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The Parents' Review

A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture

Edited by Charlotte Mason.

"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
Memoir of a Child Fourteen Months Old.

By a Father and a Mother.
Volume 1, 1890/91, pg. 598


Our first thought when we saw in the Parents' Review that a prize was to be given for a memoir of a child fourteen months old, "defining as far as possible his knowledge and powers," to be sent in by June 16th, was, that as our own boy would reach that age on June 3rd, it would not only be a pleasing task, at any rate to ourselves, to attempt to define his knowledge and powers, but that we ought to be able to describe the facts with a fair amount of accuracy. At any rate, we should not have to rely on a parent's deceitful memory as to what his child's powers actually were at the time specified, and if we were tempted to credit him with more than he had at that time shown that he possessed, we could not be more than thirteen days out. In case he may seem to be in any way below the average, we must begin that it is only in the legal sense of the term that he is fourteen months old now, for he was sent into the world while still an unfinished article some six weeks before the usual time. How much allowance ought to be made for this is a difficult question, which we will leave to the biologist and psychologist to discuss.

Our second thought was to take out Webster's Dictionary and see what was meant by a memoir. To our great comfort and encouragement, we found it defined as a "history lacking method and completeness," a definition with which we might fairly hope to comply. It includes, we imagine, a record of the life and adventures of its hero, as well as the development of his "knowledge and powers." Indeed, the events of an infant's life, though they may not be interesting in themselves except to his parents, are worth noting on account of all his needs and all his ailments from the very first, and we could, if we liked, give a detailed account of their close connection with his intellectual development.

Let it at once be admitted that his parents look upon him as at least the most interesting baby that has yet been born. Still we claim that so far as we have observed the facts, we have observed and stated them with cold blooded and scientific accuracy. We cannot say that we have made such a complete examination of our son as Professor Preyer did of his own, carefully observing him three times every day, and noting down every fact whether it seemed interesting or not. We regret that we did not possess his book earlier,* for it is most valuable in suggesting points to be noticed. But the facts, incomplete as they are, were observed by ourselves, and taken down at the time. They are arranged under the same heads as by Professor Preyer, though the arrangement is not altogether satisfactory, and it is sometimes difficult to decide under which head a detail should be placed.

* ["Die Seele des Kindes." W. Preyer, Professor of Physiology, Jena. Translated by H. W. Brown, in 2 vols,-- "The Mind of the Child;" Part I, "The Senses and the Will"; Part II, "The Development of the Intellect." International Education Series. D. Appleton & Co., New York. B. Perey, "First Three Years of Childhood," translated by Alice M. Christie, and Darwin's "Biographical Sketch of an Infant Mind," July, 1877, will also be found useful.]


Sight.--He has now reached the stage in which he looks intently at the objects which he has thrown down, observing no doubt the effects of the law of gravity; finds great pleasure in throwing a ball about in the room, and then crawling after it, throws it fairly well towards another person, sees well through the window, first recognising his father through the dining-room window at eleven and a-half months old. He appreciates colour, his attention being at once drawn by the sight of bright flowers. How far he distinguishes colours we cannot say. When ten months old he would smile constantly at the sight of a turquoise blue vase, but at no other, and at thirteen months would point to the blue side of a cube when asked to do so. But he does this no longer, and Preyer tells us that his boy was more than a year and a-half old before he showed any power of distinguishing colour. Since five and a-half months he has smiled at his reflection in the glass, and now he will kiss it, or at least press his lips against it. He shows great delight in looking at fresh things, especially if they are bright in colour. In a strange room he wants to be taken all round, and to look at the pictures again and again.

Hearing.--He turns round to the clock when it strikes, and looks towards the window, when vehicles pass. He still delights in making any kind of noise with his hands on the piano, or with the poker on the floor. Two months ago he would enjoy a song, and the first sound of "Sur le pont d' Avignon" would set him off dancing when held up by the arms. This lasted about a month, but music seems to give him no pleasure whatever now.

Touch.--He wants to touch everything, first carefully with his first finger, then taking hold and sticking, lastly throwing to the ground; has always preferred hard things to soft, and smooth to rough.

Taste.--At six weeks he had his first dose of castor oil, and wanted more. At five and a-half months refused bottle because not sweet enough. At eight and a-half months, after two or three doses, liked cod liver oil and iron. He still likes soap and not jam, but he clearly sees the superiority of cake to bread, and his feelings on the subject are plainly expressed on the countenance, as well as by impatient movements and sounds.

Smell.--He has given up putting flowers into his mouth except for the fun of having them pulled out. He begins to sniff and screw up his nose at the sight of them, seems to enjoy smelling them and holding them out to others to smell.

Sleep.--Average twelve hours in the twenty-four, longest time of unbroken sleep six hours. Has always wanted his food more in the night than in the day.

