The Child Under Eight
by E.R. Murray and Henrietta Brown Smith
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E.R. Murray

Vice-Principal Maria Grey Training College Author Of "Froebel As A Pioneer In Modern Psychology," Etc.


Henrietta Brown Smith

Lecturer In Education, University Of London, Goldsmiths' College Editor Of "Education By Life"

"Is it not marvellous that an infant should be the heir of the whole world, and see those mysteries which the books of the learned never unfold? I knew by intuition those things which since my apostasy I collected again by highest reason."




The following volumes are now ready, and others are in preparation:—

Education: Its Data and First Principles. By T.P. NUNN, M.A., D.Sc., Professor of Education in the University of London.

Moral and Religious Education. By SOPHIE BRYANT, D.Sc., Litt.D., late Headmistress, North London Collegiate School for Girls.

The Teaching of Modern Foreign Languages in School and University. By H.G. ATKINS, Professor of German in King's College, London; and H.L. HUTTON, Senior Modern Language Master at Merchant Taylors' School.

The Child under Eight. By E.R. MURRAY, Vice-Principal, Maria Grey Training College, Brondesbury; and HENRIETTA BROWN SMITH, L.L.A., Lecturer in Education, Goldsmiths' College, University of London.

The Organisation and Curricula of Schools. By W.G. SLEIGHT, M.A., D.Lit, Lecturer at Greystoke Place Training College, London.


The Modern Educator's Library has been designed to give considered expositions of the best theory and practice in English education of to-day. It is planned to cover the principal problems of educational theory in general, of curriculum and organisation, of some unexhausted aspects of the history of education, and of special branches of applied education.

The Editor and his colleagues have had in view the needs of young teachers and of those training to be teachers, but since the school and the schoolmaster are not the sole factors in the educative process, it is hoped that educators in general (and which of us is not in some sense or other an educator?) as well as the professional schoolmaster may find in the series some help in understanding precept and practice in education of to-day and to-morrow. For we have borne in mind not only what is but what ought to be. To exhibit the educator's work as a vocation requiring the best possible preparation is the spirit in which these volumes have been written.

No artificial uniformity has been sought or imposed, and while the Editor is responsible for the series in general, the responsibility for the opinions expressed in each volume rests solely with its author.




We have made this book between us, but we have not collaborated. We know that we agree in all essentials, though our experience has differed. We both desire to see the best conditions for development provided for all children, irrespective of class. We both look forward to the time when the conditions of the Public Elementary School, from the Nursery School up, will be such—in point of numbers, in freedom from pressure, in situation of building, in space both within and without, and in beauty of surroundings—that parents of any class will gladly let their children attend it.

We are teachers and we have dealt mainly with the mental or, as we prefer to call it, the spiritual requirements of children. It is from the medical profession that we must all accept facts about food values, hours of sleep, etc., and the importance of cleanliness and fresh air are now fully recognised. We do, however, feel that there is room for fresh discussion of ultimate aims and of daily procedure. Mr. Clutton Brock has said that the great weakness of English education is the want of a definite aim to put before our children, the want of a philosophy for ourselves. Without some understanding of life and its purpose or meaning, the teacher is at the mercy of every fad and is apt to exalt method above principle. This book is an attempt to gather together certain recognised principles, and to show in the light of actual experience how these may be applied to existing circumstances.

The day is coming when all teachers will seek to understand the true value of Play, of spontaneous activity in all directions. Its importance is emphasised in nearly all the educational writings of the day, as well in the Senior as in the Junior departments of the school, but we need a full and deep understanding of the saying, "Man is Man only when he plays." It is easy to say we believe it, but it needs strong faith, courage, and wide intelligence to weave such belief into the warp of daily life in school.























It is an appropriate time to produce a book on English schools for little children, now that Nursery Schools have been specially selected for notice and encouragement by an enlightened Minister for Education. It was Madame Michaelis, who in 1890 originally and most appropriately used the term Nursery School as the English equivalent of a title suggested by Froebel[1] for his new institution, before he invented the word Kindergarten, a title which, literally translated, ran "Institution for the Care of Little Children."

[Footnote 1: Froebel's Letters, trans. Michaelis and Moore, p. 30.]

In England the word Nursery, which implies the idea of nurture, belongs properly to children, though it has been borrowed by the gardener for his young plants. In Germany it was the other way round; Froebel had to invent the term child garden to express his idea of the nurture, as opposed to the repression, of the essential nature of the child. Unfortunately the word Kindergarten while being naturalised in England had two distinct meanings attached to it. Well-to-do people began to send their children to a new institution, a child garden or play school. The children of the people, however, already attended Infant Schools, of which the chief feature was what Mr. Caldwell Cook calls "sit-stillery," and here the word Kindergarten, really equivalent to Nursery School, became identified with certain occupations, childlike in origin it is true, but formalised out of all recognition. How a real Kindergarten strikes a child is illustrated by the recent remark from a little new boy who had been with us for perhaps three mornings. "Shall I go up to the nursery now?" he asked.

The first attempt at a Kindergarten was made in 1837, and by 1848 Germany possessed sixteen. In that eventful year came the revolution in Berlin, which created such high hopes, doomed, alas! to disappointment. "Instead of the rosy dawn of freedom," writes Ebers,[2] himself an old Keilhau boy, "in the State the exercise of a boundless arbitrary power, in the Church dark intolerance." It must have been an easy matter to bring charges of revolutionary doctrines against the man who said so innocently, "But I,—I only wanted to train up free-thinking, independent men."

[Footnote 2: Author of An Egyptian Princess, etc.]

It was from "stony Berlin," as Froebel calls it, that the edict went forth in the name of the Minister of Education entirely prohibiting Kindergartens in Prussia, and the prohibition soon spread. At the present time it seems to us quite fitting that the bitter attack upon Kindergartens should have been launched by Folsung, a schoolmaster, "who began life as an artilleryman." Nor is it less interesting to read that it was under the protection of Von Moltke himself that Oberlin schools were opened to counteract the attractions of the "godless" Kindergarten.

Little wonder that the same man who in 1813 had so gladly taken up arms to resist the invasion of Napoleon, and who had rejoiced with such enthusiasm in the prospect of a free and united Fatherland, should write in 1851:

"Wherefore I have made a firm resolve that if the conditions of German life will not allow room for the development of honest efforts for the good of humanity; if this indifference to all higher things continues—then it is my purpose next spring to seek in the land of union and independence a soil where my idea of education may strike deep root."

And to America he might have gone had he lived, but he died three months later, his end hastened by grief at the edict which closed the Kindergartens. The Prussian Minister announced, in this edict, that "it is evident that Kindergartens form a part of the Froebelian socialistic system, the aim of which is to teach the children atheism," and the suggestion that he was anti-Christian cut the old man to the heart. There had been some confusion between Froebel and one of his nephews, who had democratic leanings, and no doubt anything at all democratic did mean atheism to "stony Berlin" and its intolerant autocracy.

For a time, at least in Bavaria, a curious compromise was allowed. If the teacher were a member of the Orthodox Church, she might have her Kindergarten, but if she belonged to one of the Free Churches, it was permissible to open an Infant School, but she must not use the term Kindergarten.

Froebel was by no means of the opinion that, if only the teacher had the right spirit, the name did not matter. Rather did he hold with Confucius, whose answer to the question of a disciple, "How shall I convert the world?" was, "Call things by their right names." He refused to use the word school, because "little children, especially those under six, do not need to be schooled and taught, what they need is opportunity for development." He had great difficulty in selecting a name. Those originally suggested were somewhat cumbrous, e.g. Institution for the Promotion of Spontaneous Activity in Children; another was Self-Teaching Institution, and there was also the one which Madame Michaelis translated "Nursery School for Little Children."

But the name Kindergarten expressed just what he Wanted: "As in a garden, under God's favour, and by the care of a skilled intelligent gardener, growing plants are cultivated in accordance with Nature's laws, so here in our child garden shall the noblest of all growing things, men (that is, children), be cultivated in accordance with the laws of their own being, of God and of Nature."

