The Parents' Review
A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture
"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
Three Wet Afternoons.
Children's amusements should be partly useful, i.e., productive, partly imaginative, because imagining gives them such enormous pleasure, and partly active, to give training to the body, or some part of it--the eye, the hands, the limbs, &c.--so on each of the three wet afternoons we will provide these three requisities.
Useful.--Let them tear paper into small shreds to stuff pillows or cushions which can be given to poor people, sent to a village reading-room, or an institution. Older children can cut up listing with blunt-pointed scissors to stuff pin-cushions, dolls' beds, &c.
N.B.--Most children of four begin to sew or knit, but this is better taken as a task--a piece set, and the child told to be steady and industrious. In amusement, a child must be allowed to leave off when it likes, so sewing and knitting will not be mentioned.
Imaginative.--A mixture of Sanger's circus and Wombwell's menagerie. Let there be dens for each animal, and one be the keeper; have a clever elephant, a savage lion, a performing dog, a circus pony, a donkey and clown, a lady rider, a contortionist, a monkey--sometimes one, sometimes another. Do not forget feeding-time, but if real food is allowed, try to make it come just near tea-time, as eating between meals is bad.
Active.--Have little Turkey-red bags filled with small white beans (loosely filled). Throw them across the room into an old box or a hat. Put a newspaper under the hat. A bag on the newspaper counts one, into the hat counts two. Throw the bags to each other; they are easier to catch than a ball.
Useful.--Woolwork on very coarse canvas, with blunt needles, make mats and kettle-holders, also wool balls made by winding wool round two cardboard rings and cutting it when full. Of course the children cannot cut the wool, but that only takes a couple of minutes, and the ball takes hours to wind.
Older children might work on pierced felt.
Imaginative.--The game of the family. Hopeless to describe. Every nursery probably has its own imaginary inhabitants. Encourage continuity in names and characters. This family generally lives under a table. Epidemics are frequent and the doctor, with his bottle of sweetened water, is most constant in his attendance. The children have visitors to tea and are dressed up in old sashes and scraps. The family is partly alive and partly doll. A doll child gets lost in the forest near the coal scuttle. The family have picnics, they are flooded out, snowed up, &c. It is endless.
Active.--Nose. The ancient game of nose is where one child catches the others, and no one must set foot on the carpet. Pieces of paper, or old copy-books, will do to step on, and you walk all over the chairs, &c. It is called nose because, no doubt, little bumps do occur. Nervous parents may substitute "Puss in the Corner," or walking blindfolded to find or touch something.
Useful.--Colouring pictures, and drawing them, too. Chalks for the little ones, paints for the five-year-old and upwards. Hold out hopes that they will be good enough for a scrap-book. Scrap-books are cheap; never mind if the collection is not very first class.
Imagination.--The railway-train. Wanted a bell, a whistle, tickets, stools, &c., for luggage. Use all the chairs. Have a guard's van, a cattle-truck, a horse-box. Let all the dolls travel. Have real names for the stations. Perhaps they will come in the right order.
Active.--Thimble. Hide eyes while one puts the thimble in a visible place. All walk about and sit down as soon as they see it without betraying where it is.
Bricks.--See who can build highest without falling down. See who can build highest with ten or fifteen bricks.
Jumping.--Have a wide jump, put a long strip of paper on the floor at a distance from the sofa, and jump off over it. Jump over stools, off stools, and off chairs.
Singing.--Many children learn Kindergarten songs, with dancing or action. Some who cannot sing would dance if they had a musical-box, but that is, perhaps, expensive. Melodeons, however, are cheap.
Marbles are grand if there are no babies creeping about to swallow them. Children can try "dibs," and might do "oneses and twoses" at least.
Kindergarten employments.--Many are cheap and easy. Mat-weaving, ribbon and beaded baskets can be recommended.
THREE WET AFTERNOONS.
Our nursery has been going on for forty years. I shall merely try to tell a few of the plays and amusements that have been favourites with the two generations of children who have been its inmates.
