froebel found for this will now be generally accepted, viz. that only by
acting it out can a child fully grasp an idea, "For what he tries to
represent or do, he begins to understand." He thinks in action, or as
one writer put it, he "apperceives with his muscles." This explanation
seems to cover imitative play, from the little child's imitative wave of
the hand up to such elaborate imitations as are described in Stanley
Hall's _Story of a Sand Pile,_ or in Dewey's _Schools of
To-morrow._ But when we think of the joy of such imaginative play as
that of Red Indians, shipwrecks and desert islands, we feel that these
show a craving for experience, for life, such a craving as causes the
adult to lose himself in a book of travels or in a dramatic performance,
and which explains the phenomenal success of the cinema, poor stuff as
[Footnote 18: Or that delightful "Play Town" in _The Play Way_.]
We thirst for experiences, even for those which are unpleasant; we
wonder "how it feels" to be up in an aeroplane or down in a submarine.
We are far indeed from desiring air-raids, but if such things must be,
there is a curious satisfaction in being "in it." And though the
experiences they desire may be matters of everyday occurrence to us,
children probably feel the craving even more keenly. "You may write what
you like," said a teacher, and a somewhat inarticulate child wrote, "I
was out last night, it was late." "Why, Jack," said another, "you've
painted your cow green; did you ever see a green cow?" "No," said Jack,
"but I'd like to."
In early Kindergarten days this imitative and dramatic tendency was
chiefly met in games, and the children were by turns butterflies and
bees, bakers and carpenters, clocks and windmills. The programme was
suggested by Froebel's _Mother Songs_, in which he deals with the
child's nearest environment. Too often, indeed, the realities to which
Froebel referred were not realities to English children, but that was
recognised as a defect, and the ideas themselves were suitable.
Chickens, pigeons and farmyard animals; the homely pussy cat or canary
bird; the workers to whom the child is indebted, farmer, baker, miner,
builder or carpenter; the sun, the rain, the rainbow and the
"light-bird"--such ideas were chosen as suitable centres, and stories
and songs, games and handwork clustered round.
What was the reason for this binding of things together? Why did
Froebel constantly plead for "unity" even for the tiny child, and tell
us to link together his baby finger-games or his first weak efforts at
building with his blocks chairs, tables, beds, walls and ladders?
Looking back over the years, it seems as if this idea of joining
together has been trying to assert itself under various forms, each of
which has reigned for its day, has been carried to extremes and been
discarded, only to come up again in a somewhat different form. It has
always seemed to aim at extending and ordering the mind content of
children. For the Froebelian it was expressed in such words as "unity,"
"connectedness" and "continuity," while the Herbartians called it
"correlation." Under these terms much work has been, and is still being,
carried out, some very good and some very foolish. Ideas catch on,
however, because of the truth that is in them, not because of the error
which is likely to be mixed with it, and even the weakest effort after
connection embodies an important truth. When we smile over absurd
stories of forced "correlation," we seldom stop to think of what went on
before the Kindergarten existed, for instance the still more absurd and
totally disconnected lists of object lessons. One actual list for
children of four years old ran: Soda, Elephant, Tea, Pig, Wax, Cow,
Sugar, Spider, Potatoes, Sheep, Salt, Mouse, Bread, Camel.
Kindergarten practice was far ahead of this, for here the teacher was
expected to choose her material according to (1) Time of Year; (2) Local
Conditions, such as the pursuits of the people; (3) Social Customs. When
it was possible the children went to see the real blacksmith or the real
cow, and to let game or handwork be an expression, and a re-ordering of
ideas gained was natural and right. Connectedness, however, meant more
than this, it meant that the material itself was to be treated so that
the children would be helped to that real understanding which comes
from seeing things in their relations to each other. As Lloyd Morgan
puts it, "We are mainly at work upon the mental background. It is our
object to make this background as rich and full and orderly as possible,
so that whatever is brought to the focus of consciousness shall be set
in a relational background, which shall give it meaning; and so that our
pupils may be able to feel the truth which Browning puts into the mouth
of Fra Lippo Lippi:
This world's no blot for us
Nor blank; it means intensely and means good:
To find its meaning is my meat and drink."
According to Professor Dewey, some such linking or joining is necessary
"to foster that sense which is at the basis of attention and of all
intellectual growth, the sense of continuity." The Herbartian
correlation was designed to further that well-connected circle of
thought out of which would come the firm will, guided by right insight,
inspired by true feeling, which is their aim in education.
Froebelian unity and connectedness have, like the others, an
intellectual and a moral aspect. Intellectually "the essential
characteristic of instruction is the treatment of individual things in
their relationships"; morally, the idea of unity is that we are all
members one of another. The child who, through unhindered activity, has
reached the stage of self-consciousness is to go on to feel himself a
part, a member of an ever-increasing whole--family, school, township,
country, humanity--the All; to be "one with Nature, man and God."
Every one has heard something of the new teaching--which, by the way,
sheds clearer light over Froebel's warning against arbitrary
interference--viz. that a great part of the nervous instability which
affects our generation is due to the thwarting and checking of the
natural impulses of early years. But this new school also gives us
something positive, and reinforces older doctrines by telling us to
integrate behaviour. "This matter of the unthwarted lifelong progress
of behaviour integration is of profound importance, for it is the
transition from behaviour to conduct. The more integrated behaviour is
harmonious and consistent behaviour toward a larger and more
comprehensive situation, toward a bigger section of the universe; it is
lucidity and breadth of purpose. The child playing with fire is only
wrong conduct because it is behaviour that does not take into account
consequences; it is not adjusted to enough of the environment; it will
be made right by an enlargement of its scope and reach."
All selfish conduct, all rudeness and roughness come from ignorance; we
are all more or less self-centred, and the child's consciousness of self
has to be widened, his scope has to be enlarged to sympathy with the
thoughts, feelings and desires of other selves. "The sane man is the man
who (however limited the scope of his behaviour) has no such suppression
incorporated in him. The wise man must be sane and must have scope as
[Footnote 19: _The Freudian Wish_, Edwin Holt.]
[Footnote 20: _The Freudian Wish_, Edwin Holt.]
Professor Earl Barnes always used to describe the child mind as
"scrappy." How can we best aid development into the wholeness or
healthiness and the scope of sanity and wisdom? For it may well be that
this widening and ordering of experience, of consciousness, of behaviour
into moral behaviour is our most important task as teachers. Froebel
emphasised the "crying need" for connection of school and life, pointing
out how the little child desires to imitate and the older to share in
all that, as Professor Dewey puts it, is "surcharged with a sense of the
mysterious values that attach to whatever their elders are concerned
with." This is one of the points to which Professor Dewey called
attention in his summing up of Froebel's educational principles, this
letting the child reproduce on his own plane the typical doings and
occupations of the larger, maturer society into which he is finally to
It is in this connection that he says the Kindergarten teacher has the
opportunity to foster that most important "sense of continuity." In
simple reproduction of the home life while there is abundant variety,
since daily life may bring us into contact with all the life of the city
or of the country, yet, because the work is within a whole, "there is
opportunity to foster that sense which is at the basis of attention and
of all intellectual growth, a sense of continuity."
Since Professor Dewey gave to the world the results of his experimental
school, all the Kindergartens and most of the Infant Schools in England
have tried to carry out their accustomed reproduction of home
surroundings, more or less on the lines of the Primary Department of his
experimental school. They have extended their scope, and in addition to
the material already taken from workman and shop, from garden and farm,
have also with much profit to older children used his suggestions about
Reproduction of home surroundings can be done in many ways, one of which
is to help the children to furnish and to play with a doll's house. But
the play must be play. It is not enough to use the drama as merely
offering suggestions for handwork, and one small doll's house does not
allow of real play for more than one or two children.
Our own children used to settle this by taking out the furniture, etc.,
and arranging different homes around the room. I can remember the
never-ending pleasure given by similar play in my own nursery days, when
the actors were the men and boys supplied by tailors' advertisements.
Many and varied were the experiences of these paper families, families,
it may be noted, none of whom demeaned themselves so far as to possess
any womankind. For that nursery party of five had lost its mother sadly
early and was ruled by two boys, who evidently thought little of the
Professor Dewey tells us that "nothing is more absurd than to suppose
that there is no middle term between leaving a child to his unguided
fancies, or controlling his activities by a formal succession of
dictated directions." It is the teacher's business to know what is
striving for utterance and to supply the needed stimulus and materials.
To show how under the inspiration of a thoroughly capable teacher this
continuity may be secured and prolonged for quite a long period, an
example may be taken from the work of Miss Janet Payne, who is
remarkably successful in meeting and stimulating, without in any way
forcing the "striving for utterance" mentioned by Dewey. On this
occasion Miss Payne produced a doll about ten inches high, dressed to
resemble the children's fathers, and suggested that a home should be
made for him. The children adopted him with zeal, named him Mr. Bird,
and his career lasted for two years.
Mr. Bird required a family, so Mrs. Bird had to be produced with her
little girl Winnie, and later a baby was added to the family. Beds,
tables and chairs, including a high chair for Winnie, were made of
scraps from the wood box, and for a long time Mr. Bird was most
domesticated. Miss Payne had used ordinary dolls' heads, but had
constructed the bodies herself in such a way that the dolls could sit
and stand, and use their arms to wield a broom or hold the baby. After
some time, one child said, "Mr. Bird ought to go to business," and after
much deliberation he became a grocer. His shop was made and stocked, and
he attended it every day, going home to dinner regularly. One day he
appeared to be having a meal on the shop counter, and it was explained
that he had been "rather in a hurry" in the morning, so Mrs. Bird had
given him his breakfast to take with him. The Bird family had various
adventures, they had spring cleanings, removals, visited the Zoo and
went to the seaside. One morning a little fellow sat in a trolley with
the Bird family beside him for three-quarters of an hour evidently
"imagining." I did inquire in passing if it was a drive or a picnic, but
the answer was so brief, that I knew I was an interruption and retired.
But a younger and bolder inquirer, who wanted to conduct an experiment
in modelling, ventured to ask if Mr. Bird wanted anything that could be
made "at clay modelling." "Yes, he wants some ink-pots for his
post-office shop," was the answer, with the slightly irate addition,
"but I _wish_ you'd call it the china factory."
When these children moved to an upper class, Mr. Bird was laid away, but
the children requested his presence. So he entered the new room and
became a farmer. He had now to write letters, to arrange rents, etc.,
and the money had to be made and counted. The letters served for writing
and reading lessons, and Miss Payne was careful to send the answers
through the real post, properly addressed to Mr. Bird with the name of
class and school. Mr. Bird hired labourers, the children grew corn, and
thrashed it and sent it to the mill. A miller had to be produced, and
the children, now his assistants, ground the wheat, and Mr. Bird came in
his cart to fetch the sacks of flour, which ultimately became the Birds'
Christmas pudding and was eaten by the labourers, now guests at the
feast. In spring, after careful provision for their comfort, Mr. Bird
went to the cattle market and bought cows. Though the milking had to be
pretence, the butter and cheese were really made.