To one of his students he writes: "You remember well enough how hard we worked and how we had to fight that we might elevate the Darmstadt creche, or rather Infant School, by improved methods and organisation until it became a true Kindergarten.... Now what was the outcome of all this, even during my own stay at Darmstadt? Why, the fetters which always cripple a creche or an Infant School, and which seem to cling round its very name—these fetters were allowed to remain unbroken. Every one was pleased with so faithful a mistress as yourself,... yet they withheld from you the main condition of unimpeded development, that of the freedom necessary to every young healthy and vigorous plant.... Is there really such importance underlying the mere name of a system?—some one might ask. Yes, there is.... It is true that any one watching your teaching would observe a new spirit infused into it, expressing and fulfilling the child's own wants and desires. You would strike him as personally capable, but you would fail to strike him as priestess of the idea which God has now called to life within man's bosom, and of the struggle towards the realisation of that idea—education by development—the destined means of raising the whole human race.... No man can acquire fresh knowledge, even at a school, beyond the measure which his own stage of development fits him to receive.... Infant Schools are nothing but a contradiction of child-nature. Little children especially those under school age, ought not to be schooled and taught, what they need is opportunity for development. This idea lies in the very name of a Kindergarten.... And the name is absolutely necessary to describe the first education of children."

For an actual definition of what Froebel meant by his Nursery School for Little Children or Kindergarten, it is only fair to go to the founder himself. He has left us two definitions or descriptions, one announced shortly before the first Kindergarten was opened, which runs:

"An institution for the fostering of human life, through the cultivation of the human instincts of activity, of investigation and of construction in the child, as a member of the family, of the nation and of humanity; an institution for the self-instruction, self-education and self-cultivation of mankind, as well as for all-sided development of the individual through play, through creative self-activity and spontaneous self-instruction."

A second definition is given in Froebel's reply to a proposal that he should establish "my system of education—education by development"—in London, Paris or the United States:

"We also need establishments for training quite young children in their first stage of educational development, where their training and instruction shall be based upon their own free action or spontaneity acting under proper rules, these rules not being arbitrarily decreed, but such as must arise by logical necessity from the child's mental and bodily nature, regarding him as a member of the great human family; such rules as are, in fact, discovered by the actual observation of children when associated together in companies. These establishments bear the name of Kindergartens."

Unfortunately there are but few pictures of Froebel's own Kindergarten, but there seems to have been little formality in its earliest development. An oft-told story is that of Madame von Marenholz in 1847 going to watch the proceedings of "an old fool," as the villagers called him, who played games with the village children. A less well-known account is given by Col. von Arnswald, again a Keilhau boy, who visited Blankenberg in 1839, when Froebel had just opened his first Kindergarten.

"Arriving at the place, I found my Middendorf[3] seated by the pump in the market-place, surrounded by a crowd of little children. Going near them I saw that he was engaged in mending the jacket of a boy. By his side sat a little girl busy with thread and needle upon another piece of clothing; one boy had his feet in a bucket of water washing them carefully; other girls and boys were standing round attentively looking upon the strange pictures of real life before them, and waiting for something to turn up to interest them personally. Our meeting was of the most cordial kind, but Middendorf did not interrupt the business in which he was engaged. 'Come, children,' he cried, 'let us go into the garden!' and with loud cries of joy the little folk with willing feet followed the splendid-looking, tall man, running all round him.

[Footnote 3: One of Froebel's most devoted helpers.]

"The garden was not a garden, however, but a barn, with a small room and an entrance hall. In the entrance Middendorf welcomed the children and played a round game with them, ending with the flight of the little ones into the room, where each of them sat down in his place on the bench and took his box of building blocks. For half an hour they were all busy with their blocks, and then came 'Come, children, let us play "spring and spring."' And when the game was finished they went away full of joy and life, every one giving his little hand for a grateful good-bye."

Here in this earliest of Free Kindergartens are certain essentials. Washing and mending, the alternation of constructive play with active exercise, rhythmic game and song, and last but not least human kindliness and courtesy. The shelter was but a barn, but there are things more important than premises.

Froebel died too soon to see his ideals realised, but he had sown the seed in the heart of at least one woman with brain to grasp and will to execute. As early as 1873 the Froebelians had established something more than the equivalent of the Montessori Children's Houses under the name of Free Kindergartens or People's Kindergartens. It will bring this out more clearly if, without referring here to any modern experiments in America, in England and Scotland, or in the Dominions, we quote the description of an actual People's Kindergarten or Nursery School as it was established nearly fifty years ago.

The moving spirit of this institution was Henrietta Schroder, Froebel's own grand-niece, trained by him, and of whom he said that she, more than any other, had most truly understood his views.

The whole institution was called the Pestalozzi-Froebel House. The Prussian edict, which abolished the Kindergarten almost before it had started, was now rescinded, and our own Princess Royal[4] gave warm support to this new institution. The description here quoted was actually written in 1887, when the institution had been in existence for fourteen years:

[Footnote 4: The Crown Princess of Prussia, afterwards the Empress Frederick.]

"The purpose of the National Kindergarten is to provide the necessary and natural help which poor mothers require, who have to leave their children to themselves.

"The establishment contains:—

"(1) The Kindergarten proper, a National Kindergarten with four classes for children from 2-1/2 to 6 years old.

"(2) The Transition Class, only held in the morning for children about 6 or 6-1/2 years old.

"(3) The Preparatory School, for children from 6 to 7 or 7-1/2 years old.

"(4) The School of Handwork, for children from 6 to 10 or older.

"Dinners are provided for those children whose parents work all day away from home at a trifling charge of a halfpenny and a penny. Also, for a trifle, poor children may receive assistance of various kinds in illness, or may have milk or baths through the kindness of the kindred 'Association for the Promotion of Health in the Household.'

"In the institution we are describing there is a complete and well-furnished kitchen, a bathroom, a courtyard with sand for digging, with pebbles and pine-cones, moss, shells and straw, etc., a garden, and a series of rooms and halls suitably furnished and arranged for games, occupations, handwork and instruction.

"The occupations pursued in the Kindergarten are the following: free play of a child by itself; free play of several children by themselves; associated play under the guidance of a teacher; gymnastic exercises; several sorts of handwork suited to little children; going for walks; learning music, both instrumental (on the method of Madame Wiseneder[5]) and vocal; learning and repetition of poetry; story-telling; looking at really good pictures; aiding in domestic occupations; gardening; and the usual systematic ordered occupations of Froebel. Madame Schrader is steadfastly opposed to that conception of the Kindergarten which insists upon mathematically shaped materials for the Froebelian occupations. Her own words are: 'The children find in our institution every encouragement to develop their capabilities and powers by use; not by their selfish use to their own personal advantage, but by their use in the loving service of others. The longing to help people and to accomplish little pieces of work proportioned to their feeble powers is constant in children; and lies alongside of their need for that free and unrestrained play which is the business of their life."

[Footnote 5: From certain old photographs, I suppose this to have been what we now call a Kindergarten Band.]

"The elder children are expected to employ themselves in cleaning, taking care of, arranging, keeping in order, and using the many various things belonging to the housekeeping department of the Kindergarten; for example, they set out and clear away the materials required for the games and handicrafts; they help in cleaning the rooms, furniture and utensils; they keep all things in order and cleanliness; they paste together torn wallpapers or pictures, they cover books, and they help in the cooking and in preparations for it; in laying the tables, in washing up the plates and dishes, etc. The children gain in this manner the simple but most important foundations of their later duties as housekeepers and householders, and at the same time learn to regard these duties as things done in the service of others."

It is worth while to notice the order in which the necessities of this place are described. First comes a kitchen and next a bathroom, then an out-of-doors playground with abundant material for gaining ideas through action—sand, pebbles, pine-cones, moss, shells and straw. Then comes the garden, and only after all these, the rooms and halls for indoors games, handwork and instruction. It is worth while also to note the prominence given to play, music, poetry and story-telling pictures, domestic occupations and gardening, all preceding the "systematic and ordered occupations" which to some have seemed so all-important.

If we compare this with the current ideas about Nursery Schools, we do not find that it falls much below the present ideal. There has been a time when some of us feared that only the bodily needs of the little child were to be considered, but the "Regulations for Nursery Schools" have banished such fear. In these the child is regarded as a human being, with spiritual as well as bodily requirements.

