The Parents' Review
A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture
"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
The Food and Clothing of Children Beyond Infancy
by Helen M. Wilson
SO much has been said and written about babies that there is now no excuse for ignorance about them ; but there is perhaps, rather a tendency to think that as soon as the child can speak and make known its wants, its bring up is a very simple matter. The age I am going to refer to (roughly, from 2 to 14) need just as careful and thoughtful watching as babyhood ; mistakes do not always bring such swift and evident punishment as they do at an earlier age ; but they are at least as pernicious, and their fruits may show themselves throughout life. Everyone knows how immensely important these years are in the moral development, but, physically, they are even more momentous. A mistake in moral training now may possibly be corrected later, for moral growth and development go on through the whole life ; but most of the physical growth is concentrated in these years, and any organ which is starved or cramped now will never make it up, but will be a source of weakness through life.
I shall not attempt to cover the whole ground of hygiene during this period. Exercise, fresh air, sleep, are of the utmost importance, but somehow or other children usually manage to take care of these matters for themselves. For food and clothing, they are absolutely dependent on their elders, and there seems in these departments more scope for mistakes.
Beginning with Food, the chief question is how best to supply material to meet the expenditure of energy so evident in the constant mental and bodily activity of a young child, and to build up the different parts of the growing organism. At the same time, every thoughtful mother must recognize that here moral training cannot be neglected : this is the first appetite that develops, and it cannot too soon be brought under control. On this aspect I shall say little--only dealing with it so far as it comes within the physician's province.
In the first place, the food must contain that right elements ; there must be carbonaceous food--that is fat, sugar, and starch--for supplying heat and energy ; and there must be nitrogenous food--as in meat or raw eggs--for repairing waste, and for building up the body.
Next, these must be approximately in the right proportions. If there is not enough of the nitrogenous or flesh-forming food, the child becomes fat, perhaps--but flabby ; the bones and internal organs are imperfectly developed. If, on the other hand, there is not enough of the carbonaceous food the child becomes thin, the whole organism is deranged, and the nervous system especially comes unduly excitable.
There is, as you know, one food which contains all that is necessary for life, and in early months for growth, and that is Milk. For the first six years of life, milk should constitute the most important article of diet, though of course it needs to be supplemented. In some form it should appear at every meal, and, except pure water, it should be the only beverage allowed. I sometimes hear that a child cannot or will not take milk. In the majority of such cases it is the discipline rather than the digestion that is at fault, and the mother should persevere till she finds some means of administering it, for it is far too important a food to be lightly given up. To make it palatable, instead of adding sugar, it often answers better to add salt--this gives a relish as it does to meat.
If milk seems really to disagree, it should be diluted with hot water or barley water--or it may be scalded--or in any case it may be given cooked, in the form of milk puddings.
Next to milk come farinaceous foods--grains of various sorts. Of these the best is oatmeal. But in order to be digestible, oatmeal needs more cooking than it usually gets. Good porridge should be boiled for 2½ to 3 hours. Oats are especially valuable for promoting muscular developments. May I repeat the familiar story of the definition given in Dr. Johnson's Dictionary? "Oats," he said, "are a grain eaten in England by horses, and in Scotland by men." This gave offence to some Scots, till one of them wittily rejoined, "Yes, and where will you see such horses or such men?"
With reference to oats and to whole wheat meal, it must not be forgotten that they contain many particles of indigestible husk. For this reason they act as laxatives, and are useful in constipation ; but for the same reason sometimes they are too irritant and have to be left off.
Macaroni and vermicelli are excellent foods, with nearly as much flesh forming value as mutton.
I need not enumerate the other grains ; they are all useful, and give variety to the diet, though their food value varies a good deal.
Eggs are an excellent food for children, a useful substitute for, and addition to meat.
Meat may be given from the age of two years, but in strict moderation ; if a child thrives without it, there is no need to be in haste to begin it. Till seven years it should never be given more than once a day, and it need not be given oftener till the age of 10 or 11. Too much meat means so much less of more needed and useful foods, and besides, in excess, it is an irritant to the bowels and kidneys. It is a great mistake to give meat to puny children in the hope that it will fatten them. Meat is never a fattening food, and especially not in children.