The first question of the summer term was, "What's Mr. Bird going to do
this term?" Like other teachers inspired by Professor Dewey, we have
found our children most responsive to the suggestion of playing out
primitive man. But with some, not of course with the brightest, it is
too great a stretch to go at one step from the present to the most
primitive times, and we often spend a term over something of the nature
of Robinson Crusoe, where the situation presents characters accustomed
to modern civilisation and deprived of all its conveniences. Miss Payne
is careful to give the children full opportunity for suggestions--one
dull little boy puzzled his mother by telling her "I made a very good
'gestion' to-day"--so though she had not contemplated the renewed
appearance of Mr. Bird she said, "What do you want him to do?" "Let him
go out and shoot bears," cried an embryo sportsman. Somewhat taken
aback, Miss Payne temporised with, "He wouldn't find them in this
country." "Then let him go to India," cried one child, but another
called out, "No, no, let him go to a desert island!" and that was
carried with acclamation. Mr. Bird's various homes were on a miniature
scale, and were contained in a series of zinc trays, which we have had
made to fit the available tables and cupboard tops. We find these trays
convenient, as a new one can be added when more scope is required to
carry out new ideas.
The following accounts taken from the notes of Miss Hilda Beer, while a
student in training, show another kind of play where the children
themselves act the drama. The notes only cover a short period, but they
show how the play may arise quite incidentally.
_Mon., June 18._--As the ground is too damp for out-of-doors work, if
the children were not ready with plans, I meant to suggest building a
railway station, tunnel, etc., and later, I thought perhaps we might
paint advertisements of seaside resorts for our station.
But the children brought several things with them, and Dorothy brought
her own doll. Marie had left the baby doll from the other room in the
cot, so Dorothy and Sylvia said they must look after the babies. So
Cecil, Josie and I swept and dusted.
Then we began to play house. Cecil and Dorothy were Mr. and Mrs. Harry,
Sylvia was Mrs. Loo (husband at the war). Josie was Nurse and I was
Aunt Lizzie. The dolls were Winnie Harry, and Jack and Doreen Loo. Mr.
and Mrs. Harry built themselves a house and so did we. Cecil said, "But
what is the name of the road?" Mrs. Harry chose 25 Brookfield Avenue,
and Mr. Harry 7 Victoria Street, but he gave in and Mrs. Loo took his
name for her house. We had to put numbers on the houses; Sylvia could
make 7, but the others could not make 25, so I put it on the board and
they copied it. Josie having also made a 7 wanted to use it, but Mrs.
Loo objected, and said, "The mother is more important than the nurse,"
so Josie fixed her 7 on the house opposite.
After lunch we bathed the babies and put them to sleep, and as it was
time for the children's own rest, we all went to bed. When rest was
over, we washed and dressed, and then Mrs. Harry asked for clay to make
a water-tap for her house. That made all the children want to make
things in clay, so we made cups and saucers, plates, and a baby's
bottle, then scones and sponge-cakes, bread and a bread-board, and one
of the children said we must put a B on that.
Then Mrs. Loo said, "But we haven't any shelves." I had to leave my
class in Miss Payne's charge, and they spent the rest of the time
fitting in shelves, water-taps, and sinks.
_June 19._--After sweeping, dusting, and washing and dressing the dolls,
I read to the children "How the House was built." Then we all pretended
to bake, making rolls and cakes as next day was to be the doll Winnie's
birthday. We baked our cakes on a piece of wood on the empty fireplace.
The other children were invited to Winnie's party, so we went out to
shop. The children wanted lettuces from their own garden, but the grass
was too wet, so we pretended. The shop was on the edge of the grass and
we talked to imaginary shopmen, Cecil often exclaiming, "Eightpence!
why, it's not worth it!"
As neither of the houses would hold all the guests invited to the party,
we had to have a picnic instead.
_June_ 20.--I must see that Sylvia and Dorothy do the sweeping
to-morrow, and let Josie bath the doll; she is very good-natured, and I
see that they give her the less attractive occupation. I think too that
the food question has played too large a part, so if the children
suggest more cooking I shall look in the larder and say that really we
must not buy or bake as food goes bad in hot weather, and we must not
waste in war time.
The children have suggested making cushions, painting pictures, and
making knives and forks, but we have not had time.
_Report_.--Dorothy and Sylvia swept, Cecil mended the wall of the house,
Josie took the children down to the beach (the sand tray), and I dusted.
We looked into the larder and found that yesterday's greens were going
bad, so decided not to buy more. Then we took the babies for a walk. We
noticed how many nasturtiums were out, how the blackberry bushes were in
flower and in bud, and the runner-bean was in flower, and the red
flowers looked so pretty in the green leaves. We looked at the
hollyhocks, because I have told the children that they will grow taller
than I am, and they are always wondering how soon this will be. The
children found some cherries which had fallen, and Dorothy said how
pretty they were on the tree. I called attention to one branch that was
laden with fruit, and looked particularly pretty with the sun shining on
it. We also looked at the pear tree and the almond. Everything has come
on so fast, and the children were ready to say it was because of the
After rest, we went to the Hall to see the chickens. To-day they were
much bigger, and Sylvia said had "bigger wings." We were able to watch
them drinking, how they hold up their heads to let the water run down.
The rest of the morning we made curtains, and the children loved it.
There was much discussion and at first the children suggested making
them all different, but they agreed that curtains at windows were
usually alike. Mr. and Mrs. Harry nearly quarrelled, as one wanted green
and the other pink. I suggested trimming the green with a strip of pink,
and they were quite pleased. Mrs. Loo and Nurse chose green which was to
be sewn with red silk. Sylvia said, "A pattern," and I said, "You saw
something red and green to-day," and she called out, "Oh! cherries." She
cut out a round of paper and tried to sew round it, holding it in place
with her other hand. I suggested putting in a stitch to hold the paper.
Cecil was absorbed in sewing, and it seemed quieting for such an
excitable boy and good for his weak hands. One child said, "Fancy a boy
sewing," so I told how soldiers and sailors sewed. They sewed just as
These notes are continued in Chapter IX., where they are used to show
children's attitude towards Nature. Though separated here for a special
purpose it is clear that there neither is nor ought to be any real
separation in the lives of the children. Their lives are wholes and they
continually pass from one "subject" to another, because life and its
circumstances are making new demands. If it rains and you cannot gather
the lettuces you have grown from seed, you take refuge in happy
pretence; if it clears and the sun calls you out of doors, you take your
doll-babies for their walk.
JOY IN MAKING
I, too, will something make, and joy in the making.
Built by that only Law, that Use be suggester of Beauty.
There has always been _making_ in the Kindergarten, since to Froebel the
impulse to create was a characteristic of self-conscious humanity.
Stopford Brooke points out that Browning's Caliban, though almost brute,
shows himself human, in that, besides thinking out his natural religion,
he also dramatises and creates, "falls to make something."
'Tis solace making baubles, ay, and sport.
Tasteth, himself, no finer good i' the world
Than trying what to do with wit and strength--
What does a child gain from his ceaseless attempts at making? Froebel's
answer was that intellectually, through making he gains ideas, which,
received in words, remain mere words. "To learn through life and action
is more developing than to learn through words: expression in plastic
material, united with thought and speech, is far more developing than
mere repetition of words." Morally, it is through impressing himself on
his surroundings, that the child reaches the human attributes of
self-consciousness and self-control. One of the most important passages
Froebel ever wrote is this:
"The deepest craving of the child's life is to see itself mirrored in
some external object. Through such reflection, he learns to know his own
activity, its essence, direction and aim, and learns to determine his
activity in accordance with outer things. Such mirroring of the inner
life is essential, for through it the child comes to self-consciousness,
and learns to order, determine and master himself."
It is from the point of view of expression alone that Froebel regards
Art, and drawing, he takes to be "the first revelation of the creative
power within the child." The very earliest drawing to which he refers is
what he calls "sketching the object on itself," that is, the tracing
round the outlines of things, whereby the child learns form by
co-ordinating sight and motor perceptions, a stage on which Dr.
Montessori has also laid much stress. Besides noting how children draw
"round scissors and boxes, leaves and twigs, their own hands, and even
shadows," he sees that from experimentation with any pointed stick or
scrap of red stone or chalk, may come what Mr. E. Cooke called a
language of line, and now "the horse of lines, the man of lines" will
give much pleasure. After this it is true that "whatever a child knows
he will put into his drawing," and the teacher's business is to see that
he has abundant perceptions and images to express.
Another kind of drawing which children seem to find for themselves is
what they call making patterns. Out of this came the old-fashioned
chequer drawing, now condemned as injurious to eyesight and of little
When children see anything rich in colour the general cry is "Let's
paint it," which is their way of taking in the beauty. We should not,
says Froebel, give them paints and brushes inconsiderately, to throw
about, but give them the help they need, and he describes quite a
sensible lesson given to boys "whose own painting did not seem to paint
Teachers who want real help in the art training of children should read
the excellent papers by Miss Findlay in _School and Life_, where we are
told that we must rescue the term "design" from the limited uses to
which it is often condemned in the drawing class, viz. the construction
of pleasing arrangements of colour and form for surface decoration. "We
shall use it in its full popular significance in constructive work....
The term will cover building houses, making kettles, laying out streets,
planning rooms, dressing hair, as well as making patterns for cushion
covers and cathedral windows.... In thus widening our art studies, we
shall be harking back in a slight degree to the kind of training that in
past ages produced the great masters.... Giotto designed his Campanile
primarily for the bells that were to summon the Florentines to their
cathedral; the Venetians wanted facades for their palaces, and made
facades to delight their eyes; the Japanese have wanted small furniture
for their small rooms, and have developed wonderful skill and taste in
designing it. Neither art nor science can remain long afloat in high
abstract regions above the needs and interests of human life. To quote
'A Cathedral Pure and Perfect.
Built by that only Law, that Use be suggester of Beauty;
Nothing concealed that is, done, but all things done to adornment;
Meanest utilities seized as occasions to grace and embellish.'"
If this is true of the interests of the professional artist, much more
must it be true of the art training of the child. We must not then
despise the rough and ready productions of a child, nor force upon him a
standard for which he is not ready.
Before any other construction is possible to him, a child can _make_
with sand, and this is a constant joy, from the endless puddings that
are turned out of patty pans, up to such models as that of the whole
"Isle of Wight" with its tunnelled cliffs and system of railways, made
by an ex-Kindergarten boy as yet innocent of geography lessons.
The child then who is making, especially making for use, is to a certain
extent developing himself as an artist.
The little boys at Keilhau were well provided with sand, moss, etc., to
use with their building blocks, and it was a former Keilhau boy who
suggested to his old master that some kind of sand-box would make a good
plaything for the children in his new Kindergarten. Miss Wiggin tells us
that indirectly we owe the children's sand-heaps in the public parks to
Froebel, since these were the result of a suggestion made by Frau
Schrader to the Empress Frederick, and the idea was carried out during
her husband's too brief reign.