To put it shortly, the physical requirements of a child are food, fresh air and exercise, cleanliness and rest. It is not so easy to sum up the requirements of a human soul. The first is sympathy, and though this may spring from parental instinct, it should be nourished by true understanding. Next perhaps comes the need for material, material for investigation, for admiration, for imitation and for construction or creation. Power of sense-discrimination is important enough, but in this case if we take care of the pounds of admiration and investigation, the pence of sense-discrimination will take care of themselves.

Besides these the child has the essentially human need for social intercourse, for speech, for games, for songs and stories, for pictures and poetry. He must have opportunity both to imitate and to share in the work and life around him; he must be an individual among other individuals, a necessary part of a whole, allowed to give as well as to receive service. In the National Kindergarten of 1873 no one of these requirements is overlooked except the provision for sleep, and from old photographs we know that this, too, was considered.

Nursery Schools are needed for children of all classes. It is not only the children of the poor who require sympathy and guidance from those specially qualified by real grasp of the facts of child-development. Well-to-do mothers, too, often leave their children to ignorant and untrained servants, or to the equally untrained and hardly less ignorant nursery governess.

Mothers in small houses have much to do; making beds and washing dishes, sweeping and dusting, baking and cooking, making and mending, not to mention tending an infant or tending the sick, leave little leisure for sympathy with the adventuring and investigating propensities natural and desirable in a healthy child between three and five. There are innumerable Kindergartens open only in the morning for the children of those who can afford to pay, and these could well be multiplied and assisted just as far as is necessary. In towns, at least, mothers with but small incomes would gladly pay a moderate fee to have their little ones, especially their sturdy little boys, guarded from danger and trained to good habits, yet allowed freedom for happy activity.

Kindergartens and Nursery Schools ought to be as much as possible fresh-air schools. They should never be large or the home atmosphere must disappear. They should always have grassy spaces and common flowers, and they ought to be within easy reach of the children's homes.

There must for the present be certain differences between the Free Kindergarten or Nursery School for the poor and for those whose parents are fairly well-to-do. In both cases we must supply what the children need. If the mother must go out to work, the child requires a home for the day, and the Nursery School must make arrangements for feeding the children. All little children are the better for rest and if possible for sleep during the day; but for those who live in overcrowded rooms, where quiet and restful sleep in good air is impossible, the need for daily sleep is very great. All Free Kindergartens arrange for this.

Most important also is the training to cleanliness. This is not invariably the lot even of those who come from apparently comfortable homes to attend fee-paying Kindergartens, and among the poor, differences in respect of cleanliness are very great. But soap and hot water do cost money and washing takes time, and the modern habit of brushing teeth has not yet been acquired by all classes of the community. The Free Kindergartens provide for necessary washing, each child is provided with its own tooth-brush; and tooth-brush drill is a daily practice, somewhat amusing to witness. The best baby rooms in our Infant Schools carry out the same practices, and these are likely to be turned into Nursery Schools.

It cannot yet be accepted as conclusively proved that a completely open-air life is the best in our climate. We have not yet sufficient statistics. No doubt children do improve enormously in open-air camps, but so they do in ordinary Nursery Schools, where they are clean, happy and well fed, and where they live a regular life with daily sleep. Housing conditions complicate the problem, and all children must suffer who sleep in crowded, noisy, unventilated rooms.

Up to the present time Nursery Schools have been provided by voluntary effort entirely, and far too little encouragement has been given to those enlightened headmistresses of Infant Schools who have tried to give to their lowest classes Nursery School conditions. Since the passing of Mr. Fisher's Education Bill, however, we are entitled to hope that soon, for all children in the land, there may be the opportunity of a fair start under the care of "a person with breadth of outlook and imagination," the equivalent of Froebel's "skilled intelligent gardener."

In the following chapter an attempt is made to explain how it is that so many years ago Froebel reached his vision of what a child is, and of what a child needs, and the considerations on which he based his "Nursery School for Little Children" or "Self-Teaching Institution."



Progress, man's distinctive mark alone, Not God's, and not the beasts': God is, they are, Man partly is and wholly hopes to be.

"A large bright room, ... a sandheap in one corner, a low tub or bath of water in another, a rope ladder, a swing, steps to run up and down and such like, a line of black or green board low down round the wall, little rough carts and trolleys, boxes which can be turned into houses, or shops, or pretence ships, etc., a cooking stove of a very simple nature, dolls of all kinds, wooden animals, growing plants in boxes, an aquarium."

Any Froebelian would recognise this as the description of a more or less ideal Kindergarten or Nursery School, and yet the writer had probably never read a page that Froebel wrote. On the contrary, she shows her entire ignorance of the real Kindergarten by calling it "pretty employments devised by adults and imposed at set times by authority."

The description is taken from a very able address on "Child Nature and Education" delivered some years ago by Miss Hoskyns Abrahall. It is quoted here, because, for her conception of right surroundings for young children, the speaker has gone to the very source from which Froebel took his ideas—she has gone to what Froebel indeed called "the only true source, life itself," and she writes from the point of view of the biologist.

There exists at present, in certain quarters, a belief that the Kindergarten is old-fashioned, out of date, more especially that it has no scientific basis. It is partly on this account that the ideas of Dr. Maria Montessori, who has approached the question of the education of young children from the point of view of medical science, have been warmly welcomed by so large a circle. But neither in England nor in America does that circle include the Froebelians, and this for several reasons. For one thing, much that the general public has accepted as new—and in this general public must be included weighty names, men of science, educational authorities, and others who have never troubled to inquire into the meaning of the Kindergarten—are already matters of everyday life to the Froebelian. Among these comes the idea of training to service for the community, and the provision of suitable furniture, little chairs and tables, which the children can move about, and low cupboards for materials, all of which tend to independence and self-control.

It is a more serious stumbling-block to the Froebelian that Dr. Montessori, while advocating freedom in words, has really set strict limits to the natural activities of children by laying so much stress on her "didactic apparatus," the intention of which is formal training in sense-discrimination. This material, which is an adaptation and enlargement of that provided by Seguin for his mentally deficient children, is certainly open to the reproach of having been "devised by adults." It is formal, and the child is not permitted to use it for his own purposes.

Before everything else, however, comes the fact that in no place has Dr. Montessori shown that she has made any study of play, or that she attaches special importance to the play activities, or natural activities of childhood, on which the Kindergarten is founded. This is probably accounted for in that her first observations were made on deficient children who are notably wanting in initiative.

Among these "play activities" we should include the child's perpetual imitation or pretence, a matter which Dr. Montessori entirely fails to understand, as shown in her more recent book, where she treats of imagination. Here she maintains that only the children of the comparatively poor ride upon their fathers' walking-sticks or construct coaches of chairs, that this "is not a proof of imagination but of an unsatisfied desire," and that rich children who own ponies and who drive out in motor-cars "would be astonished to see the delight of children who imagine themselves to be drawn along by stationary armchairs." Imitative play has, of course, nothing to do with poverty or riches, but is, as Froebel said long since, the outcome of an initiative impulse, sadly wanting in deficient children, an impulse which prompts the child of all lands, of all time and of all classes to imitate or dramatise, and so to gain some understanding of everything and of every person he sees around.

The work of Dr. Montessori has helped enormously in the movement, begun long since, for greater freedom in our Infant Schools; freedom, not from judicious guidance and authority, but from rigid time-tables and formal lessons, and from arbitrary restrictions, as well as freedom for the individual as apart from the class. The best Kindergartens and Infant Schools had already discarded time-tables, and Kindergarten classes have always been small enough to give the individual a fair chance. Froebel himself constantly urged that the child should become familiar with "both the strongly opposed elements of his life, the individual determining and directing side, and the general ordered and subordinated side." He urged the early development of the social consciousness as well as insisting on expansion of individuality, but it is always difficult to combine the two, and most Kindergarten teachers will benefit by learning from Dr. Montessori to apply the method of individual learning to a greater extent.

We are, however, fully prepared to maintain that Froebel; even in 1840, had a wider and a deeper realisation of the needs of the child than has as yet been attained by the Dottoressa.[6] In order to make this clear, it is proposed to compare the theories of Froebel with the conclusions of a biologist. For biology has a wider and a saner outlook than medical science; it does not start from the abnormal, but with life under normal conditions.