This applies particularly to nervous excitable children, who very often have nervous excitable parents. I want to say a few words specially about these cases. Such children need the most careful watching if they are to grow up sane healthy men and women, with sound minds in sound bodies. Care is all the more needed, because the nervous parent is inherently likely, unless warned and watchful, to give the worst possible education to the nervous child. Such children are usually precocious, thin, and great meat eaters, and these things are the things to be fought against. Fatten them by giving plenty of milk, of fat, and of farinaceous food ; see that they have plenty of sleep ; and keep back their precocity by a healthy open air life, and by constant watchfulness against over study and over excitement. The later they learn to read the better ; they will do it fast enough when they begin. And remember that it is not only at school the mind is exercised ; be careful about the stories and fairy tales the child gets a hold of. Some there must be ; the child will invent his own romances if he gets no others, but let them be mild and not terrifying. Encourage rather gardening, natural history pursuits and companionship with more stolid children. If the physical culture of precocious and nervous children were more arduously attended to, we should not hear much about "over pressure" at school, or about breakdown at college.
Meat broths and plain gravy are of course excellent for children. They may occasionally replace meat, but do not let them replace milk.
Fat is the next item and a very important one. The more of it the better, especially in cold weather, and for children with a tubercular tendency--that is to say, those who may have inherited a predisposition to consumption or bone disease. Children should be taught to eat fat with their meat, but often those who need it most have a great dislike to it. So we must circumvent them, remembering that there are many forms of fat. Children will eat butter or dripping and will enjoy fresh cream with their porridge or stewed fruit. For older ones fat bacon and the gravy of bacon are excellent, and so are sardines in oil. Milk with a little finely chopped suet boiled in it makes a nourishing beverage that few children object to. One very clever but rather startling writer says he knows of many delicate children whose lives have been saved by toffee--made the old way, as it used to be in the says when sugar was dear and butter was cheap.
Sugar is an equally necessary part of the food, and nearly all children have an instinctive love of it. But sweets should only be given with or immediately after meals. If eaten in large quantities at all times they set up acid fermentation and seriously disturb digestion. When the digestion is impaired and the appetite poor, it is a great mistake to allow sweets, and yet this is just when they are often given--to tempt the appetite! Fruit is an excellent article of diet for children and adults, and supplies a real want of the system. If plenty of good ripe fruit, raw or cooked, is supplied, children are much less likely to be tempted by the sour green fruit which causes to much trouble in the summer. As a laxative in habitual constipation, a little fruit should be eaten first thing in the morning--either an orange or other fresh fruit, or some stewed prunes or figs.
Vegetables well cooked are also very necessary and useful, but good cooking is all important, for making them both attractive and digestible.
Now for the things that should not be eaten. Salted and preserved meats and pastry are to be avoided. No highly seasoned or stimulating food should ever be given. In this I include pickles, pepper, mustard and spices of all sorts. These things are apt to derange digestion, but they do more mischief than appears at the time. They pervert the appetite, create a distaste for simple food, and accustom the stomach to crave for stimulants. There are competent observers who consider that the use of stimulating food in childhood and youth leads directly to intemperance in later life. Certainly no one will question that those who can relish simple food have a better start in life's race, and it should be a distinct aim to keep children as long as possible content with perfectly simple food.
Tea and coffee come under the same condemnation. That they have a distinct effect on the nervous system we all know by personal experience. The young, growing nervous system is easily affected and it is very much better left undisturbed by all such stimulants : girls will learn the virtues of a cup of tea quite soon enough ; if you teach it them too soon, they will, it is to be feared, learn to lean on it as an indispensable support, to the detriment both of brain and stomach.
Children under ten ought never to touch tea or coffee : it is better that they should be kept from these beverages till they are fourteen.
Of course no sort of alcoholic drink should ever be given to children without express medical orders.
To sum up, in feeding children we must aim at simplicity combined with variety. It can hardly be necessary to warn this audience against give the child "just what we have ourselves"--a phrase which is a bugbear to doctors when dealing with the children of the less educated classes. If the diets are to be made alike, it would be very much better for the elders to take just what the children have.
All this is very easy with some children, but what about those who have decided views of their own as to what they will and will not eat? Is a child's own inclination to be
taken as a safe guide? The answer is that the rules always hold, and the child is no more to be allowed to follow its fancy in this respect than it is to be allowed to play with matches or to stand in the rain, amusements for which some children have a distinct natural taste. True, you may see children who seem to thrive on what we must pronounce most unsuitable diet. But remember first, that mischief may be done now which will not be revealed till after many years, when some important organ, owing to its defective nourishment now, will give way before its time. Or the evil results may be shown earlier, when illness comes, and the unwisely indulged appetite may easily turn the balance between life and death : a child who has taken what he chose when well, will probably when ill demand apples or cakes, and refuse all suitable food, which can only be given after an exhausting struggle. Altogether a spoilt child has an infinitely worse chance in illness than one who has been well trained. Over indulgent parents would do well to remember that judicious discipline is not only necessary for their darling's happiness and moral welfare, but for its very life.