Another very early "making" is the arranging of furniture for shops,
carriages, trains, and the "ships upon the stairs," which made bright
pictures in Stevenson's memory.
Building blocks are truly, as Froebel puts it, "the finest and most
variable material that can be offered a boy for purposes of
representation." The little boxes associated with the Kindergarten were
originally planned for the use of nursery children two to three years of
age, and in most if not in all Kindergartens these have been replaced by
larger bricks. It is many years now since, at Miss Payne's suggestion,
we bought some hundreds of road paving blocks, and these are such a
source of pleasure that the children often dream about them. Living out
the life around presents much opportunity for making, which may be done
with blocks, but which even in the Kindergarten can be done with tools.
Care must be exercised, but children have quite a strong instinct for
self-preservation, and if shown how real workmen handle their tools,
they are often more careful than at a much later stage. To make a
workable railway signal is more interesting and much more educative than
to use one that came from a shop. The teacher may make illuminating
discoveries in the process, as when one set of children desired to make
a counter for a shop, and arranged their piece of wood vertically so
that the counter had no top. It was found that to these very little
people the most important part was the high front against which they
were accustomed to stand, not the flat top which they seldom saw.
Another set of children made a cart on which the farmer was to carry his
corn, and exemplified Dewey's "concrete logic of action." At first they
only wanted a board on wheels, but the corn fell off, so they nailed on
sides, but the cart never had either back or front and resembled some
seen in Early English pictures.
Any kind of cooking that can be done is a most important kind of making;
even the very little ones can help, and they thoroughly enjoy watching.
"Her hands were in the dough from three years old," said a north-country
mother, "so I taught her how to bake, and now (at seven) she can bake as
well as I can."
Children delight in carrying out the processes involved in the making of
flour, and they can easily thrash a little wheat, then winnow, grind
between stones and sift it. Their best efforts produce but a tiny
quantity of flour, but the experience is real, interest is great, and a
new significance attaches to the shop flour from which bread is
Butter and cheese can easily be made, also jam, and even a Christmas
pudding. In very early Kindergartens we read of the growing, digging and
cooking of potatoes, and of the extraction of starch to be used as
Special anniversaries require special making. We possess a doll of 1794
to whom her old mother bequeathed her birthday. The doll's birthday is
a great event, and on the previous day each class in turn bakes tiny
loaves, or cakes or pastry for the party.
Christmas creates a need for decorations, Christmas cards and presents,
and Empire Day and Trafalgar Day for flags, while in many places there
is an annual sale on behalf of a charity.
It does not do to be too modern and to despise all the old-fashioned
"makings," which gave such pleasure some years ago. Kindergarten
Paper-folding has fallen into an undeserved oblivion. The making of
boats or cocked-hats from old newspaper is a great achievement for a
child, and to make pigs and purses, corner cupboards and chairs for
paper dolls is still a delight, and calls forth real concentration and
Making in connection with some whole, such as the continuous
representation of life around us, and, at a later stage, the
re-inventing of primitive industries, or making which arises out of some
special interest may have a higher educational value, but apart from
this, children want to make for making's sake. "Can't I make something
in wood like Boy does?" asked a little girl. There is joy in the making,
joy in being a cause, and for this the children need opportunity, space
and time. There is a lesson to many of us in some verses by Miss F.
Sharpley, lately published (_Educational Handwork_), which should be
entitled, "When can I make my little Ship?"
I'd like to cut, and cut, and cut,
And over the bare floor
To strew my papers all about,
And then to cut some more.
I'd sweep them up so neatly, too,
But mother says, "Oh no!
There is no time, it's seven o'clock;
To bed you quickly go!"
In school, I'd just begun to make
A pretty little ship,
But I was slow, and all the rest
Stood up to dance and skip.
When shall I make my little ship?
At home there is no gloy,
And father builds it by himself
Or goes to buy a toy.
Let me tell the stories and I care not who makes the textbooks.
"Is it Bible story to-day or any _kind_ of a story?" was the greeting of
an eager child one morning. "Usually they were persuading him to tell
stories," writes Ebers, from his recollections of Froebel as an old man
at Keilhau. "He was never seen crossing the courtyard without a group of
the younger pupils hanging to his coat tails and clasping his arms.
Usually they were persuading him to tell stories, and when he
condescended to do so, the older ones flocked around him, too, and they
were never disappointed. What fire, what animation the old man had
So Froebel could write with feeling of "the joyful faces, the sparkling
eyes, the merry shouts that welcome the genuine story-teller"; he had a
right to pronounce that "the child's desire and craving for tales, for
legends, for all kinds of stories, and later on for historical accounts,
is very intense."
Surely there was never a little one who did not crave for stories,
though here and there may be found an older child, who got none at the
right time, and who, therefore, lost that most healthy of appetites.
Most of us will agree that there is something wrong with the child who
does not like stories, but it may be that the something wrong belonged
to the mother. One such said to the Abbe Klein one day, "My children
have never asked for stories." "But, madame," was the reply, "neither
would they ask for cake if they had never eaten it, or even seen it."
It is easy for us to find reasons why we should tell stories. We can
brush aside minor aims such as increasing the child's vocabulary.
Undoubtedly his vocabulary does increase enormously from listening to
stories, but it is difficult to imagine that any one could rise to real
heights in story-telling with this as an aim or end. That the narrator
should clothe his living story in words expressive of its atmosphere,
and that the listener should in this way gain such power over language,
that he, too, can fitly express himself is quite another matter.
First, then, we tell stories because we love to tell them and because
the children love to listen. We choose stories that appeal to our
audience. It is something beautiful, humorous, heroic or witty that we
have found, and being social animals we want to share it. As educators
with an aim before us, we deliberately tell stories in order to place
before our children ideals of unselfishness, courage and truth. We know
from our own experience, not only in childhood, but all through life how
the story reaches our feelings as no sermon or moralising ever does, and
we have learned that "out of the heart are the issues of life." Unguided
feelings may be a danger, but the story does more than rouse
feelings--it gives opportunity for the exercise of moral judgement, for
the exercise of judgement upon questions of right and wrong. Feeling is
aroused, but it is not usually a personal feeling, so judgement is
likely to be unbiassed. It may, however, be biassed by the tone absorbed
from the environment even in childhood, as when the mother makes more of
table etiquette than of kindness, and the child, instead of condemning
Jacob's refusal to feed his hungry brother with the red pottage, as all
natural children do condemn, says: "No, Esau shouldn't have got it,
'cause he asked for it."
As a rule, the children's standard is correct enough, and approval or
condemnation is justly bestowed, provided that the story has been chosen
to suit the child's stage of development. One little girl objected
strongly to Macaulay's ideal Roman, who "in Rome's quarrel, spared
neither land nor gold, nor son nor wife." "That wasn't right," she said
stoutly, "he ought to think of his own wife and children first." She was
satisfied, however, when it was explained to her that Horatius might be
able to save many fathers to many wives and children. In my earliest
teaching days, having found certain history stories successful with
children of seven, I tried the same with children of six, but only once.
Edmund of East Anglia dying for his faith fell very flat. "What was the
good of that?" said one little fellow, "'cause if you're dead you can't
do anything! But if you're alive, you can get more soldiers and win a
victory." The majority of the class, however, seemed to feel with
another who asked, "Why didn't he promise while the Danes were there? He
needn't have kept it when they went away."
Another way of stating our aim in telling stories to children is that a
story presents morality in the concrete. Virtues and vices _per se_
neither attract nor repel, they simply mean nothing to a child, until
they are presented as the deeds of man or woman, boy or girl, living and
acting in a world recognised as real. One telling story is that of the
boy who got hold of Miss Edgeworth's _Parent's Assistant_ and who said
to his mother, "Mother, I've been reading 'The Little Merchants' and I
know now how horrid it is to cheat and tell lies." "I have been telling
you that ever since you could speak," said his mother, to which the boy
answered, "Yes, I know, but that didn't interest me." Our children had
been told the story of how the Countess of Buchan crowned the Bruce, a
duty which should have been performed by her brother the Earl of Fife,
who, however, was too much afraid of the wrath of English Edward. A few
days after, an argument arose and one little girl was heard to say, "I
don't want to be brave," and a boy rejoined, "Girls don't need to be
brave." I said, "Which would you rather be, the Countess who put the
crown on the King's head, or the brother who ran away?" And quickly came
the answer, "Oh! the brave Countess," from the very child who didn't
want to be brave!
Froebel sums up the teacher's aim in the words: "The telling of stories
is a truly strengthening spirit-bath, it gives opportunity for the
exercise of all mental powers, opportunity for testing individual
judgement and individual feelings."
But why is it that children crave for stories? "Education," says Miss
Blow, a veteran Froebelian, "is a series of responses to indicated
needs," and undoubtedly the need for stories is as pressing as the need
to explore, to experiment and to construct. What is the unconscious need
that is expressed in this craving, why is this desire so deeply
implanted by Nature? So far, no one seems to have given a better answer
than Froebel has done, when he says that the desire for stories comes
out of the need to understand life, that it is in fact rooted in the
instinct of investigation. "Only the study of the life of others can
furnish points of comparison with the life the boy himself has
experienced. The story concerns other men, other circumstances, other
times and places, yet the hearer seeks his own image, he beholds it and
no one knows that he sees it."
Man cannot be master of his surroundings till he investigates and so
gathers knowledge. But he has to adapt himself not only to the physical
but to the human environment in which he lives. In stories of all
kinds, children study human life in all kinds of circumstances, nay, if
the story is sufficiently graphic they almost go through the experiences
narrated, almost live the new life.
With very young children the most popular of all stories is the "The
Three Bears" and it is worth a little analysis. A little girl runs away,
and running away is a great temptation to little girls and boys, as
great an adventure as running off to sea will be at a later stage. She
goes into a wood and meets bears: what else could you expect! The story
then deals with really interesting things, porridge, basins, chairs and
beds. The strong contrast of the bears' voices fascinates children, and
just when retribution might descend upon her, the heroine escapes and
gets safe home. Children revel in the familiar details, but these alone
would not suffice, there must be adventure, excitement, romance. One
feels that Southey had the assistance of a child in making his story so
complete, and we can hear the questions: "How did the big bear know that
the little girl had tasted his porridge? Oh, because she had left the
spoon. How did he know that she had sat in his chair? Because she left
the cushion untidy, and as for the little bear's chair, why, she sat
that right out."
That quite little children desire fresh experiences or adventures and
really exciting ones, is shown by the following stories made by
children. The first two are by a little girl of two-and-a-half, the
third is taken from Lady Glenconner's recently published _The Sayings of
"Once upon a time there was a giant and a little girl, and he told a
little girl not to kiss a bear acos he would bite her, and the little
girl climbed right on his back and she jumped right down the stairs and
the bear came walking after the little girl and kissing her, and she
called it a little bear and it was a big bear! (immense amusement).