[Footnote 6: Her latest publication regarding the instruction—for it is not education—of older children makes this even more plain. For here is no discussion of what children at this stage require, but a mere plunge into "subjects" in which formal grammar takes a foremost place.]

In the address, from which the opening words of this chapter are quoted, it is suggested that a capable biologist be set to deal with education, but he is to be freed "from all preconceived ideas derived from accepted tradition." After such fundamentals as food and warmth, light, air and sleep, the first problems considered by this Biologist Educator are stages of growth, their appropriate activities, and the stimuli necessary to evoke them. Always he bears in mind that "interference with a growing creature is a hazardous business," and takes as his motto "When in doubt, refrain."

To discover the natural activities of the child, the biologist relies upon, first, observation of the child himself, secondly, upon his knowledge of the nervous system, and thirdly, upon his knowledge of the past history of the race. From these he comes to a very pertinent conclusion, viz. "The general outcome of this is that the safe way of educating children is by means of Play," play being defined as "the natural manifestation of the child's activities; systematic in that it follows the lines of physiological development, but without the hard and fast routine of the time-table."[7]

[Footnote 7: It is in this connection that the Kindergarten is stigmatised as "pretty employments devised by adults and imposed at set times by authority," an opinion evidently gained from the way in which the term has been misused in a type of Infant School now fast disappearing.]

It is easy to show that although Froebel was pre-Darwinian, he had been in close touch with scientists who were working at theories of development, and that he was largely influenced by Krause, who applied the idea of organic development to all departments of social science. It was because Froebel was himself, even in 1826, the Biologist Educator desiring to break with preconceived ideas and traditions that he wished one of his pupils had been able to "call your work by its proper name, and so make evident the real nature of the new spirit you have introduced."[8]

[Footnote 8: See p. 4.]

But Froebel was more than a biologist, he was a philosopher and an idealist. Such words have sometimes been used as terms of reproach, but wisdom can only be justified of her children.

At the back of all Froebel has to say about "The Education of the Human Being" lies his conception of what the human being is. And it is impossible fully to understand why Froebel laid so much stress on spontaneous play unless we go deeper than the province of the biologist without in the least minimising the importance of biological knowledge to educational theory. As the biologist defines play as "the natural manifestation of the child's activities," so Froedel says "play at first is just natural life." But to him the true inwardness of spontaneous play lies in the fact that it is spontaneous—so far as anything in the universe can be spontaneous. For spontaneous response to environment is self-expression, and out of self-expression comes selfhood, consciousness of self. If we are to understand Froebel at all, we must begin with the answer he found, or accepted, from Krause and others for his first question, What is that self?

Before reaching the question of how to educate, it seemed to him necessary to consider not only the purpose or aim of education, but the purpose or aim of human existence, the purpose of all and any existence, even whether there is any purpose in anything; and that brings us to what he calls "the groundwork of all," of which a summary is given in the following paragraphs.

In the universe we can perceive plan, purpose or law, and behind this there must be some great Mind, "a living, all-pervading, energising, self-conscious and hence eternal Unity" whom we call God. Nature and all existing things are a revelation of God.

As Bergson speaks of the elan vital which expresses itself from infinity to infinity, so Froebel says that behind everything there is force, and that we cannot conceive of force without matter on which it can exercise itself. Neither can we think of matter without any force to work upon it, so that "force and matter mutually condition one another," we cannot think one without the other.

This force expresses itself in all ways, the whole universe is the expression of the Divine, but "man is the highest and most perfect earthly being in whom the primordial force is spiritualised so that man feels, understands and knows his own power." Conscious development of one's own power is the triumph of spirit over matter, therefore human development is spiritual development. So while man is the most perfect earthly being, yet, with regard to spiritual development he has returned to a first stage and "must raise himself through ascending degrees of consciousness" to heights as yet unknown, "for who has measured the limits of God-born mankind?"

Self-consciousness is the special characteristic of man. No other animal has the power to become conscious of himself because man alone has the chance of failure. The lower animals have definite instincts and cannot fail, i.e. cannot learn.[9] Man wants to do much, but his instincts are less definite and most actions have to be learned; it is by striving and failing that he learns to know not only his limitations but the power that is within him—his self.

[Footnote 9: This would nowadays be considered too sweeping an assertion.]

According to Froebel, "the aim of education is the steady progressive development of mankind, there is and can be no other"; and, except as regards physiological knowledge inaccessible in his day, he is at one with the biologist as to how we are to find out the course of this development. First, by looking into our own past; secondly, by the observation of children as individuals as well as when associated together, and by comparison of the results of observation; thirdly, by comparison of these with race history and race development.

Froebel makes much of observation of children. He writes to a cousin begging her to "record in writing the most important facts about each separate child," and adds that it seems to him "most necessary for the comprehension of child-nature that such observations should be made public,... of the greatest importance that we should interchange the observations we make so that little by little we may come to know the grounds and conditions of what we observe, that we may formulate their laws." He protests that even in his day "the observation, development and guidance of children in the first years of life up to the proper age of school" is not up to the existing level of "the stage of human knowledge or the advance of science and art"; and he states that it is "an essential part" of his undertaking "to call into life an institution for the preparation of teachers trained for the care of children through observation of their life."

In speaking of the stages of development of the individual, Froebel says that "there is no order of importance in the stages of human development except the order of succession, in which the earlier is always the more important," and from that point of view we ought "to consider childhood as the most important stage, ... a stage in the development of the Godlike in the earthly and human." He also emphasises that "the vigorous and complete development and cultivation of each successive stage depends on the vigorous, complete and characteristic development of each and all preceding stages."

So the duty of the parent is to "look as deeply as possible into the life of the child to see what he requires for his present stage of development," and then to "scrutinise the environment to see what it offers ... to utilise all possibilities of meeting normal needs," to remove what is hurtful, or at least to "admit its defects" if they cannot give the child what his nature requires. "If parents offer what the child does not need," he says, "they will destroy the child's faith in their sympathetic understanding." The educator is to "bring the child into relations and surroundings in all respects adapted to him" but affording a minimum of opportunity of injury, "guarding and protecting" but not interfering, unless he is certain that healthy development has already been interrupted. It is somewhat remarkable that Froebel anticipated even the conclusions of modern psycho-analysis in his views about childish faults. "The sources of these," he says, are "neglect to develop certain sides of human life and, secondly, early distortion of originally good human powers by arbitrary interference with the orderly course of human development ... a suppressed or perverted good quality—a good tendency, only repressed, misunderstood or misguided—lies at the bottom of every shortcoming." Hence the only remedy even for wickedness is to find and foster, build up and guide what has been repressed. It may be necessary to interfere and even to use severity, but only when the educator is sure of unhealthy growth. The motto of the biologist on the subject of interference—"When in doubt, refrain"—exactly expresses Froebel's doctrine of "passive or following" education, following, that is, the nature of the child, and "passive" as opposed to arbitrary interference.

Free from this, the child will follow his natural impulses, which are to be trusted as much as those of any other young animal; in other words, he will play, he will manifest his natural activities. "The young human being—still, as it were, in process of creation—would seek, though unconsciously yet decidedly and surely, as a product of nature that which is in itself best, and in a form adapted to his condition, his disposition, his powers and his means. Thus the duckling hastens to the pond and into the water, while the chicken scratches the ground and the young swallow catches its food upon the wing. We grant space and time to young plants and animals because we know that, in accordance with the laws that live in them, they will develop properly and grow well; arbitrary interference with their growth is avoided because it would hinder their development; but the young human being is looked upon as a piece of wax, a lump of clay, which man can mould into what he pleases. O man, who roamest through garden and field, through meadow and grove, why dost thou close thy mind to the silent teaching of nature? Behold the weed; grown among hindrances and constraint, how it scarcely yields an indication of inner law; behold it in nature, in field or garden, how perfectly it conforms to law—a beautiful sun, a radiant star, it has burst from the earth! Thus, O parents, could your children, on whom you force in tender years forms and aims against their nature, and who, therefore, walk with you in morbid and unnatural deformity—thus could your children, too, unfold in beauty and develop in harmony."