There is of course a great difference between refusing to give a child the unwholesome things it cries for, and forcing it to take the wholesome food it dislikes ; by the latter much harm may be done. Each case must be considered by itself. Children, like their elders, have idiosyncrasies, and occasionally cannot eat certain articles. If it is some unimportant thing that is disliked, not much notice need be taken. But before admitting that a child cannot take some really useful and important food, like milk, every possible means should be tried.
Usually a taste may be cultivated for any article of diet. The best way is to put only one or two tea spoonfuls on a plate, and get that taken, either by exercise of authority or gentle bribery. If this is repeated occasionally,--never offering a large helping,--a taste will probably in time be acquired.
(To be continued.)
The Parents Review 1893/4 Vol4 913-919
THE FOOD AND CLOTHING OF CHILDREN BEYOND INFANCY.
BY HELEN M. WILSON, M.B.
(Continued from page 838.)
I do not want to go into details about the various meals. For strong healthy children over four years old three meals a day are usually sufficient,--breakfast, dinner and supper (or tea if you like to call it so, only it must not be tea.) This last meal ought not to be taken immediately before bed-time, but there must be an interval of an hour or so. If the arrangement is that there is an early tea, at about four o'clock, there must then be a light supper before bed- time, but in this case it should consist only of bread and milk, and especially should not include sweet things. Jam last thing at night is a frequent cause of disturbed sleep and restlessness.
But whatever the hours they should be adhered to, and children should not get into the habit of taking anything between times, either food or drink,--except in special circumstances. The stomach needs periodic rest as much as any other part of the body. Delicate children, and others when in the hungry air of the sea-side, may need a little lunch, but this also should be at a regular time. A very important point is that meals should not be bolted : children must be taught to use their teeth, and bite their food properly, or all sorts of digestive troubles will result. After this habit has been acquired, they must still be obliged to eat slowly, and should not be allowed to leave the table till all have finished. The longing to get back to work or play will often make a child bolt its food.
Lastly, do take care that all the meals are right,--not only those taken in the house. The luncheon, for instance, that is taken to school, should not be left to the scholar's fancy, or it will too often consist chiefly of pastry and rich cake. The lunch should be bread and butter and hard-boiled eggs, or potted meat sandwiches, or plain cake, and should be made appetizing by the way it is put up,-- in a clean doyley perhaps, instead of paper.
In order to deal rationally with the subject of dress, it is necessary first to remind ourselves of what are the objects to be aimed at in arranging clothing. The first and main object in our climate is warmth, and we must bear in mind the vital importance of this for young children. From the food and the air the body manufactures its own heat, and what the clothing has to do is to keep this in, to prevent too rapid a loss of heat to the cold outside air. Liebig expressed it thus :--"Our clothing is, in reference to the temperature of the body, merely an equivalent for a certain amount of food." This is to say, clothing, by preventing loss of heat from the body, reduces the amount of food needed to keep up the body heat, so sets free more of the food to supply nervous energy, and to build up the tissues.
Hence I think you will see the importance of covering all parts of the body. A strong child dressed in the antiquated way with bare neck and arms, may feel quite warm on even a cold day, and the mother concludes that no harm is being done. But the warm skin is giving off heat to the cold air ; heat is thus being wasted, and energy and power of growth are by so much lessened. The mischief does not show now, but it is real nevertheless and will appear later in stunted growth, or weakened organs. Again, if the bare arms do not keep warm but get chilled, more immediate harm may be done ; the blood chilled here may cause congestion and inflammation of internal organs. We must remember that sneezing and cough are not the only signs of "catching cold." Derangements of the digestive system are very often due to this cause.