"Once upon a time there was a little piggy and he was right in a big
green and white fire and he didn't hurt hisself, and (told as a
tremendous secret) he touched a fire with his handie. 'What a naughty
piggy,' said Auntie, 'and what next?' He jumped right out of a fire.
Auntie, can you smile? (For aunties cannot smile when people are
The third story is said to have been filled with pauses due to a certain
slowness of speech, but the pauses are "lit by the lightning flash of a
flying eyebrow, and the impressive nodding of a silken head."
"Once, you know, there was a fight between a little pony and a lion, and
the lion sprang against the pony and the pony put his back against a
stack and bited towards the lion, and the lion rolled over and the pony
jumped up, and he ran up ... and the pony turned round and the lion ..."
His mother felt she had lost the thread. "Which won?" she asked. "Which
won!" he repeated and after a moment's pause he said, "Oh! the little
This surprising conclusion points to a stage when it is difficult for a
child to hold the thread of a narrative, and at this stage, along with
simple stories of little ones like themselves, repetition or
"accumulation" stories seem to give most pleasure. "Henny Penny" and
"Billy Bobtail"--told by Jacobs as "How Jack went to seek his
Fortune"--are prime favourites. Repetition of rhythmic phrases has a
great attraction, as in "Three Little Pigs," with its delightful
repetition of "Little pig, little pig, let me come in," "No, no, by the
hair of my chinny chin chin," "Then I'll huff and I'll puff and I'll
blow your house in."
Very soon, however, the children are ready for the time-honoured
fairy-tale or folk-tale.
The orthodox beginning, "Once upon a time, in a certain country there
lived ...," fits the stage when neither time nor place is of any
consequence. Animals speak, well why not, we can! The fairies
accomplish wonders, again why not? Wonderful things do happen and they
must have a wonderful cause, and, as one child said, if there never had
been any fairies, how could people have written stories about them?
Goodness is rewarded and wickedness is punished, as is only right in the
child's eyes, and goodness usually means kindness, the virtue best
understood of children. Obedience is no doubt the nursery virtue in the
eyes of authority, but kindness is much more human and attractive.
"Both child and man," says Froebel, "desire to know the significance of
what happens around them; this is the foundation of Greek choruses,
especially in tragedy, and of many productions in the realm of legends
and fairy-tales. It is the result of the deep-rooted consciousness, the
slumbering premonition of being surrounded by that which is higher and
more conscious than ourselves." The fairy tale is the child's mystery
land, his recognition that there are more things in heaven and earth
than are dreamt of in our philosophy or in our science. Dr. Montessori
protests against the idea that fairy-tales have anything to do with the
religious sense, saying that "faith and fable are as the poles apart."
She does not understand that it is for their truth that we value
fairy-tales. The truths they teach are such as that courage and
intelligence can conquer brute strength, that love can brave and can
overcome all dangers and always finds the lost, that kindness begets
kindness and always wins in the end. The good and the faithful marries
the princess--or the prince--and lives happy ever after. And assuredly
if he does not marry his princess, he will not live happy, and if she
does not marry the prince, she will live in no beautiful palace. And
there is more. Take for instance, the story of "Toads and Diamonds." The
courteous maiden who goes down the well, who gives help where it is
needed, and who works faithfully for Mother Holle, comes home again
dropping gold and diamonds when she speaks. Her silence may be silver,
but her speech is golden, and her words give light in dark places. The
selfish and lazy girl, who refuses help and whose work is unfaithful and
only done for reward, has her reward. Henceforth, when she speaks, down
fall toads and snakes her words are cold as she is, they may glitter but
[Footnote 21: This version is probably a mixture of the versions of
Perrault and Grimm but Mother Holle shaking her feathers is worth
Fairy- and folk-tales give wholesome food to the desire for adventure,
whereas in what we may call realistic stories, adventure is chiefly
confined to the naughty child, who is therefore more attractive than the
good and stodgy. Even among fairy-tales we may select. "Beauty and the
Beast" and "The Sleeping Beauty" and "Snow-white and Rose-red" are
distinctly preferable to "Jack the Giant Killer" or "Puss in Boots,"
while "Bluebeard" cannot be told. It seems to me that children can often
safely read for themselves stories the adult cannot well tell. The
child's notion of justice is crude, bad is bad, and whether embodied in
an ogre or in Pharaoh of Egypt, it must be got rid of, put out of the
story. No child is sorry for the giant when Jack's axe cleaves the
beanstalk, and as for Pharaoh, "Well, it's a good thing he's drowned,
for he was a bad man, wasn't he?" Death means nothing to children, as a
rule, except disappearance. When children can read for themselves, they
will take from their stories what suits their stage of development,
their standard of judgement, and we need not interfere, even though they
regard with perfect calm what seems gruesome to the adult.
As a valuable addition to the best-known fairy-tales, we may mention one
or two others: _Grannie's Wonderful Chair_ is a delightful set of
stories, full of charming pictures, though the writer, Frances Brown,
was born blind. Mrs. Ewing's stories for children, _The Brownies_, with
_Amelia and the Dwarfs_ and _Timothy's Shoes_, are inimitable, and her
_Old-Fashioned Fairy Tales_ are very good, but not for very young
children. Her other stories are certainly about children, but are, as a
rule, written for adults.
George Macdonald's stories are all too well known and too universally
beloved to need recommendation. But in telling them, _e.g._ "The
Princess and the Goblins" or "At the Back of the North Wind," the young
teacher must remember that they are beautiful allegories. Before she
ventures to tell them, the beginner should ponder well what the
poet--for these are prose poems--means, and who is represented by the
beautiful Great-great-grandmother always old and always young, or "North
Wind" who must sink the ship but is able to bear the cry from it,
because of the sound of a far-off song, which seems to swallow up all
fear and pain and to set the suffering "singing it with the rest."
_Water-Babies_ is a bridge between the fairy-tale of a child and equally
wonderful and beautiful fairy-tales of Nature, and it, too, is full of
meaning. If the teacher has gained this, the children will not lag
behind. It was a child of backward development, who, when she heard of
Mother Carey, "who made things make themselves," said, "Oh! I know who
that was, that was God."
Such stories must be spread out over many days of telling, but they gain
rather than lose from that, though for quite young children the stories
do require to be short and simple, and often repeated. If children get
plenty of these, the stage for longer stories is reached wonderfully
Pseudo-scientific stories, in which, for example, a drop of water
discusses evaporation and condensation, are not stories at all, but a
kind of mental meat lozenge, most unsatisfying and probably not even
fulfilling their task of supplying nourishment in form of facts. Fables
usually deal with the faults and failings of grown-ups, and may be left
for children to read for themselves, to extract what suits them.
Illustrations are not always necessary, but if well chosen they are
always a help. Warne has published some delightfully illustrated stories
for little children, "The Three Pigs," "Hop o' my Thumb," "Beauty and
the Beast," etc. They are illustrated by H.M. Brock and by Leslie
Brooke, and they really are illustrated. The artists have enjoyed the
stories and children equally enjoy the pictures.
The teacher must consider what ideas she is presenting and whether words
alone can convey them properly. We must remember that most children
visualise and that they can only do so from what they have seen. So,
without illustrations, a castle may be a suburban house with Nottingham
lace curtains and an aspidistra, while Perseus or Moses may differ
little from the child's own father or brothers. Again, town children
cannot visualise hill and valley, forest and moor, brook and river, not
to mention jungles and snowfields and the trackless ocean. It is not
easy to find pictures to give any idea of such scenes, but it is worth
while to look for them, and it is also worth while for the teacher to
visualise, and to practise vivid describing of what she sees. Children,
of course, only want description when it is really a part of the story,
as when Tom crosses the moor, descends Lewthwaite Crag, or travels from
brook to river and from river to sea.
As to how a story should be told, opinions differ. It must be well told
with a well-modulated voice and with slight but effective gesture. But
the model should be the story as told in the home, not the story told
from a platform. The children need not be spellbound all the time, but
should be free to ask sensible questions and to make childlike comments
in moderation. The language should fit the subject; beautiful thoughts
need beauty of expression, high and noble deeds must be told in noble
language. A teacher who wishes to be a really good teller of stories
must herself read good literature, and she will do well not only to
prepare her stories with care, but to consider the language she uses in
daily life. There is a happy medium between pedantry and the latest
variety of slang, and if daily speech is careless and slipshod, it is
difficult to change it for special occasions. Our stories should not
only prepare for literature, they should be literature, and those who
realise what the story may do for children will not grudge time spent in
preparation. If the story is to present an ideal, let us see that we
present a worthy one; if it is to lead the children to judge of right
and wrong, let us see that we give them time and opportunity to judge
and that we do not force their judgement.
Lastly, if the story is to make the children feel, let us see that the
feeling is on the right side, that they shrink from all that is mean,
selfish, cruel and cowardly, and sympathise with whatsoever things are
true, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good
IN GRASSY PLACES
My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky,
So was it when my life began
So be it when I shall grow old,
Or let me die.
What is the real aim of what we call Nature-lessons, Nature-teaching,
Nature-work? It is surely to foster delight in beauty, so that our
hearts shall leap up at sight of the rainbow until we die. For, indeed,
if we lose that uplift of the heart, some part of us has died already.
Yet even Wordsworth mourns that nothing can bring back the hour of
splendour in the grass and glory in the flower!
In its answer to the question "What is the chief end of man?" the old
Shorter Catechism has a grand beginning: "Man's chief end is to glorify
God and to enjoy Him for ever." Do we lose the vision because we are not
bold enough to take that enjoyment as our chief end? To enjoy good is to
Our ends or aims are our desires, and Mr. Clutton Brock, in his
_Ultimate Belief_, urges teachers to recognise that the spirit of man
has three desires, three ends, and that it cannot be satisfied till it
attains all three. Man desires to do right, so far as he sees it, for
the sake of doing right; he desires to gain knowledge or to know for the
sake of knowing, for the sake of truth; and he desires beauty.
"We do not value that which we call beautiful because it is true, or
because it is good, but because it is beautiful. There is a glory of the
universe which we call truth which we discover and apprehend, and a
glory of the universe which we call beauty and which we discover or
Froebel begins his _Education of Man_ by an inquiry into the reason for
our existence and his answer is that _all_ things exist to make manifest
the spirit, the _elan vital_, which brought them into being. "_Sursum
corda_," says Stevenson,
Lift up your hearts
Art and Blue Heaven
April and God's Larks
Green reeds and sky scattering river
A Stately Music
And Browning? "If you get simple beauty and nought else, you get about
the best thing God invents."
To let children get that beauty should be our aim, and they must get it
in their own way. "Life in and with Nature and with the fair silent
things of Nature, should be fostered by parents and others," Froebel
tells us, "as a chief fulcrum of child-life, and this is accomplished
chiefly in play, which is at first simply natural life."