At first play is activity for the sake of activity, not for the sake of results, "of which the child has as yet no idea." Very soon, however, having man's special capacity of learning through experience, the child does gather ideas. By this time he has passed through the stage of infancy, and now his play becomes to the philosopher the highest stage of human development at this stage, because now it is self-expression.

When Froebel wrote in 1826, there had been but little thought expended on the subject of play, and probably none on human instincts, which were supposed to be nonexistent. The hope he expressed that some philosopher would take up these subjects has now been fulfilled, and we ought now to turn to what has been said on a subject all-important to those who desire to help in the education of young children.



Play, which is the business of their lives.

There may be nothing new under the sun, but it does seem to be a fair claim to make for Froebel that no one before or since his time has more fully realised the value to humanity of what in childhood goes by the name of play. Froebel had distinct theories about play, and he put his theories into actual practice, not only when he founded the Kindergarten, but in his original school for older children at Keilhau.

Before going into its full meaning, it may be well first to meet the most common misconception about play. It is not surprising that those who have given the subject no special consideration should regard play from the ordinary adult standpoint, and think of it as entirely opposed to work, as relaxation of effort. But the play of a child covers so much that it is startling to find a real psychologist writing that "education through play" is "a pernicious proposition."[10] Statements of this kind spring from the mistaken idea, certainly not derived from observation, that play involves no effort, that it runs in the line of least resistance, and that education through play means therefore education without effort, without training in self-control, education without moral training. The case for the Kindergarten is the opposite of this. Education through play is advocated just because of the effort it calls forth, just because of the way in which the child, and later the boy or girl, throws his whole energy into it. What Froebel admired, what he called "the most beautiful expression of childlife," was "the child that plays thoroughly, with spontaneous determination, perseveringly, until physical fatigue forbids—a child wholly absorbed in his play—a child that has fallen asleep while so absorbed." That child, he said, would be "a thorough determined man, capable of self-sacrifice for the promotion of the welfare of himself and others." It is because "play is not trivial, but highly serious and of deep significance," that he appeals to mothers to cultivate and foster it, and to fathers to protect and guard it.

[Footnote 10: The Educative Process, p. 255 (Bagley).]

The Kindergarten position can be summed up in a sentence from Dr. Clouston's Hygiene of Mind: "Play is the real work of children." Froebel calls activity of sense and limb "the first germ," and "play-building and modelling the tender blossoms of the constructive impulse"; and this, he says, is "the moment when man is to be prepared for future industry, diligence and productive activity." He points out, too, the importance of noticing the habits which come from spontaneous self-employment, which may be habits of indolent ease if the child is not allowed to be as active as his nature requires.

There were no theories of play in Froebel's day, but he had certainly read Levana, and in all probability he knew what Schiller had said in his Letters on Aesthetic Education. The play theories are now too well known to require more than a brief recapitulation.

It will generally be allowed that the distinctive feature of play as opposed to work is that of spontaneity. The action itself is of no consequence, one man's play is another man's work. Nor does it seem to matter whence comes the feeling of compulsion in work, whether from pressure of outer necessity, or from an inner necessity like the compelling force of duty. Where there is joy in creation or in discovery the work and play of the genius approach the standpoint of the child,

Indulging every instinct of the soul, There, where law, life, joy, impulse are one thing.

In the play of early childhood there may be freedom, not only from adult authority, but even from the restrictions of nature or of circumstances since "let's pretend" annihilates time and space and all material considerations.

Among theories of play first comes what is known as the Schiller-Spencer theory, in which play is attributed to the accumulation of surplus energy. When the human being has more energy than he requires in order to supply the bodily needs of himself and his family, then he feels impelled to use it. As the activities of his daily life are the only ones known to him, he fights his battles over again, he simulates the serious business of life, and transfers, for instance, the incidents of the chase into a dance. In this Way he reaches artistic creation, so that "play is the first poetry of the human being."

As an opposite of this we get a Re-creation theory, where play, if not too strenuous, understood as a change of occupation, rests and re-creates.

Another theory is that of recapitulation, which has been emphasised by Stanley Hall, according to which children play hunting and chasing games, or find a fascination in making tents, because they are passing through that stage of development in which their primitive ancestors lived by hunting or dwelt in tents.

Lastly, a most interesting theory is that which is associated with the name of Groos, and which is best expressed in the sentence: "Animals do not play because they are young, but they have their youth because they must play," play being regarded as the preparation for future life activities. The kitten therefore practises chasing a cork, the puppy worries boots and gloves, the kid practises jumping, and so on.

A full account of play will probably embrace all these theories, and though they were not formulated in his day, Froebel overlooked none, though he may have laid special stress on the preparation side. Yet another value of play emphasised by Professor Royce, viz. its enormous importance from the point of view of mental initiative, is strongly urged by Froebel. Professor Royce argues that "in the mere persistence of the playful child one has a factor whose value for mental initiative it is hard to overestimate." Without this "passionately persistent repetition," and without also the constant varying of apparently useless activities, the organism, says Professor Royce, "would remain the prey of the environment."

To Froebel, as we have seen, the human being is the climax of animal evolution and the starting-point of psychical development. The lower animal, he maintained, as all will now agree, is hindered by his definite instincts, but the instincts or instinctive tendencies of the human being are so undefined that there is room for spontaneity, for new forms of conduct.

Professor Royce says that "a general view of the place which beings with minds occupy in the physical world strongly suggests that their organisms may especially have significance as places for the initiation of more or less novel types of activity." And to Froebel the chief significance of play lies in this spontaneity.

"Play is the highest phase of human development at this stage, because it is spontaneous expression of what is within produced by an inner necessity and impulse. Play is the most characteristic, most spiritual manifestation of man at this stage, and, at the same time, is typical of human life as a whole."

These various theories seem to reinforce rather than to contradict each other, and it is more important to avoid running any to an extreme than to differentiate between them. In the case of recapitulation, we must certainly bear in mind Froebel's warning that the child "should be treated as having in himself the present, past and future." So, as Dr. Drummond says: "If we feel constrained to present him with a tent because Abraham lived in one, he no doubt enters into the spirit of the thing and accepts it joyfully. But he also annexes the ball of string and the coffee canister to fit up telephonic communication with the nursery." He may play robbers and hide and seek because he has reached a "hunting and capture" stage, but the physiologist points out that violent exercise is a necessity for his circulation and nutrition, and to practise swift flight to safety is useful even in modern times.[11] Gardening may take us back to an agricultural stage, but digging is most useful as a muscular exercise, and "watering" is scientific experiment and adds to the feeling of power, while the flowers themselves appeal to the aesthetic side of the sense-play, which is not limited to any age, though conspicuous so soon.

[Footnote 11: An up-to-date riddle asks the difference between the quick and the dead, and answers, "The quick are those who get out of the way of a motor-bus and the dead are those who do not."]

Froebel recognised many kinds of play. He realised that much of the play of boyhood is exercise of physical power, and that it must be of a competitive nature because the boy wants to measure his power. Even in 1826 he urges the importance not only of town playgrounds but of play leaders, that the play may be full of life. Among games for boys he noted some still involving sense-play, as hiding games, colour games and shooting at a mark, which need quick hearing and sight, intellectual plays exercising thought and judgement, e.g. draughts and dramatic games. One form of play which seemed to him most important was constructive play, where there is expression of ideas as well as expression of power. This side of play covers a great deal, and will be dealt with later; its importance in Froebel's eyes lies in the fact that through construction, however simple, the child gains knowledge of his own power and learns "to master himself." Froebel wanted particularly to deepen this feeling of power, and says that the little one who has already made some experiments takes pleasure in the use of sand and clay, "impelled by the previously acquired sense of power he seeks to master the material."

In order to gain real knowledge of himself, of his power, a child needs to compare his power with that of others. This is one reason for the child's ready imitation of all he sees done by others. Another reason for this is that only through real experience or action can a child gain the ideas which he will express later, therefore he must reproduce all he sees or hears.

"In the family the child sees parents and others at work, producing, doing something; consequently he, at this stage, would like to represent what he sees. Be cautious, parents. You can at one blow destroy, at least for a long time, the impulse to activity and to formation if you repel their help as childish, useless or even as a hindrance.... Strengthen and develop this instinct; give to your child the highest he now needs, let him add his power to your work, that he may gain the consciousness of his power and also learn to appreciate its limitations."