Fear.--At two months and three days he threw up his hands with a cry at the sound of a loud thunderclap, but this did not prevent him from going on with his bottle; has often been startled by something new, e.g., by his father sneezing, when nearly twelve months, by the sight of a cat at eleven months. At eight and a-half months he was terrified and cried loudly at the sight of a boy two and a-half years old, who came to stay in the house, especially when he moved about, and after three days he would continue to keep his eyes fixed upon him with a look of apprehension. In the last few days he has shown slight alarm at a black bag, more at a mechanical ostrich moving along the floor, and in crawling along the drawing-room carpet he is afraid to approach a leopard's skin. Cases like these, which we believe are common enough in young children, must be taken, as Preyer says, as showing an hereditary fear.

Anger.--This is not mentioned by Preyer, but Darwin saw distinct signs of it in his boy before four months old. We have not seen many traces of it yet in our own. He has show signs of impatience, he has cried at waking up and seeing his mother instead of his nurse, and he has turned his head away from her with a look of aversion, after having been made to do something which he disliked. But the following incident, when he was just a week under eight months old, will show that his anger is not easily aroused. It was at an hour when he was generally hungry that a new kind of food was tried. He tasted it and put the teat out of his mouth with a playful smile. A little sugar was added, but he put it out again still smiling. The ordinary bottle was then got ready as quickly as possible, and he took it eagerly. To be hungry and yet show no passion at receiving food too disagreeable to be take seems to show a remarkably good temper.

Grasping Objects.--Putting out the hands for this purpose is an action very gradually developed. At seven and a-half months he did it with confidence, at ten and a-half he would use both hands, and show great delight in holding two things in one hand. He now no longer stretches out his hands towards distant objects, but only towards such as may be brought to him. At ten and a-half months he took great pains, and at last succeeded, in picking up small crumbs. He is generally most pleased, not with toys, but with things of unmanageable size, such as the fire-irons or his own chair. He will look very grave and intent while he examines them.

Learning to Sit and Stand.--At seventeen days he first lifted his head and turned himself from side to back. At five months, seventeen days he partly lifted himself into a sitting posture, and on being supported with a pillow was much pleased. At nine months and twenty days it is chronicled that he would lift himself from lying to sitting postures; at eleven months that he would pull himself up in his bassinette; and at twelve months, fourteen days that he would cautiously raise himself up on the floor with the help of a chair. He cannot walk yet, and was only ten days less than a year old when he began to crawl. He does this now with great rapidity, and can get along on his feet a little with the help of chair or sofa. At eight months he began to splash vigorously in his bath.

Imitative Movements.--Pat-a-cake. He did not attempt to imitate this until eleven months old, and then with the palm of the left hand on the back of the right. At twelve months, three days he put the two palms together. Before eight months he much appreciated a game of peep-bo, surprise being, as Darwin points out, the chief cause of the amusement; and at twelve months he would try to play at it by imitation, holding up a fan, and looking roguishly under it, but never quite hiding his face. At twelve and a-half months he tried to imitate snapping of fingers. Now he imitates shaking of the head with great delight, but he can only shake it laterally when imitating a person who nods.

Imitation of Sounds.--At just thirteen months he imitated his grandmother coughing, and much enjoyed repeating it when asked "How did Grandmamma cough?" At the same time he would imitate children that he heard crying when he was out, and would repeat the imitation in the same way, but we did not encourage it much. His imitation was not so good after the first day or two.

Expressive Movements.--His first tear was noted at the age of forty-eight days, his first smile at seventy-five. The tear was wrung out of him by the agonies of being photographed, and it was long before another was seen. As Preyer says, the date of the first smile varies much according to what we understand by the word. At one hundred and twenty days he clearly recognised his nurse when she came into the room, and smiled at her while still taking his bottle. Exactly when he began to crow we cannot say, nor when he first laughed aloud, but at present he is very merry and constantly smiling or laughing. From six to seven months old he was shy of strangers, but now he will smile at a stranger after a few moments' observation. At seven and three-quarter months he cried at the sight of his father, not having seen him for five days. Instead of waiting to be smiled at he will sometimes smile at a stranger in the street, but turns away disappointed if he receives no smile in return. He much enjoys giving a thing to another person and taking it back again and again, but in the same way he enjoys seeing a ball being thrown backwards and forwards from one person to another. Kissing does not give him much pleasure. At eleven months, when asked to kiss, he would put his head forward and rub his forehead against a person's face. Affection he expresses by gently laying his hand upon the face; willfulness by a straightening of the limbs. By means of gestures, with the help of sounds, of which more presently, he makes one understand everything he really wants, putting out his hands towards the desired object, or the person that he wishes to take him up. On obtaining what he wants he will shake with delight from top to toe, but does not utter a shrill scream, as he did a month ago.

Deliberate Movement.--We need only mention that he can carry a piece of toast correctly to his mouth, bite off a bit, chew it fine and swallow it, and can drink from a cup or a glass.