Let us surmount the ruts of our teaching experience and climb high
enough to look back upon our own childhood, to see where beauty called
to us, where we attained to beauty.
Among my own earliest recollections come a first view of the starry sky
and the discovery of Heaven. No one called attention to the stars, they
spoke themselves to a child of four or five and declared "the glory of
God." Heaven was not on high among these glorious stars, however. It was
a grassy place with flowers and sunshine. It had to be Heaven because
you went through the cemetery to reach it, and because it was so bright
and flowery and there were no graves in it. I never found it again,
because I had forgotten how to get there.
Another very early memory is one of grief, to see from the window how
the gardener was mowing down all the daisies, and there were so many, in
the grass; and yet another is of a high, grassy, sunny field with a
little stream running far down below. It was not really far and there
was nothing particularly beautiful in the place to grown-up eyes, but
the beholder was very small and loved it dearly. To his Art and Blue
Heaven Stevenson might have added Sun and Green Grass. For he knew what
grassy places are to the child, and that "happy play in grassy places"
might well be Heaven to the little one.
A most interesting little book called _What is a Kindergarten?_ was
published some years ago in America. It is written by a landscape
gardener, and contains most valuable suggestions as to how best to use
for a Kindergarten or Nursery School plots of ground which may be
secured for that purpose. Naturally the writer has much to say on the
laying out and stocking the available space to the best advantage,
choosing the most suitable positions for the house, where the teacher
must live, he says, to supply the atmosphere of a home; for animal
hutches, for sand-heaps and seesaws; for the necessary shelter, for the
children's gardens, and for the lawn, for even on his smallest plan, a
"twenty-five-foot lot," we find "room for a spot of green." Later he
explains that for this green one must use what will grow, and if grass
will not perhaps clover will. The way in which the trees and plants are
chosen is most suggestive. Beauty and suitability are always considered,
but he remembers his own youth, and also considers the special joys of
childhood. For it is not Nature lessons that come into his calculations
but "the mere association of plants and children." So the birch tree is
chosen, partly for its grace and beauty, but also because of its bark,
for one can scribble on its papery surface; the hazel, because children
delight in the catkins with their showers of golden dust, and the nut
"hidden in its cap of frills and tucks." And he adds: "How much more
alluring than the naked fruit from the grocer's sack are these nuts,
especially when dots for eyes and mouth are added, and a whole little
face is tucked within this natural bonnet."
[Footnote 22: G. Hansen, pub. Elder, Morgan & Shepherd, San Francisco,
In addition to the flowers chosen for beauty of colour, this lover of
children and of gardens wants Canterbury Bells to ring, Forget-me-nots
because they can stand so much watering, and "flowers with faces,"
pansies, sweet-peas, lupins, snapdragons, monkey flowers, red and white
dead nettles, and red clover to bring the bees. Some of these are chosen
because the child can do something with them, can find their own uses
for them, can play with them. And, speaking generally, playing with them
is the child's way of appreciating both plant and animal. Picking
feathery grasses, red-tipped daisies, sweet-smelling clover and golden
dandelions; feeding snapdragons with fallen petals, finding what's
o'clock by blowing dandelion fruits, paying for dock tea out of a fairy
purse, shading poppy dolls with woodruff parasols, that is how a child
enjoys the beauty of colour, scent and form. He gets not more but less
beauty when he must sit in a class and answer formal questions. "Must we
talk about them before we take the flowers home?" asked a child one day;
"they are so pretty." Clearly, the "talk" was going to lessen, not to
deepen the beauty. And animals? The child plays with cat and dog, he
feeds the chickens, the horse and the donkey, he watches with the utmost
interest caterpillar, snail and spider, but he does not want to be asked
questions about them--he does want to talk and perhaps to ask the
questions himself--nor does he always want even to draw, paint or model
them. Mostly he wants to watch, and perhaps just to stir them up a
little if they do not perform to his satisfaction. He does not
necessarily mean to tease, only why should he watch an animal that does
nothing? "The animals haven't any habits when I watch them," a little
girl once said to Professor Arthur Thomson.
All children should live in the country at least for part of the year.
They should know fields and gardens, and have intercourse with hens and
chickens, cows and calves, sheep and lambs; should make hay and see the
corn cut. They would still want the wisely sympathetic teacher, not to
arouse interest--that is not necessary, but to keep it alive by keeping
pace with the child's natural development. It is not merely living in
the country that develops the little child's interest in shape and
colour and scent into something deeper. People still "spend all their
time in the fields and forests and see and feel nothing of the beauties
of Nature, and of their influence on the human heart"; and this, said
Froebel--and it is just what Mr. Clutton Brock is saying now--is because
the child "fails to find the same feelings among adults." Two effects
follow: the child feels the want of sympathy and loses some respect for
the elder, and also he loses his original joy in Nature.
"There is in every human being the passionate desire for this
self-forgetfulness--to which it attains when it is aware of beauty--and
a passionate delight in it when it comes. The child feels that delight
among spring flowers; we can all remember how we felt it in the first
apprehension of some new beauty of the universe, when we ceased to be
little animals and became aware that there was this beauty outside us to
be loved. And most of us must remember, too, the strange indifference of
our elders. They were not considering the lilies of the field; they did
not want us to get our feet wet among them. We might be forgetting
ourselves, but they were remembering us; and we became suddenly aware of
the bitterness of life and the tyranny of facts. Now parents and nurses
(and teachers) have, of course, to remember children when they forget
themselves. But they ought to be aware that the child, when he forgets
himself in the beauty of the world, is passing through a sacred
experience which will enrich and glorify the whole of his life.
Children, because they are not engaged in the struggle for life, are
more capable of this aesthetic self-forgetfulness than they will
afterwards be; and they need all of it that they can get, so that they
may remember it and prize it in later years. In these heaven-sent
moments they know what disinterestedness is. They have a test by which
they can value all future experience and know the dullness and staleness
of worldly success. Therefore it is a sin to check, more than need be,
their aesthetic delight" (_The Ultimate Belief_).
We cannot all give to our children the experiences we should like to
supply, but if we are clear that we are aiming at enjoyment of Nature,
and not at supplying information, we shall come nearer to what is
desirable. For years, almost since it opened in 1908, Miss Reed of the
Michaelis Free Kindergarten has taken her children to the country. It
means a great deal of work and responsibility, it means collecting funds
and giving up one's scanty leisure, it means devoted service, but it has
been done, and it has been kept up even during war time, though with
great difficulty as to funds, because of the inestimable benefit to the
children. Miss Stokes of the Somers Town Nursery School secured a
country holiday for her little ones in various ways, partly through the
Children's Country Holiday Fund, but since the war she has been unable
to secure help of that kind, and has managed to take the children away
to a country cottage. A paragraph in the report says: "The children in
the country had a delightful time, and what was seen and done during
their holiday is still talked about continually. These joys entered into
all the work of the nursery school and helped the children for months
to retain a breath of the country in their London surroundings. They
realised much from that visit. Cows now have horns, wasps have wings and
fly--alas they sting also. Hens sit on eggs, an almost unbelievable
thing. Fishes, newts, tadpoles, were all met with and greeted as
friends. Children and helpers alike returned home full of health and
vigour and longing for the next time. One little maid wept bitterly, and
there seemed no joy in life at home until she came across the school
rabbit, which was tenderly caressed, and consoled her with memories of
the country and hopes for future visits."
In the days when teachers argued about the differences between
Object-lessons and Nature-lessons, one point insisted upon was that the
Nature-lesson far surpassed the Object-lesson because it dealt with
We have learned now that we should as much as we can surround our
children with life and growth. Even indoors it is easy to give the joy
of growing seeds and bulbs and of opening chestnut branches: without any
cruelty we can let them enjoy watching snails and worms and we can keep
caterpillars or silkworms and so let them drink their fill of the
miracle of development. But beauty comes to children in very different
ways, and always it is Nature, though it may not be life.
Children revel in colour, colour for its own sake, and should be allowed
to create it. In a modern novel there is a description of a mother doing
her washing in the open air and "at her feet sat a baby intent upon the
assimilation of a gingerbread elephant, but now and then tugging at her
skirts and holding up a fat hand. Each time he was rewarded by a dab of
soapsuds, which she deposited good-naturedly in his palm. He received it
with solemn delight; watching the roseate play of colour as the bubbles
shrank and broke, and the lovely iridescent treasure vanished in a smear
of dirty wetness while he looked. Then he would beat his fists
delightedly against his mother's dress and presently demand another
The following notes from another student's report show how this may
spring naturally out of the children's life:
[Footnote 23: Miss Edith Jones.]
"We were spinning the teetotum yesterday and it did not spin well so we
made new ones. While the children were painting their tops, Oliver grew
very eager when he found he could fill in all the spaces in different
colours, but Betty made her colours very insipid. I want them to get the
feeling of beautiful colour, so I shall show them a book with the
colours graded in it, and we shall each have a paper and paint on it all
the rich colours we can think of. The colours will probably run into
each other, and so the children will get ideas about the blending of
colours, but I will watch to see that they do not get the colour too
wet. If they are not tired of painting I want to show them a painted
circle to turn on a string and they can make these for themselves, using
the colours they have already used.
"I want the children to do some group work, and I thought we might make
a village with shops and houses under the trees in the garden and have
little men and women to represent ourselves. The suggestion will
probably have to come from the teacher, but the children will probably
have the desire when it is suggested, and I hope we shall be able to go
on enlarging our town on the pattern of the towns the children know. If
they want bricks for their houses they can dig clay in the garden.
"_Report_.--The children wanted to make a tea-set, so we carried our
clay outside. They began discussing why their china would not be so fine
as the china at home, and I said the clay might be different. Then
Bernard asked what sort of china we should get from the clay in the
garden, and I told him that kind of clay was generally made into
bricks, and suggested making bricks. From that we went on to the use of
bricks, and to-morrow we are going to dig, and make bricks to build a
town. Bernard is anxious to know how we shall make mortar. Just then it
started to rain, and Bernard said that if the sun kept shining and it
rained hard enough we should have a rainbow, and he wished it would come
so as to see the beautiful colours. I thought this rather a coincidence,
and told him I had a book with all the rainbow colours in it. They asked
to see it, so I showed it and suggested painting the colours ourselves.
Those who had finished their dishes started, and we talked about the
richness of the colours. One or two children started with very watery
colour, so I showed them the book and began to paint myself. They all
enjoyed it very much, especially the different colours made where the
colours ran into each other. The results pleased them and they are to be
used as wall-papers to sell in our town, but Sybil wants to have a toy
shop, and she is going to make a painted circle for it like the one I
This is clearly the time to show a glass prism and to let these children
make rainbows for themselves, to tell the story of Iris, and to use any
colour material, Milton Bradley spectrum papers, Montessori silks,
colour top, and anything else so long as the children keep up their
interest. The interest in colour need never die out; it will probably
show itself now in finer discrimination, and more careful reproduction
of the colours of flowers and leaves, and the sympathy given will
heighten interest and increase enjoyment.