As the child's sense of power and his self-consciousness deepen he requires possessions of his "very own." Says Froebel: "The feeling of his own power implies and demands also the possession of his own space and his own material belonging exclusively to him. Be his realm, his province, a corner of the house or courtyard, be it the space of a box or of a closet, be it a grotto, a hut or a garden, the boy at this age needs an external point, chosen and prepared by himself, to which he refers all his activity."

As ideas widen the child's purposes enlarge, and he finds the need for that co-operation which binds human beings together. And so by play enjoyed in common, the feeling of community which is present in the little child is raised to recognition of the rights of others; not only is a sense of justice developed, but also forbearance, consideration and sympathy.

"When the room to be filled is extensive, when the realm to be controlled is large, when the whole to be produced is complex, then brotherly union of similar-minded persons is in place." And we are invited to enter an "education room," where boys of seven to ten are using building blocks, sand, sawdust and green moss brought in from the forest. "Each one has finished his work and he examines it and that of others, and in each rises the desire to unite all in one whole," so roads are made from the village of one boy to the castle of another: the boy who has made a cardboard house unites with another who has made miniature ships from nut-shells, the house as a castle crowns the hill, and the ships float in the lake below, while the youngest brings his shepherd and sheep to graze between the mountain and the lake, and all stand and behold with pleasure and satisfaction the result of their hands.

The educative value of such play has been brought forward in modern times in Floor Games by Mr. Wells, Magic Cities by Mrs. Nesbit, and notably in Mr. Caldwell Cook's Play City in The Play Way.

Joining together for a common purpose does not only belong to younger boys. "What busy tumult among those older boys at the brook! They have built canals, sluices, bridges, etc.... at each step one trespasses on the limits of another realm. Each one claims his right as lord and maker, while he recognises the claims of others, and like States, they bind themselves by strict treaties."

"Every town should have its own common playground for the boys. Glorious results would come from this for the entire community. For, at this period, games, whenever possible, are in common, and develop the feeling and desire for community, and the laws and requirements of community. The boy tries to see himself in his companions, to weigh and measure himself by them, to know and find himself by their help."

"It is the sense of sure and reliable power, the sense of its increase, both as an individual and as a member of the group, that fills the boy with joy during these games.... Justice, self-control, loyalty, impartiality, who could fail to catch their fragrance and that of still more delicate blossoms, forbearance, consideration, sympathy and encouragement for the weaker.... Thus the games educate the boy for life and awaken and cultivate many social and moral virtues."

In England we have always had respect for boys' games and more and more, especially in America, people are realising the need for play places and play leaders. But all this was written in 1826, when for ten years Froebel had been experimenting with boys of all ages. At Keilhau play of all kinds had an honoured place. We read of excursions for all kinds of purposes, of Indian games out of Fenimore Cooper, and of "Homeric battles." It was "part of Froebel's plan to have us work with spade and pick-axe," and every boy had his own piece of ground where he might do what he pleased. Ebers, being literary, constructed in his plot a bed of heather on which he lay and read or made verses. The boys built their own stage, painted their own scenery, and in winter once a week they acted classic dramas. Besides this, there was a large and complete puppet theatre belonging to the school. Bookbinding and carpentry were taught, and at Christmas "the embryo cabinet-maker made boxes with locks and hinges, finished, veneered and polished."

In England in 1917 we have given to us The Play Way, in which one who has tried it gives the results of his own experiments in education through play. Mr. Caldwell Cook was not satisfied with the condition of affairs when "school above the Kindergarten is a nuisance because there is no play." His dream is that of a Play School Commonwealth, where education, which is the training of youth, shall be filled with the spirit of youth, namely, "freshness, zeal, happiness, enthusiasm."

The next chapter will show that it has taken us exactly a hundred years to reach as far as public recognition of the Nursery School where play is the only possible motive. It is for the coming generation of teachers to act so that the dream of the Play School Commonwealth shall be realised more quickly. It is a significant fact that the lines quoted as heading for the next chapter are written by a modern schoolmaster.


FROM 1816 TO 1919

Poor mites; you stiffen on a bench And stoop your curls to dusty laws; Your petal fingers curve and clench In slavery to parchment saws; You suit your hearts to sallow faces In sullen places: But no pen Nor pedantry can make you men. Yours are the morning and the day: You should be taught of wind and light; Your learning should be born of play.


Had England but honoured her own prophets, we should have had Nursery Schools a hundred years ago. In 1816, the year in which Froebel founded his school for older boys at Keilhau, Robert Owen, the Socialist, "following the plan prescribed by Nature," opened a school where children, from two to six, were to dance and sing, to be out-of-doors as much as possible, to learn "when their curiosity induced them to ask questions," and not to be "annoyed with books." They were to be prevented from acquiring bad habits, to be taught what they could understand, and their dispositions were to be trained "to mutual kindness and a sincere desire to contribute all in their power to benefit each other." They "were trained and educated without punishment or the fear of it.... A child who acted improperly was not considered an object of blame but of pity, and no unnecessary restraint was imposed on the children."

But the world was not ready. Owen's "Rational Infant School" attracted much notice, and an Infant School Society was founded. But even the enlightened were incapable of understanding that any education was possible without books, and the promoters rightly, though quite unconsciously, condemned themselves when they kept the title Infant School but dropped the qualifying "Rational." Still, Infant Schools had been started and interest had been aroused. When the edict abolishing Kindergartens was promulgated in Germany, some of Froebel's disciples passed to other lands, and Madame von Marenholz came to England in 1854. Already one Kindergarten had been opened by a Madame Ronge, to which Rowland Hill sent his children, and to which Dickens paid frequent visits. In the same year there was held in London an "International Educational Exposition and Congress," and to this Madame von Marenholz sent an exhibit, which was explained by Madame Ronge, and by a Mr. Hoffmann. Dickens, who had watched the actual working of a Kindergarten, gave warm support to the new ideas, and wrote an excellent article on "Infant Gardens" for Household Words, urging "that since children are by Infinite Wisdom so created as to find happiness in the active exercise and development of all their faculties, we, who have children round about us, shall no longer repress their energies, tie up their bodies, shut their mouths.... The frolic of childhood is not pure exuberance and waste. 'There is often a high meaning in childish play,' said Froebel. Let us study it, and act upon the hints—or more than hints—that Nature gives."

Dr. Henry Barnard represented Connecticut at this Congress, and he took the Kindergarten to America, in whose virgin soil the seed took root, and quickly brought forth abundantly. But the soil was virgin and the fields were ready for planting, for America in these days had nothing corresponding to our Infant Schools. The Kindergarten was welcomed by people of influence. Dr. Barnard found his first ally in Miss Peabody, one of whose sisters was married to Nathaniel Hawthorne, while another was the wife of Horace Mann. Miss Peabody began to teach in 1860, but eight years later, after a visit to Europe, she gave up teaching for propaganda work. Owing to her efforts the first Free Kindergarten was opened in Boston in 1870. Philanthropists soon recognised its importance as a social agency, and by 1883 one lady alone supported thirty-one such institutions in Boston and its surroundings. In New York, Dr. Felix Adler established a Free Kindergarten in 1878, and Teachers' College was influential in helping to form an association which supports several. Another name well known in this country is that of Miss Kate Douglas Wiggin,[12] who was a Kindergarten teacher for many years before she became known as a novelist. It is Miss Wiggin who tells of a quaint translation of Kindergarten heard by a San Francisco teacher making friendly visits to the mothers of her children. While she stood on a door-step sympathising with one poor woman she heard a "loud, but not unfriendly" voice from an upper window. "Clear things from under foot!" it pealed in stentorian accents. "The teacher o' the Kids' Guards is comin' down the street."

[Footnote 12: Writer of Penelope in England, etc., and of a capital collection of essays entitled Children's Rights.]