I sometimes wonder how the extraordinary idea arose that children need so much less clothing than those who are older and stronger. I suppose no member of the Parents' Union would think of leaving a child's neck and arms quite bare (unless in the hottest days of summer), but I should like to insist that in cold weather there should be long undersleeves as well. And then as to the legs : of course drawers should always be worn, and flannel ones in winter. But why that bare piece of skin below, from the knee half way to the ankle? You have only to think how very uncomfortable an adult would be going about the house with bare calves, and you will wonder how anyone can inflict it on a child. Just think, which is the coldest and draughtiest part of a room? is it not the floor? Well, that is where a child sits, plays, creeps, and runs for hours together. Surely that is a reason for warmly clothing a little frame and especially the legs. Long stockings should be worn throughout the year. Socks may seem prettier,--but have we not Ruskin's authority for stating that nothing can be really beautiful which is not adapted to its purpose?
Again, for girls when a little older, from six years upward, I want to put in a plea for knickerbockers. There is not much warmth in petticoats, however thick, which only come to the knee, and let in any amount of cold air underneath. It is better from every point of view to abolish petticoats and substitute loose knickerbockers, drawn in at the knee, and made the same material as the dress under which they are worn. They give more warmth with less weight, and are much more seemly and comfortable for the merry romping which is natural and healthy at that age.
On the other hand I should like to protest against undue muffling, especially the throat. To have furs always round the neck for going out, predisposes to delicacy of the throat. I believe the best rule to be, while the child is well, leave the throat almost or quite uncovered. But never neglect even a slight cold : keep the child indoors or in bed at once, so as to get ride of it as soon as possible ; and when the cold is cured and the child goes out again, mufflings should not be used except for the first one or two walks. Turning now to the material of clothing, there is no doubt at all that wool make the best clothing in summer as well as winter. As a non-conductor of heat, it keeps in the warmth in cold weather ; and, on the other hand, in hot weather, or when the body is heated by hard exercise, woolen prevents chilling from the sudden cooling of the perspiration. At all times it is the best preservative against sudden changes of temperature.
Then again, a loose fluffy fabric is always warmer than a closely woven one, besides having the great advantage of lightness. Here the warmth is really due to the air entangled in the meshes of he material. It is on the same principle as the double windows, which are used to so much on the continent in winter. Two panes of glass close together would not be much advantage ; but when there is a space of 8 or 10 inches between, filled with air, it makes a marvelous difference to the warmth of a room. So, just as birds ruff out their feathers on a cold day, we may secure warmth by having many air spaces in the clothing--loose shapes, provided, of course, that we do not leave places for the cold outside air to get in.
For warmth, silk comes next to wool, and then cotton, and these of course, may be used for summer dresses. But I should like again to emphasize that woolen, thicker or thinner, should be worn next to the skin throughout the year by all children. It does not very much matter whether it is as flannel, or as the woven or knitted garments now sold. It seems to me that by the side of these last, the flannel things, with their thick seems appear clumsy. I want to dwell very especially on the evils of tight clothing. Constraint anywhere is bad. The child should be as free in its clothes as a bird in its feathers, to allow room for healthy circulation, healthy movement, and healthy growth. Pressure must be unknown, whether of neck-bands, waist-bands, garters, or braces. A sturdy, healthy child takes good care of this for himself, by simply bursting all buttons or seams, which in any way interfere with his comfort or convenience. But all children are not like this ; there are a considerable number who, though quite will in other ways, have unduly flexible frames, and some lack of muscular development. They tend naturally to droop and stoop, and never more so that during the wearisome process of being "tried on." Hence the clothes are made to fit them in their very worst attitude, which is thus perpetuated, for these weak flexible figures have not the force or energy to fight against the bonds in the way a vigorous child unconsciously does. The result is constantly increasing roundness of shoulders, and hollowness of chest, leading on to lung weakness, or spinal curvature. Of course, active play, and suitable gymnastics are to a great extent counteractives of all this ; but the clothes are not to be forgotten ; they should be such that they make the right position easy, and the wrong on difficult. Neither gymnastics, nor chest expanders, nor lying flat for hours, can remedy the trouble unless the clothes are right.
The present style of loose smocks and sailor suits, admirable as it is, is apt to conceal round shoulders and flat chests. Hence every mother should make a point of seeing her children in their baths occasionally, when she will be able to detect these tendencies. If then, or at other times, any stooping is noticed, the clothes should be systematically examined in this fashion:--Unfasten all, make the child stand with head, back and heels touching the door, and the shoulders well pressed back ; then try to fasten the things in succession, but do not fasten any till you have tried all. If the first is a quarter of an inch too small, a very little pull will make that meet ; the next may be a quarter-of-an-inch smaller ; again, that is hardly perceived, and so on, till the dress or out-of- door coat is often one or two inches too narrow without the wearer being conscious of it. Remember especially to note the neck. Even loose blouses and smocks are not safe, unless you are sure the neck band does not promote "poking."