Here are some notes showing children's numerous activities in a suburban
garden where they were allowed to visit a hen and chickens.
"_Monday_--To-day the children took up their mustard and cress, dug
and raked the ground ready for transplanting the lettuces. After their
rest we went to see the chickens at the Hall (the Students' Hostel), and
the Hall garden seemed to them a wonderful place. They watched the
trains go in and out of the station at the foot of the garden, and
explored all the side doors, going up and down all the steps and into
the cycle shed. They helped Miss S. to stir the soot water, then they
went to the grassy bank and ran down it, slid down it, and rolled down
it. They peeped over the wall into the next garden, they peeped through
holes in the fences and finished up with a swing in the hammock. Each
child had twenty swings, and they enjoyed counting in time with the
swaying of the hammock, and swayed their own bodies as they pushed.
[Footnote 24: These notes are part of those already given on pp. 68-71.]
"Another example of love and rhythm was when they went to say good-bye
to the hen and chickens, and kept on repeating 'Good-bye, good-bye' all
together, nodding their heads at the same time.
"I did not know if I should have let them do so much, but I was not sure
that we should be allowed to come back and I wanted them to enjoy the
"_Wednesday_.--First we watered the lettuces we had transplanted, and
transplanted more. Then, as we had permission to come again, we took
some of our lettuces to the chickens. We saw the mother hen with one
wing spread right out, and the children were much surprised to see how
large it was. We looked at the roses, and saw how the bud of yesterday
was full blown to-day. The children again ran down and rolled down the
bank, and had turns in the hammock, this time to the rhythm of "Margery
Daw" sung twice through, and then counting up to twenty. Very often
they went to watch the trains. Cecil is particularly interested in them,
and wanted to know how long was the time between. He said three minutes,
I guessed nine, but we found they were irregular. In the intervals while
waiting for a train to pass, we played a 'listening' game, listening to
what sounds we could hear. A thrush came and sang right over our heads,
so the listening was concentrated on his song, and we tried to say what
we thought he meant to say. One child said, 'He says, "Come here, come
here,"' but they found this too difficult. We also watched a boy
cleaning the station windows, and Dorothy said, 'Miss Beer, isn't it
wonderful that you can see through glass?' I agreed, but made no other
remark because I did not know what to say.
"We rested outside to-day under an almond tree. I pointed out how pretty
the sky looked when you only saw it peeping through the leaves. After
rest the children noticed feathery grasses, and spent the rest of the
morning gathering them. I suggested that they should see how many kinds
they could find. They found three, but were not enthusiastic about it,
being content just to pluck, but they were delighted when they found
specially long and beautiful grasses hidden deep under a leafy bush.
They also found clover leaves, and I told them its name and sang to them
the verse from 'The Bee,' with 'The sweet-smelling clover, he, humming,
"_Thursday._--Brushed and dusted the room, gave fresh water to the
flowers, and then went to gardening. The children were delighted to find
ladybirds on the lettuces they were transplanting, and we also noticed
how the cherries were ripening.
"They joined the Transition Class for games. Later, while playing with
the sand, Cecil made a discovery. He said, 'Miss Beer, do you know, I
know what sand is, it's little tiny tiny stones.'"
It may be worth while to notice some things in these notes. First the
pleasure in exploring the new surroundings and then the variety of
delights. Our landscape gardener mentions that "any slope to our grounds
should be welcomed.... For as we leave the level land and flee to the
mountains to spend our vacation, so will a child avoid the street and
seek the gutter and the bank on the unimproved lot to enjoy its
pastime." Our own children have been fortunate enough to have a bank for
their play, and though, unfortunately, extension of buildings has taken
away much of this, we have had abundant opportunity to see the value of
sloping ground. Then there are the discoveries, the feathery grasses,
especially those which were hidden, the ladybirds, that sand is really
"tiny tiny stones"--has every adult noticed that, or is sand "just
sand"?--and the "wonder" that we can see through glass, a wonder
realised by a little girl of four years old. Also we can notice what the
children did not desire. They liked listening to the thrush, but to make
out what the thrush was "saying" was beyond them. They liked gathering
feathery grasses, but to sort these into different kinds gave no
pleasure, though older children would have enjoyed trying to find many
Perhaps teachers with a fair amount of experience might have felt like
the beginner who frankly says, "I didn't say anything more because I
didn't know what to say," when Dorothy discovered the wonderfulness of
glass. Perhaps we are silent because the child has gone ahead of us. It
is wonderful, but we have never thought about it. In such cases we must,
as Froebel says, "become a learner with the child" and humbly, with real
sympathy and earnestness, ask, "Is it wonderful, I suppose it is, but I
never thought about it, why do _you_ call it wonderful?" If the child
answers, it is well, if not the teacher can go on thinking aloud,
thinking with the child. "Let's think what other things we can see
through." We can never understand it, we can only reach the fact of
"transparency" as a wonderful property of certain substances and
consider which possess this magic quality. There is water of course, and
there is jelly or gelatine, but these are not hard, they are not stones
as glass seems to be. The child will be pleased too to see a crystal or
a bit of mica, but the main thing is that we should not imagine we have
disposed of the wonder by a mere name with a glib, "Oh, that's just
because it's transparent," but that we realise, and reinforce and
deepen the child's sense of wonderfulness. So teacher and child enter
into the thoughts of Him
Who endlessly was teaching
Above my spirits utmost reaching,
What love can do in the leaf or stone,
So that to master this alone,
This done in the stone or leaf for me,
I must go on learning endlessly.
A WAY TO GOD
Wonders chiefly at himself
Who can tell him what he is
Or how meet in human elf
Coming and past eternities.
It is of set purpose that this short chapter, referring to what we
specially call religion, is placed immediately after that on the child's
attitude to Nature. The actual word religion, which, to him, expressed
being bound, did not appeal to Froebel so much as one which expressed
One-ness with God.
As a son can share the aspirations of his father, so man "a thought of
From earth's level where blindly creep
Things perfected more or less
To the heaven's height far and steep.
But we begin at earth's level, and a child's religion must be largely a
How to introduce a child to religion is a problem which must have many
solutions. In Froebel's original training course, his Kindergarten
teachers were to be "trained to the observation and care of the earliest
germs of the religious instinct in man." These earliest beginnings he
found in different sources. First come the relations between the child
and the family, beginning with the mother; fatherhood and motherhood
must be realised before the child can reach up to the Father of all.
Then there is the atmosphere of the home, the real reverence for higher
things, if it exists, affects even a little child more than is usually
supposed, but children are quick to distinguish reality from mere
conventionality though the distinction is only half conscious. Reality
impresses, while conventionality is apt to bore. Even to quite young
children Froebel's ideal mother would begin to show God in nature. Some
one put into the flowers the scent and colour that delight the
child--some one whom he cannot see. The sun, moon and stars give light
and beauty, and "love is what they mean to show." This mother teaches
her little one some sort of prayer, and the gesture of reverence, the
folded hands, affects the child even if the words mean little or
nothing. Akin to the "feeling of community" between the child and his
family is the joining in religious worship in church, "the entrance in a
common life," and the emotional effect of the deep tones of the organ.
Then there is the interdependence of the universe: the baby is to thank
Jenny for his bread and milk, Peter for mowing the grass for the cow,
"until you come to the last ring of all, God's father love for all."
Next to this comes the child's service; others work for him and he also
must serve. "Every age has its duties, and duties are not burdens," and
it is necessary that feeling should have expression, "for even a child's
love unfostered (by action in form of service) droops and dies away."
There is also the desire for approbation. The child "must be roused to
good by inclination, love, and respect, through the opinion of others
about him," and this should be guided until he learns to care chiefly
for the approval of the God within. Right ideals must be provided:
religion is "a continually advancing endeavour," and its reward must
not be a material reward. We ought to lift and strengthen human nature,
but we degrade and weaken it when we seek to lead it to good conduct by
a bait, even if this bait beckons to a future world. The consciousness
of having lived worthily should be our highest reward. Froebel goes so
far as to say that instead of teaching "the good will be happy," and
leaving children to imagine that this means an outer or material
happiness, we ought rather to teach that in seeking the highest we may
lose the lower. "Renunciation, the abandonment of the outer for the sake
of securing the inner, is the condition for attaining highest
development. Dogmatic religious instruction should rather show that
whoever truly and earnestly seeks the good, must needs expose himself to
a life of outer oppression, pain and want, anxiety and care." Even a
child, though not a baby, can be led to see that to do good for outer
reward is but enlightened selfishness.
These suggestions are taken for the most part from the _Mother Songs_,
some from _The Education of Man_. Each parent or teacher must use what
seems to her or to him most valuable. Some may from the beginning desire
to teach the child a baby prayer, or at least to let him hear "God bless
you." Others may prefer to wait for a more intelligent stage, perhaps
when the child begins to ask the invariable questions--who made the
flowers, the animals; who made me? If so, we must remember that children
see, and hear, and think, that often in thoughtless ejaculations, or in
those of heartfelt thankfulness, children may hear the name of God; that
a simple story may have something that stirs thought; that churches are
much in evidence; and that the conversation of little playfellows may
take an unexpected turn.
To me it seems a great mistake to put before young children ideas which
are really beyond the conception of an adult. There are many stories
told of how children receive teaching about the Omniscience or
Omnipotence of God. The stories sound irreverent, and are often repeated
as highly amusing, but they are really more pathetic. Miss Shinn tells
of one poor mite who resented being constantly watched and said, "I will
not be so tagged," and another said, "Then I think He's a very rude
man," when, in reply to her puzzled questions, she was told that God
could see her even in her bath. And the boy who said, "If I had done a
thing, could God make it that I hadn't?" must have made his instructor
feel somewhat foolish.
It never does harm for us honestly to confess our own limitations and
our ignorance, and that is better than weak materialistic explanations,
which after all explain nothing. To tell a child that the Great Father
is always grieved when we are unkind or cowardly, always ready to help
us and to put kindness and bravery into our hearts, that we know He has
power to do that if we will let Him, but that His power is beyond our
understanding: to say that He is able to keep us in all danger, and that
even if we are killed we are safe in His keeping, surely that is enough.
He who blessed the children uttered strong words against him who caused
the little ones to stumble.
"From every point, from every object of nature and life there is a way
to God.... The things of nature form a more beautiful ladder between
heaven and earth than that seen by Jacob.... It is decked with flowers,
and angels with children's eyes beckon us toward it." This is true, but
it does not mean that we are always to be trying to make things sacred,
but that we are to realise that all beauty and all knowledge and all
sympathy are already sacred, and that to love such things is to love
something whereby the Creator makes Himself known to us, that to enjoy
them is to enjoy God.
Religion is not always explained as implying the idea of being bound,
but sometimes as being set free from the bonds of the lower or animal
nature. In this sense Mr. Clutton Brock may well call it "a sacred
experience" for the child, when he forgets himself in the beauty of the
world. If we could all rise to a wider conception of the meaning of the
word religion, we should know that it comes into all the work of the
day, that it does not depend alone upon that special Scripture lesson
which may become mere routine.