In England things were very different, because of the Infant Schools which had already been established, but which had fallen far below the ideal set up by Robert Owen. As every one knows, the education given in those days to teachers of Elementary Schools was but meagre, and the results were often so bad that, to justify the expenditure of public money, "payment by results" was introduced. In 1870 came the Education Act, and the year 1874 saw a good deal of movement. Miss Caroline Bishop was appointed to lecture to the Infants' teachers under the London School Board; Miss Heerwart took charge of a training college for Kindergarten teachers in connection with the British and Foreign School Society; the Froehel Society was founded, and Madame Michaelis took the Kindergarten into the newly established High Schools for Girls. For the children of the well-to-do Kindergartens spread rapidly, but for the children of the poor there was no such happiness; the Infant School was too firmly established as a place where children learned to read, write and count, and above all to sit still. Infants' teachers received no special training for their work; their course of study, in which professional training played but a small part, was the same as that prescribed for the teachers of older children. Some colleges, notably The Home and Colonial, Stockwell, and Saffron Walden, did try to give their students some special training, but it was not of much avail, and the word Kindergarten came to mean not Nursery School, as was the idea of its founder, but dictated exercises with Kindergarten material, a kind of manual drill supposed to give "hand and eye training," and with this meaning it made its appearance on the time-table.

Visitors from America were shocked to find no Kindergartens in England, but only large classes of poor little automatons sitting erect with "hands behind" or worse still "hands on heads," and moving only to the word of command. One lady who ultimately found her way to our own Kindergarten told me that she had been informed at the L.C.C. offices that there were no Kindergartens in London.

It was partly the scandalised expressions of these American teachers that stimulated Miss Adelaide Wragge to take her courage into her hands, and in the year 1900 to open the first Mission Kindergarten in England. She called it a Mission, not a Free Kindergarten, partly because the parents paid the trifling fee of one penny per week, and partly because it was connected with the parish work of Holy Trinity, Woolwich, of which her brother was vicar. The first report says: "The neighbourhood was suitable for the experiment; little children, needing just the kind of training we proposed to give them, abounded everywhere.... The Woolwich children were typical slum babies, varying in ages from three to six years; very poor, very dirty, totally untrained in good habits. At first we only admitted a few, and when these began to improve, gradually increased the numbers to thirty-five. They needed great patience and care, but they responded wonderfully to the love given them, and before long they were real Kindergarten children, full of vigour, merriment and self-activity."

As is done in connection with all Free Kindergartens, Parents' Evenings were instituted from the first, and the mothers were helped to understand their children by simple talks.

Sesame House for Home Life Training had been opened six months before this Mission Kindergarten. It was founded by the Sesame Club, and at its head was Miss Schepel, who for twenty years had been at the head of the Pestalozzi Froebel House. The idea of Home Life Training attracted students who were not obliged by stern necessity to earn their daily bread. Though the methods were not quite in line with progressive thought, the atmosphere created by Miss Schepel, warmly seconded by Miss Buckton,[13] was one of enthusiasm in the service of children. The second Nursery School in London had its origin in this enthusiasm. Miss Maufe left Sesame House early in 1903, and started a free Child Garden in West London. Four years later she moved to Westminster to a block of workmen's dwellings erected on the site of the old Millbank Prison. This "child garden" has a special interest from the fact that it was carried on actually in a block of workmen's dwellings like The Children's Houses of a later date. The effort was voluntary and the rooms were small, but, if the experiment had been supported by the authorities, it would have been easy to take down dividing walls to get sufficient space. Miss Maufe gave herself and her income for about twelve years, but difficulties created by the war, the impossibility of finding efficient help and consequent drain upon her own strength have forced her to close her little school, to the grief of the mothers in 48 Ruskin Buildings. Another Sesame House student, Miss L. Hardy, in her charming Diary of a Free Kindergarten, takes us from London to Edinburgh, but the first Free Kindergarten in Edinburgh began in 1903 and had a different origin. Miss Howden was an Infants' Mistress in one of the slums, and knew well the needs of little children in that wide street, once decked with lordly mansions, which leads from the Castle to Holyrood Palace. Some of the fine houses are left, but the inhabitants are of the poorest, and Miss Howden left her savings to start a Free Kindergarten in the Canongate. The sum was not large, but it was seed sown in faith, and its harvest has been abundant, for Edinburgh with its population of under 400,000 has five Free Kindergartens, in all of which the children are washed and fed and given restful sleep, as well as taught and trained with intelligence and love. London with its population of 6,000,000 had but eight up to the time of the outbreak of the war.

[Footnote 13: Author of the beautiful mystery play of Eager Heart.]

In 1904 the Froebel Society took part in a Joint Conference at Bradford, where one sitting was devoted to "The Need for Nursery Schools for Children from three to five years at present attending the Public Elementary Schools." The speakers were Mrs. Miall of Leeds, and Miss K. Phillips, who had wide opportunities for knowledge of the unsuitable conditions generally provided for these little children. Among those who joined in this discussion was Miss Margaret M'Millan, so well known for her pioneer work in connection with School Clinics, and more recently for her now famous Camp School. Miss M'Millan had already done yeoman service on the Bradford Education Committee, but was now resident in London, and she had been warmly welcomed on the Council of the Froebel Society. It was from the date of this Conference that the name Nursery School became general, though it had been used by Madame Michaelis as early as 1891. In the following year, 1905, the Board of Education published its "Reports on Children under Five Years of Age," with its prefatory memorandum stating that "a new form of school is necessary for poor children," and that parents who must send their little ones to school "should send them to nursery schools rather than to schools of instruction," to schools where there should be "more play, more sleep, more free conversation, story-telling and observation." It would seem that the recommendations of 1905 may begin to be carried out in 1919, a consummation devoutly to be wished.

In the meantime voluntary effort has done what it could. Birmingham had good reason to be in the forefront, since many of its public-spirited citizens had in their own childhood the benefit of the excellent works of Miss Caroline Bishop, a disciple of Frau Schrader. The Birmingham People's Kindergarten Association opened its first People's Kindergarten at Greet, in 1904, and a second, the Settlement Kindergarten, in 1907. Sir Oliver Lodge spoke strongly in favour of these institutions, calling them a protest against the idea of the comparative unimportance of childhood.

Miss Hardy opened her Child Garden in 1906, and that work has grown so that the children are now kept till they are eight years old. The Edinburgh Provincial Council for the Training of Teachers opened another Free Kindergarten as a demonstration school for Froebelian methods, a practising school for students, and also as an experimental school, where attempts might be made to solve problems as to the education of neglected children under school age. It was the Headmistress of this school, Miss Hodsman, who invented the net beds now in general use. She wanted something hygienic and light enough to be carried easily into the garden, that in fine weather the children might sleep out of doors.

Another Sesame House student, Miss Priestman, opened a Free Kindergarten in the pretty village of Thornton-le-Dale, where the children have a sand-heap in a little enclosure allowed them by the blacksmith, and sail their boats at a quiet place by the side of the beck that runs through the village.

It was in 1908 that Miss Esther Lawrence of the Froebel Institute inspired her old students to help her to open The Michaelis Free Kindergarten. Since the war, the name has been altered to The Michaelis Nursery School, which is in Netting Dale, on the edge of a very poor neighbourhood, where large families often occupy a single room. As in the Edinburgh Free Kindergartens, dinner is provided, for which the parents pay one penny. The first report tells how necessary are Nursery Schools in such surroundings. "The little child who was formerly tied to the leg of the bed, and left all day while his mother was out at work, is now enjoying the happy freedom of the Kindergarten. The child whose clothes were formerly sewn on to him, to save his mother the periodical labour of sewing on buttons, is now undressed and bathed regularly. The attacks on children by drunken parents are less frequent. When the Kindergarten was first opened, many of the children were quite listless, they did not know how to play, did not care to play. Now they play with pleasure and with vigour, and one can hardly believe they are the listless, spiritless children of a year ago."

In 1910 Miss Lawrence succeeded in opening what was called from the first the "Somers Town Nursery School," where the same kind of work is done. One of the reports says: "It is interesting to see the children sweeping or dusting a room, washing their dusters and dolls' clothes, polishing the furniture, their shoes, and anything which needs polishing. On Friday morning the 'silver' is cleaned, and the brilliant results give great pleasure and satisfaction to the little polishers. 'Have you done your work?' was the question addressed to a visitor by a three-year-old child, and the visitor beat a hasty retreat, ashamed perhaps of being the only drone in the busy hive. At dinner time four children wait on the rest, and very well and quickly the food is handed round and the plates removed."