An infant's mind, as Sully truly says, "cannot be seen, but only divined," or to use Preyer's phrase, "It is hard to decipher the mysterious writing on the mind of a child." Even in the adult the steps from sensation to reasoning cannot be traced with certainty. The infant cannot even speak, and if the question how far language is necessary to thought may still be considered unsettled, it is at least clear that the results of thinking can only partially be seen when as yet there are no words to express them. But we will first give such facts as we can, apart from the use of words, to show the infantine "knowledge and powers" which our child possesses. When the upstairs bell rings he knows that it is for him to be brought downstairs, stops even if taking his bottle, refuses to go on, and makes scolding noises if he is not brought down at once. He has observed that a box will not rattle unless there is something inside it, and at twelve and a-half months repeatedly put a wooden tube into a box in order to make it rattle. Having heard a watch tick, he places a small silver box against his ear, expecting to hear it tick in the same way, and a watch he tries to blow open having seen other people apparently do it. Two days ago he placed his hand on a hot-water can, but quickly drew it back. The next day he but out his hand towards the can with a peculiar movement and sound, but without trying it touch it. These are signs of memory and to some extent of reasoning.

Understanding of Words.--At ten and three-quarter months he understood "Dada," "Elizabeth," "Millie," and would turn to them on their names being mentioned. He now understands "Mamma," "Nana," and many words such as "eyes," "nose," "dress," " endospore," which he will at once point to. At "Granpa" he looks up at his portrait and smiles (this at eleven months). In the same way he knows "Narcissus" (a bronze figure). "The Gleaners, "The shepherdess" (engravings after Millet), and other pictures; the last mentioned gives him great delight, and he points to the sheep and imitates their bleating, a sound which he learnt by hearing the lambs in the Park at Oxford. Say "bottle," and he smacks his lips, tell him to go to bye-bye, and without actually lying down he will put his head on a cushion for a few seconds.

Learning to speak.--Under this head we have not much to report, and it is some comfort to believe with Preyer that it is not the most intelligent children who speak first. It is better to understand words without being able to utter them than to imitate the sound without understanding it. Our boy, too, besides being, as we have said, really six weeks younger than he appears to be, is an only child and has had little opportunity of imitating other children. The sounds which he produces are difficult to represent without a recognised phonetic alphabet. There are but three clear vowel sounds which he makes, and these may be represented in English by ah, oo, e as in er. The consonants are also few, b, d, k, m, t (boo at nine and a-half months, but soon dropped it). As yet there are only two sounds which seem to express a definite idea. Bu' (like bus with the sibilant omitted)=omnibus, cart, cab, or carriage. He will stop in the midst of a game, look at the window, and cry "bu" when anything passes by. The same sound seems to mean "bow-wow." "Tah," with a slight guttural sound at the end=clock, of course an imitation of the sound which it makes, but he will look at the clock and use the word when he is too far off to hear the sound. "Ah" is used to attract attention. "Aah" to express admiration. "Uh" or "euh," to mean that he wants something.

This is an exact state of the case at fourteen months old, but he has made several fresh sounds in the last few days.

Feeling of Self.--This is difficult as yet to trace. He examines his legs with a certain look of wonder, but he does not bite his own hand, nor hold out a biscuit and offer it to his foot, like the child nearly two years old described by Preyer. Possibly he has not yet reached this stage. As has been said above, he will kiss his image in the mirror, but it is doubtful whether he recognises it as himself, though he certainly recognises the images of other people.

Moral Sense.--Preyer says nothing of this, but Darwin noticed the first sign at the age of nearly thirteen months, when the words "Doddy won't give poor papa a kiss--naughty Doddy," made the child feel slightly uncomfortable. Our nurse thought once that she saw a guilty look in the baby's face when he had done something wrong, but we can hardly say that the moral sense shows itself yet. He seems to be only amused when told not to do anything, and will at once do it again, not with an air of wilful disobedience, but as a new kind of game.

We have only to admit in conclusion: First, that our history cannot be considered complete; that many facts, which from a scientific point of view would have been worth mentioning, have either escaped our observation or were not noted down at the time. But so far it may fairly claim to come under the definition of a memoir and "lack completeness." Secondly, that there has, perhaps, been for a memoir too much method. We might have attempted to give a living picture of our son's merry little personality, and convey some idea of the delight which it has given us to watch him, and we might possibly have succeeded in making our memoir more lively and entertaining. But as it is only the comparison of our statements with those of others that can give them any importance, we believe that our arrangement under distinct heads, dull and frigid as it may seem, is for purposes of reference the best, and we hope to have made some slight contribution towards the vast collection of facts which is necessary before we can arrive at the laws which govern the bodily and mental development of a child.

T. and S.


The readers of the Parents' Review would do valuable service to the cause of education by keeping records about each of their own children which might be able to call in from time to time, with a view to the compilation of statistics. We hope shortly to supply tables for a birthday record for each year of a child's life.

Typed by Kati Renee McCrone, April 2016