The greatest Teacher of all taught by stories, and when any story
deepens our feelings for human nature and our recognition of the heights
to which it can rise, when it makes us long for faith, courage, and love
to go and do likewise, who shall say that this is not religious
teaching, teaching which helps to deliver us from the bonds that hamper
Many of us will feel with Froebel that the fairy-tale, with its
slumbering premonition of being surrounded by that which is higher and
more "conscious than ourselves," has its place, and an important
place, in religious development.
[Footnote 25: P. 85.]
The "fairy sense," says Dr. Greville Macdonald, "is innate as the
religious sense itself ... the fairy stories best beloved are those
steeped in meaning--the unfathomable meaning of life ... such stories
teach--even though no lesson was intended--the wisdom of the Book of
Job: wisdom that by this time surely should have made religious teaching
saner, and therefore more acceptable."
[Footnote 26: "The Fairy-Tale in Education," by Greville Macdonald, M.D.,
_Child Life_, Dec. 1918.]
Fairies, like angels, may be God's messengers. A child who had heard of
St. Cuthbert as a shepherd boy being carried home from the hillside when
hurt, by a man on a white horse, repeated the story in her own words,
"and he thought it was a fairy of God's sent to help him."
There is, however, nothing the children love more than the Bible story,
the story which shows, so simply, humanity struggling as the children
struggle, failing as the children fail, and believing and trusting as
the children believe, and as we at least strive to do, in the ultimate
victory of Right over Wrong, of Good over Evil. But just because the
stories are often so beautiful and so inspiring, the teacher should have
freedom to deal with them as the spirit moves her.
What experience has taught me in this way has already been passed on to
younger teachers in _Education by Life_, and there seems little more to
Wonders chiefly at himself
Who can tell him what he is.
It is for us to tell the child what he is, that he, too, like all the
things he loves, is a manifestation of God. "I am a being alive and
conscious upon this earth; a descendant of ancestors who rose by gradual
processes from lower forms of animal life, and with struggle and
suffering became man."
[Footnote 27: _The Substance of Faith Allied with Science_, Sir Oliver
"The colossal remains of shattered mountain chains speak of the greatness
of God; and man is encouraged and lifts himself up by them, feeling
within himself the same spirit and power."
[Footnote 28: _The Education of Man_.]
Lo with the ancient roots of Man's nature
Twines the eternal passion of song.
The very existence of lullabies, not to mention their abundance in all
countries, the very rockers on the cradles testify to the rhythmic
nature of man in infancy.
In his _Mother Songs_, Froebel couples rhythm with harmony of all kinds,
not only musical harmony but harmony of proportion and colour, and in
urging the very early training of "the germs of all this," he gives
perhaps the chief reason for training. "If these germs do not develop
and take shape as independent formations in each individual, they at
least teach how to understand and to recognise those of other people.
This is life-gain enough, it makes one's life richer, richer by the
lives of others."
It is to the genius of M. Jacques Dalcroze that the world of to-day owes
some idea of what may be effected by rhythmic training, and M. Dalcroze
started his work with the same aim that Froebel set before the mother,
that of making the child capable of appreciation, capable of being made
"richer by the lives of others." But Froebel prophesied that far more
than appreciation would come from proper rhythmic training, and this M.
Dalcroze has amply proved.
"Through movement the mother tries to lead the child to consciousness
of his own life. By regular rhythmic movement--this is of special
importance--she brings this power within the child's own conscious
control when she dandles him in her arms in rhythmic movements and to
rhythmic sounds, cautiously following the slowly developing life in the
child, arousing it to greater activity, and so developing it. Those who
regard the child as empty, who wish to fill his mind from without,
neglect the means of cultivation in word and tone which should lead to a
sense of rhythm and obedience to law in all human expression. But an
early development of rhythmic movement would prove most wholesome, and
would remove much wilfulness, impropriety and coarseness from his life,
movements, and action, and would secure for him harmony and moderation,
and, later on, a higher appreciation of nature, music, poetry, and art"
_(Education of Man_).
Here, then, is an aim most plainly stated, "higher appreciation of
nature, music, poetry and art," and if we adopt it, we must make sure
that we start on a road leading to that end.
To Kindergarten children, apart from movement, rhythm comes first in
nursery rhymes, and if we honestly follow the methods of the mother we
shall not teach these, but say or sing them over and over again, letting
the children select their favourites and join in when and where they
like. This is the true _Babies' Opera_, as Walter Crane justly names an
illustrated collection. Froebel's _Mother Songs_, though containing a
deal of sound wisdom in its mottoes and explanations, is an annotated,
expurgated, and decidedly pedantic version of the nursery rhymes of his
own country. That these should ever have been introduced to our children
arose from the fact that the first Kindergarten teachers, being
foreigners, did not know our own home-grown productions. Long since we
have shaken off the foreign product, in favour of our own "Sing a Song
of Sixpence," "Baa, Baa, Black Sheep" and their refreshingly cheerful
compeers. Froebel's book suggests songs to suit all subjects and all
frames of mind--the wind, the moon, and stars, the farm with its cows
and sheep, its hens and chickens, the baker and carpenter, fish in the
brook and birds in nests, the garden and the Christmas fair.
We can supply good verses for all these if we take pains to search, and
if we eschew ignorant and unpoetic modern doggerel as we eschew poison.
Besides the nursery rhymes, we have Stevenson, with his "Wind,"
"Shadow," and "Swing," Christina Rossetti's "Wrens and Robins," her
"Rainbow Verses" and "Brownie, Brownie, let down your milk, White as
swansdown, smooth as silk." There are many others, and a recent charming
addition to our stock is "Chimneys and Fairies," by Rose Fyleman. One
thing we should not neglect, and that is the child's sense of humour.
For the very young this is probably satisfied by the cow that jumps over
the moon, the dish that runs after the spoon, Jill tumbling after Jack,
and Miss Muffet running away from the spider. But older children much
enjoy nonsense verses by Lewis Carroll or by Lear, and "John Gilpin" is
It is a mistake to keep strictly within the limits of a child's
understanding of the words. What we want here, as in the realm of
Nature, is joy and delight, the delight that comes from musical words
and rhythm, as well as from the pictures that may be called up. Even a
child of four can enjoy the poetry of the Psalms without asking for much
The mother repeats her rhymes and verses solely to give pleasure, and if
our aim is the deepening of appreciation, there is no reason for leaving
the green and grassy path that Nature has showed to the mother for the
hard and beaten track of "recitation." In our own Kindergarten there
has never been either rote learning or recitation. The older children
learn the words of their songs, but not to a word-perfect stage, because
words and music suggest each other. Except for that we just enjoy our
verses, the children asking for their favourites and getting new ones
sometimes by request sometimes not. Anything not enjoyed is laid aside.
We need variety, but everything must be good of its kind, and verses
about children are seldom for children. Because children love babies,
they love "Where did you come from, baby dear?" but nothing like
Tennyson's "Baby, wait a little longer," and especially nothing of the
"Toddlekins" type has any place in the collection of a self-respecting
child. It is doubtful if Eugene Field's verses are really good enough
All children enjoy singing, but here, as in everything, we must keep
pace with development, or the older ones, especially the boys, may get
bored by what suits the less adventurous. In all cases the music should
be good and tuneful, modelled not on the modern drawing-room inanity,
but on the healthy and vigorous nursery rhyme or folk song.
Children also enjoy instrumental music, and will listen to piano or
violin while quietly occupied, for example if they are drawing. One
Nursery School teacher plays soft music to get her babies to sleep, and
our little ones fidget less if some one sings softly during their
"The Kindergarten Band" is another way in which children can join in
rhythm. It came to us from Miss Bishop and is probably the music
referred to in the description of the Pestalozzi-Froebel House. The
children are provided with drums, cymbals, tambourines, and triangles,
and keep time to music played on the piano. They can do some analysis in
choosing which instruments are most suitable to accompany different
melodies or changes from grave to gay, etc. A full account was given in
_Child Life_ for May 1917.
Several years ago, knowing nothing of M. Dalcroze, Miss Marie Salt
began an experiment, the results of which are likely to be far-spreading
and of great benefit. Desiring to help children to appreciation of good
music, Miss Salt experimented deliberately with the Froebelian "learn
through action," and her success has been remarkable. Because of its
freedom from any kind of formality, this system is perhaps better suited
to little children than the Dalcroze work, unless that is in the hands
of an exceptionally gifted teacher. M. Dalcroze himself is delightfully
sympathetic with little ones.
Miss Salt tells her own story in an appendix to Mr. Stewart Macpherson's
_Aural Culture based on Musical Appreciation._
Good music is played and the children listen and move freely in time to
it, sometimes marching or dancing in circles, sometimes quite freely
"expressing" whatever feeling the music calls forth in them. The stress
is laid on listening; if you see a picture you reproduce it, if the
music makes you think of trees or wind, thunder or goblins, you become
what you think of. It is astonishing to see how little children learn in
this way to care for music by Schumann, Mendelssohn, Grieg, Dvorak,
Brahms, Chopin, and Beethoven. The music is of course selected with
skill, and care is taken that the "expression" shall not make the
children foolishly self-conscious. Emphasis is always placed on
listening, and the children's appreciation is apparent. Such
appreciation must enrich their lives.
FROM FANCY TO FACT
Creeps ever on from fancy to the fact.
Fairy tales suit little children because their knowledge is so limited,
that "the fairies must have done it" is regarded as a satisfactory
answer to early problems, just as it satisfied childlike Man. Things
that to us are wonderful, children accept as commonplace, while others
commonplace to us are marvels to the child. But fairy tales do not
continue to satisfy all needs. As knowledge grows the child begins to
distinguish between what may and what may not happen, though there will
always be individual differences, and the more poetic souls are apt to
suffer when the outrush of their imagination is checked by a barbed wire
of fact. The question "Is it true?" and the desire for true stories
arise in the average child of seven to eight years, and at that age
history stories are enjoyed. Real history is of course impossible to
young children, whose idea of time is still very vague, and whose
understanding of the motives and actions of those immediately around
them is but embryonic. They still crave for adventure and romance, and
they thrill to deeds of bravery. Bravery in the fight appeals to all
boys and to most girls, and it is a question for serious consideration
how this admiration is to be guided, it certainly cannot be ignored. It
is legitimate to admire knights who ride about "redressing human
wrongs," fighting dragons and rescuing fair ladies from wicked giants,
and at this stage there is no need to draw a hard and fast line between
history and legendary literature. It is good to introduce children,
especially boys, to some of the Arthurian legends if only to impress the
ideal, "Live pure, speak true, right wrong, else wherefore born?"