There are other Free Kindergartens at work. One is in charge of Miss Rowland, and is in connection with the Bermondsey Settlement. It is Miss Rowland who tells of the "candid mother" she met one Saturday who remarked, "I told the children to wash their faces in case they met you."

The Phoenix Park Kindergarten in Glasgow is interesting because the site was granted by an enlightened Corporation and the Parks Committee laid out the garden, while the real start came from the pupils of a school for girls of well-to-do families. By this time other social agencies have been grouped round the Kindergarten as a centre.

The Caldecott Nursery School was opened in 1911 and has grown into the Caldecott Community, which has now taken its children to live altogether in the country. This Nursery School was never intended to be a Kindergarten; it was started as an interesting experiment, "chiefly perhaps in the hope that the children might enjoy that instruction which is usually absorbed by the children of the wealthy in their own nurseries by virtue of their happier surroundings."

And in the very year in which we were plunged into war Miss Margaret M'Millan put into actual shape what she had long thought of, and opened her "Baby Camp" and Nursery School, with a place for "toddlers" in between, the full story of which is told in The, Camp School. In the Camp itself the things which impress the visitor most are first the space and the fresh air, the sky above and the brown earth below, and next the family feeling which is so plain in spite of the numbers. The Camp existed long before it was a Baby Camp and Nursery School, for Miss M'Millan began with a School Clinic and went on to Open-Air Camps for girls and for boys, before going to the "preventive and constructive" work of the Baby Camp. Clean and healthy bodies come first, but to Miss M'Millan's enthusiasm everything in life is educative.

The war has increased the supply of Nursery Schools, because the need for them has become glaringly apparent. Many experiments are going on now, and it seems as if experimental work would be encouraged, not hampered by unyielding regulations. The Nursery School should cover the ages for which the Kindergarten was instituted, roughly from three to six years old. Already there are excellent baby rooms in some parts of London, and no doubt in other towns, and the only reason for disturbing these is to provide the children with more space and more fresh air, or with something resembling a garden rather than a bare yard.

One school in London has a creche or day nursery, not exactly a part of it, but in closest touch, established owing to the efforts of an enthusiastic Headmistress working along with the Norland Place nurses. Its space is at present insufficient, but the neighbouring buildings are condemned, and will come down after the war. They need not go up again. Then the space could be used in the same way as in the Camp School. That would be to the benefit of the whole neighbourhood, and there could be at least one experiment where from creche to Standard VII. might be in close connection.

Miss M'Millan's ideal is to have a large space in the centre of a district with covered passages radiating from it so that mothers from a large area could bring their little ones and leave them in safety. It would be safety, it would be salvation. But, as the Scots proverb has it, "It is a far cry to Loch Awe."

Another question much debated is, who is to be in charge of these children. The day nursery or creche must undoubtedly be staffed with nurses, but with nurses trained to care for children, not merely sick nurses. There are, however, certain people who believe that the "trained nurse" is the right person to be in charge of children up to five, while others think that young girls or uneducated women will suffice. We are thankful that the Board of Education takes up the position that a well-educated and specially trained teacher is to be the person responsible.

We certainly want the help both of the trained nurse and of the motherly woman. The trained nurse will be far more use in detecting and attending to the ailments of children than the teacher can be, and the motherly woman can give far more efficient help in training children to decent habits than any young probationer, useful though these may be. But there is always the fear that the nurses may think that good food and cleanliness are all a child requires, and, as Miss M'Millan says, "The sight of the toddlers' empty hands and mute lips does not trouble them at all."

But every man to his trade, and though the teacher in charge must know something about ailing children, it is very doubtful if a few months in a hospital will advantage her much. Here she trenches on the province of the real nurse, whose training is thorough, and the little knowledge, as every one knows, is sometimes dangerous. One Nursery School teacher, with years of experience, says that what she learned in hospital has been of no use to her, and it is probable that attendance at a clinic for children would be really more useful. Certainly the main concern of the Nursery School teacher is sympathetic understanding of children. There must be no more of Punch's "Go and see what Tommy is doing in the next room and tell him not to," but "Go and see what Tommy is trying to accomplish, and make it possible for him to carry on his self-education through that 'fostering of the human instincts of activity, investigation and construction' which constitutes a Kindergarten."



A box of counters and a red-veined stone, A piece of glass abraded by the beach, And six or seven shells.

If early education, consist in fostering natural activities, there can be no doubt that Froebel hit upon the activity most prominent of all in the case of young children, viz. the impulse to investigate. For his crest, the little child should share in the "motto given to the mongoose family, in Kipling's Rikki-Tikki, 'Run and find out.'"

Most writers on the education of young children have emphasised the importance of what is most inadequately called sense training, and it is here that Dr. Montessori takes her stand with her "didactic apparatus." Froebel's ideas seem wider; he realises that the sword with which the child opens his oyster is a two-edged sword, that he uses not only his sense organs as tools for investigation, but his whole body. His pathway to knowledge, and to power over himself and his surroundings, is action, and action of all kinds is as necessary to him as the use of his senses.

"The child's first utterance is force," says Froebel, and his first discovery is the resistance of matter, when he "pushes with his feet against what resists them." His first experiments are with his body, "his first toys are his own limbs," and his first play is the use of "body, senses and limbs" for the sake of use, not for result. One use of his body is the imitation of any moving object, and Froebel tells the mother:

If your child's to understand Action in the world without, You must let his tiny hand Imitative move about. This is the reason why Baby will, never still, Imitate whatever's by.

At this stage the child is "to move freely, and be active, to grasp and hold with his own hands." He is to stand "when he can sit erect and draw himself up," not to walk till he "can creep, rise freely, maintain his balance and proceed by his own effort." He is not to be hindered by swaddling bands—such as are in use in Continental countries—nor, later on, to be "spoiled by too much assistance," words which every mother and teacher should write upon her phylacteries. But as soon as he can move himself the surroundings speak to the child, "outer objects invite him to seize and grasp them, and if they are distant, they invite him who would bring them nearer to move towards them."

This use of the word "invite" is worthy of notice, and calls to mind a sentence used by a writer on Freud,[14] that "the activity of a human being is a constant function of his environment." We adults, who are so ready with our "Don't touch," must endeavour to remember how everything is shouting to a child: "Look at me, listen to me, come and fetch me, and find out all you can about me by every means in your power."

[Footnote 14: The Freudian Wish, Edwin Holt.]

If we have anything to do with little children, we must face the fact that the child is, if not quite a Robinson Crusoe on his island, at least an explorer in a strange country, and a scientist in his laboratory. But there is nothing narrow in his outlook: the name of this chapter is deliberately chosen, the whole world is the child's oyster, his interests are all-embracing.

From his first walk he is the geographer. "Each little walk is a tour of discovery; each object—the chair, the wall—is an America, a new world, which he either goes around to see if it be an island, or whose coast he follows to discover if it be a continent. Each new phenomenon is a discovery in the child's small and yet rich world, e.g. one may go round the chair; one may stand before it, behind it, but one cannot go behind the bench or the wall."

Then comes an inquiry into the physical properties of surrounding objects. "The effort to reach a particular object may have its source in the child's desire to hold himself firm and upright by it, but we also observe that it gives him pleasure to touch, to feel, to grasp, and perhaps also—which is a new phase of activity—to be able to move it.... The chair is hard or soft; the seat is smooth; the corner is pointed; the edge is sharp." The business of the adult, Froebel goes on to say, is to supply these names, "not primarily to develop the child's power of speech," but "to define his sense impressions."

Next, the scientist must stock his laboratory with material for experiment.

"The child is attracted by the bright round smooth pebble, by the gaily fluttering bit of paper, by the smooth bit of board, by the rectangular block, by the brilliant quaint leaf. Look at the child that can scarcely keep himself erect, that can walk only with the greatest care—he sees a twig, a bit of straw; painfully he secures it, and like the bird carries it to his nest. See him again, laboriously stooping and slowly going forward on the ground, under the eaves of the roof (the deep eaves of the Thuringian peasant house). The force of the rain has washed out of the sand smooth bright pebbles, and the ever-observing child gathers them as building stones as it were, as material for future building. And is he wrong? Is he not in truth collecting material for his future life building?"

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