Remember, too, that if you have a child given to stoop you must regard dressmakers and tailors and enemies who are to be narrowly watched with the greatest suspicion. They invariably try to make things "fit" by pulling them tight across the chest, and you will have to explain carefully that you do not want them to fit the child as he is, but as he ought to be.
Except in the case of such children as I am speaking of, it is not in the making of clothes that there is the trouble about tightness. It arises from two unfortunate circumstances, first that the woolen garments I have been advocating have a constant tendency to shrink ; and second, that the children have a constant tendency to grow. Therefore all clothes should be made large enough to allow for some growth, and also if possible with some provision for further letting out if necessary. And mothers at the periodic examination of clothes should bear in mind that it is very false economy to think that garments that are tight, especially across the chest, will do a little longer.
Even in these days of "Higher Education" it may be well to suggest that some children, girls especially, are not always to be trusted to say whether their things are comfortable. Vanity springs up early, and the desire for small feet or a small waist, or affection for some favorite dress, may impart a colour to the statements of a usually truthful child.
I must say a few words about particular garments. To begin with, boys' starched collars need great care and watchfulness to see that they do not pull the head down. Then, I never see why boys' jackets and overcoats are so made, that when on a cold day they are buttoned up, they are so very tight across the chest : there is really no advantage in pinching the chest even in the coldest weather. Braces again may sometimes exert a good deal of pull and pressure when once the stooping tendency has begun. Some form of brace tht distributes the weight evenly should be used.
For girls, my first protest is about stays. Until the figure begins to develop there is no need for anything stiff any more than boys, and the quilted jean bodice that is usually worn is quite unnecessary. A much lighter and softer bodice of swansdown or flannelette, strengthened by tapes sewn on the inside, is sufficient to hold up the knickerbockers and stocking suspenders. When stays are necessary, nothing is better than the Jaeger knitted woolen ones, which being perfectly elastic, cannot possibly exert too much pressure, while at the same time the bones give enough stiffness to keep the dress neat.
The abolition of stays involves the abolition of waistbands, but that is not to be regretted. Nothing ought to be hung from the waist. It is bad enough for women, and for girls with narrow hips it must mean injurious compression if a band is worn tight enough to support any weight. But it is also a mistake to suppose that all clothes ought to hang from the shoulders. There ought, as I have said, to be as little weight as possible, and what there is should be evenly distributed. The best plan is to have garments in one piece-- combination or Princess shape.
Garters are still a vexed question, but there is no doubt that for children, at any rate, suspenders are much better. But they should not be so tight as many children love to pull them, or they will exert an injurious drag on the shoulders.
Boots and shoes should always be low heeled, broad toed, and amply large. It is grievous to see how a baby's straight shapely foot becomes distorted before many years have passed. The inner side of the shoe should be quite straight, and plenty of room allowed for the toes. The foot elongates in walking, so there should always be an extra half inch beyond the toe.
Some people think that stockings have as much to do with deforming the feet and shoes. Certainly when shrunk by washing and careless darning they exert injurious pressure. Stockings should be of wool--and for winter wear knitted ones are best.
Since about half of a young child's life is spent in bed, the subject of night clothing is an important one, and needs more attention than it usually gets. First of all, the night-gown is a very unsuitable garment especially for restless children. You know what a habit it has of working up, and when the bed clothes are kicked off in sleep, small wonder that colds are caught. Again it is not a suitable garment for the games and running about that so often take place early in the morning before the elders are awake. Very much better would be sleeping suits like pyjamas or bathing dresses, and I believe these would save many colds.
But whatever the shape, the night-wear should be woolen, to ward off the sudden changes of temperature that come even more in the night than in the day.
Before leaving this subject, I must insist on the importance of changing all the clothes at night. The perspiration absorbed during the day makes the garments unpleasant as well as unhealthy, unless they can be exposed to the purifying influence of the air during the night. They should not be neatly folded when taken off, but hung up. So also in the morning the night clothes should be allowed to air before being folded away.
In conclusion I cannot do better than quote the receipt for bringing up healthy children, given by John Hunter more than a hundred years ago. "Give them," he said, "plenty of milk, plenty of sleep, and plenty of flannel." To that I would venture to add, in this crowded age, plenty of room--room to breathe, to exercise, and to grow.
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