Stories should always help children to understand human beings, men and
women with desires and feelings like our own. But in history and
geography stories we deal particularly with people who are different
from ourselves, and we should help children to understand, and to
sympathise with those whose surroundings and customs are not ours. They
may have lived centuries ago, or they may be living now but afar off,
they may be far from us in time or space, but our stories should show
the reasons for their customs and actions, and should tend to lessen the
natural tendency to feel superior to those who have fewer advantages,
and gradually to substitute for that a sense of responsibility.
But the narration of stories is not the only way in which we can treat
history. Our present Minister of Education says that history teaching
ought to give "discipline in practical reasoning" and "help in forming
judgements," not merely in remembering facts. Indeed he went so far as
to say "eliminate dates and facts" by which, of course, he only meant
that the power of reasoning, the power of forming judgements is of far
more consequence than the mere possession of any quantity of facts and
dates. Training in reasoning, however, must involve training in
verification of facts before pronouncing judgement.
Training in practical reasoning takes a prominent place in that form of
history teaching introduced by Professor Dewey. According to him,
history is worth nothing unless it is "an indirect sociology," an
account of how human beings have learned, so far as the world has yet
learned the lesson, to co-operate with one another, a study of the
growth of society and what helps and hinders. So he finds his
beginnings in primitive life, and although there is much in this that
will appeal to any age, there is no doubt that children of seven to ten
or eleven revel in this material.
If used at all it should be used as thinking material--here is man
without tools, without knowledge, everything must be thought out. It
does not do much good to hand over the material as a story, as some
teachers use the Dopp series of books. These books do all the children's
thinking for them. Every set of children must work things out for
themselves, using their own environments and their own advantages. The
teacher must read to be ready with help if the children fail, and also
to be ready with the actual problems. It is astonishing how keen the
children are, and how often they suggest just what has really happened.
Where there is space out-of-doors and the children can find branches for
huts, clay for pots, etc., the work is much easier for the teacher and
more satisfactory. But even where that is impossible and where one has
sometimes to be content with miniature reproductions, the interest is
most keen. Children under eight cannot really produce fire from flints
or rubbing sticks, nor can they make useable woollen threads with which
to do much weaving. But even they can get sparks from flint, make a
little thread from wool, invent looms and weave enough to get the ideas.
The romance of "long ago" ought to be taken advantage of to deepen
respect for the dignity of labour. Our lives are so very short that we
are apt to get out of perspective in the ages. Reading and writing are
so new--it is only about four hundred years since the first book was
printed in England, the Roman occupation lasted as long, and who thinks
of that as a long period? Perhaps it is because we are in the reading
and writing age that our boys and girls must become "braw, braw clerks,"
instead of living on and by the land. History, particularly primitive
history, should help us all to be "grateful to those unknown pioneers
of the human race to whose struggles and suffering, discoveries and
energies our present favoured mode of existence on the planet is due.
The more people realise the effort that has preceded them and made them
possible, the more are they likely to endeavour to be worthy of it: the
more pitiful also will they feel when they see individuals failing in
the struggle upward and falling back toward a brute condition; and the
more hopeful they will ultimately become for the brilliant future of a
race which from such lowly and unpromising beginnings has produced the
material vehicle necessary for those great men who flourished in the
recent period which we speak of as antiquity."
[Footnote 29: _The Substance of Faith_, p. 18.]
Professor Dewey urges that "the industrial history of man is not a
materialistic or merely utilitarian affair," but a matter of
intelligence, a record of how men learned to think, and also an ethical
record, "the account of the conditions which men have patiently wrought
out to serve their ends."
This interest in how human beings have created themselves and their
surroundings ought to be deeply interesting to any and every age. Young
children can reach so little that one hopes the interest aroused will be
lasting and lead to fruitful work later. But it certainly makes a good
foundation for the study of history and geography, if history is treated
as sociology and if geography is recognised as the study of man in his
Coming now to practical details, in our own work we have followed fairly
closely the suggestions made by Professor Dewey, but everything must
vary from year to year according to the suggestions of the children or
their apparent needs. One extra step we have found necessary, and that
is to spend some time over a desert island or Robinson Crusoe stage.
Some children can do without it, but all enjoy it, and the duller
children find it difficult to imagine a time when "you could buy it in
a shop" does not fit all difficulties. They can easily grasp the idea of
sailing away to a land "where no man had ever been before," and playing
at desert island has always been a joy.
The starting-points for primitive life have been various; sometimes the
work has found its beginning in chance conversation, as when a child
asked, "Are men animals?" and the class took to the suggestion that man
meant thinking animal, and began to consider what he had thought. Often
after Robinson Crusoe there has been a direct question, "How did
Robinson Crusoe know how to make his things; had any one taught him? Who
made the things he had seen; who made the very first and how did he
know?" One answer invariably comes, "God taught them," which can be met
by saying this is true, but that God "teaches" by putting things into
the world and giving men power to think. This leads to a discussion
about things natural, "what God makes" and what man makes, which is
sometimes illuminating on the limited conceptions of town children.
Years ago we named primitive man "the Long-Ago People," and the title
has seemed to give satisfaction, though once we had the suggestion of
We always start with the need for food, and the children suggest all the
wild fruits they know, often leaving out nuts till asked if there is
anything that can be stored for winter. Roots are not always given, but
buds of trees is a frequent answer. Children in the country ought to
explore and to dig, and in our own playground we find at least wild
barley, blackberries of a sort, cherries, hard pears, almonds and cherry
gum. Killing animals for food is suggested, and the children have to be
told that the animals were fierce and to realise that in these times man
was hunted, not hunter. Little heads are quite ready to tackle the
problem of defence and attack. They could throw stones, use sticks that
the wind blew down, pull up a young tree, or "a lot of people could
hang on to a branch and get it down." When one child suggested finding a
dead animal and using it for food, some were disgusted, but a little
girl said, "I don't suppose they would mind, they wouldn't be very
The idea of throwing stones starts the examination of different kinds,
which have to be provided for the purpose. Flint is invariably selected,
and for months the children keep bringing "lovely sharp flints," but
there is much careful observation, observation which has a motive. "I
would put a stone in a stick and chuck it at them" is followed by much
experiment at fixing. String is of course taboo, but bass is allowed
because it grows, also strips of skin. We very often get the suggestion
"they might find a stone with a hole in it," which leads to renewed
searching and to the endeavour to make holes. To make a hole in flint is
beyond us, but in a softer stone it can be done.
Then may come the question of safety and tree-climbing, and how to
manage with the babies. Children generally know that tiny babies can
hold very tight, and have various ideas for the mother. How to keep the
baby from falling brings the idea of twisting in extra branches, which
is recognised as a cradle in the tree, and the children delight in this
as a meaning for "Rock-a-bye, baby, in the tree-top." The possibility of
tree-shelters comes in, and various experiments are made, sometimes in
miniature, sometimes in the garden. Out of this comes the discussion of
clothes. Animals' skins is an invariable suggestion, though all children
do not realise that what they call "fur" means skin.
Skin is provided, and much time is taken in experimenting to see if it
can be cut with bits of flint. How could the long-ago people fasten on
the skins, brings the answers "by thorns," "tie with narrow pieces," and
the children are pleased to see that their own leather belts are strips
or straps. Sometimes much time is taken up in cutting out "skins to
wear" from paper or cheap calico, the children working in pairs, one
kneeling down while the other fits on the calico to see where the head
and legs come. The skins are painted or chalked, and pictures are
consulted to see whether the chosen animals are striped or spotted.
It may be stated here that we are not very rigid about periods or
climates, and that our long-ago people are of a generalised type. Our
business is not to supply correct information on anthropological
questions, but to call forth thought and originality, to present
opportunities for closer observation than was ever evoked by observation
lessons, and for experiments full of meaning and full of zest. Naturally
we do not despise correct information, but these children are very young
and all this work is tentative. We are never dogmatic, it is all "Do you
think they might have ..." or "Well, I know what I should have done; I
should have ..." and the teacher's reply is usually "Suppose we try."
Children are apt of course to make startling remarks, but it is only the
teacher who is startled by: "Was all this before God's birthday?" "I
don't think God had learned to be very clever then." It is a curious
fact, but orthodox opinion has only twice in the course of many years
brought up Adam and Eve. Probably this is because we never talk about
the first man, but about how things were discovered. The first time the
question did come up Miss Payne was taking the subject, and she
suggested that Adam and Eve were never in this country, which disposed
of difficulties so well that I gave the same answer the only time I ever
had to deal with the question.
When we come to the problem of fire, we always use parts of Miss Dopp's
story of _The Tree-Dwellers_. If the children are asked if they ever
heard of fire that comes by itself, or of things being burned by fire
that no human being had anything to do with, one or two are sure to
suggest lightning. They will tell that lightning sometimes sets trees on
fire, that thunderstorms generally come after hot dry weather, and that
if lightning struck a tree with dry stuff about the fire would spread,
and the long-ago people would run away. A question from the teacher as
to what these people might think about it may bring the suggestion of a
monster; if not, one only has to say that it must have seemed as if it
was eating the trees to get "They would think it was a dreadful animal."
Then the story can be told of how the boy called Bodo stopped to look
and saw the monster grow smaller, so he went closer, fed it on wood, and
liked to feel its warm breath after the heavy rain that follows
thunder--why had the monster grown smaller?--found that no animal would
come near it and so on. We never tell of the "fire country," though
sometimes the children read the book for themselves a little later.
We have never succeeded in making flames, but it is thrilling to get
sparks from flint. Once a child brought an old tinder box with steel and
flint, but even then we were not skilful enough to get up a flame. Still
it is something to have tried, and we are left with a respectful
admiration for those who could so easily do without matches.
What made these long-ago people think of using their fire to cook food?
Our children have suggested that a bit of raw meat fell into the fire by
accident, and we have also worked it out in this way. We were pretending
to warm ourselves by the fire, and I said my frozen meat was so cold
that it hurt my teeth. "Hold it to the fire then." We burned our
fingers, and sticks were suggested, but we sucked the burnt fingers, and
I said, "it tastes good," and the children shouted with glee "Because
the meat's roasted really." Then something was supposed to drop, and the
cry was "Gravy! catch it in a shell, dip your finger in and let your
baby suck it." A small shell was suggested, and the boy who said "And
put a stick in for a handle" was dubbed "the spoon-maker." At that time
we were earning names for ourselves by suggestions; we started with Fair
Hair, Curly Hair, Big Teeth, Long Legs, and arrived at Quick Runner,
Climber, and even Thinker.
We have got at pottery in a similar way. The meat was supposed to be
tough. "Soak it" came at once, and "Could you get hot water?" Then came
suggestions: a stone saucepan, scoop out a stone and put it on the fire,
build a stone pan and fix the stones with cherry gum, dig a hole in the
ground and put fire under; "_that_ would be a kind of oven." When asked
if water would stay in the hole, and if any kind of earth would hold
water, the answer may be, "No, nothing but clay, and you'd have to make
that." "No! you get clay round a well. My cousin has a well, and there's
Back to Full Books