The "play-drawer" is the long bottom drawer of the wardrobe. It contains bits of broken toys, headless dolls, sticks, reins, empty cotton-reels, odds and ends of all sorts; nothing that can be spoiled is kept there. It is easily emptied and pulled out upon the floor. Two or three can sit in it. Sticks are taken for oars, and in this boat the children are ready for any voyage they like to take. Though starting in an open boat, quicker progress is soon desired. The old sofa becomes a steamboat. Luggage--which is always to hand in the shape of stools and chairs--is crowded on board; there is scant room for the crew; they cling on for bare life; one falls overboard! A life-buoy (furnished by the play-drawer, probably a string tied to the baby's tambourine) is thrown out, a gallant rescue attempted--in vain! They are all washed upon a desert island. A tent is needed--a clothes-horse and anything in the shape of a rug or shawl, or at worst an old umbrella, and Robinson Crusoe himself could not be more content than these little castaways. A play of this sort to be interesting must have plenty of players, difficulties, privations, and escapes. Food is scarce; they fish standing on the table; they hunt the wild boar, fall ill of fever, and are attacked by savages. The varieties of which such a play is capable are endless.
Paper Dolls.--Whole families are easily cut out of writing-paper (half sheets off notes). Mother, of course, makes the best dolls; but when more are required an inferior maker is tolerated. (They are very pretty when neatly painted on both sides; and this by itself may be made an afternoon's work.) A window-seat, or part of the table, is taken possession of by each child. A house, with all its rooms, is marked out by bricks. Bricks make benches and tables. A few strips of tweed, dress, or flannel patterns are used as beds and bedding. One keeps a school. Card horses are prepared that the dolls may ride. An old copy-book is a treasure; pages cut out and pasted together make various omnibuses; strips of the paper pasted together are the best means of drawing these along; wheels are quite unnecessary. In these conveyances whole families can journey, and adventures of all sorts are at command.
Grating.--Nutmeg graters, Id. each, a common plate for each child, and a few lunch or picnic biscuits are required for this play. The biscuits are grated to powder, and dainty dishes arranged in the doll's tea-things or in such odd plates and dishes as are to be had. A little water or milk, to mix in, adds many pleasant possibilities. Sugar is sticky, but it does improve both taste and appearance. Chocolate is a grand addition! This play gives unfailing delight, and as it is not an everyday affair the crumbs on the floor will not be considered a fault. The children should wash up the things they have used themselves, properly, with warm water and a tea-cloth.
Painting.--If this is allowed to be an ordinary nursery occupation careless and dauby habits are learned, as it needs more supervision than the nurse can often give. But once in a way a grand painting afternoon in the nursery works well. Cover the table with newspapers, and the little arms with "painting sleeves" (made of holland or print, tied round the arm above the elbows, buttoned down at the wrist); provide a pile of scraps, illustrated catalogues of flowers or books, old illustrated magazines, &c., and let each child have its own paint-box, and they will be busy and happy for hours. Old copy-books make good scrap-books. Let an elder child help to make a cup of paste, and they may paint and paste by turns.
Cutting out.--If the scissors are round-ended very young ones may share this employment. The letters of a newspaper's title, or of a large "poster," are interesting to cut; let them try to collect a complete alphabet and paste them on a sheet.
A Band.--A tin whistle, a (broken) drum, a comb covered with paper, and a jew's-harp--with such like instruments no end of sweet music can be discoursed. A play that begins so may develop into a penny reading, and so on to the grandest concert. Each in turn will sing, read, or recite; all can take part. Nurse is the audience, or if she is busy, empty chairs are easily peopled by children's imaginations.
Cabs.--Tommy, two-year-old, will sit for an hour on one chair, holding the reins tied to another. A whip is desirable; and an old macintosh for an apron fills his cup of joy. Older ones build more ambitious vehicles, "a dangerous cab" was in great request of my childhood. Oh! the delight of sitting perched up on high, one chair built on top of another to raise a dignified box-seat; the sofa lends itself to be a 'bus, and the young Jehu has all the bustle of Cheapside around him at his will.
A. L. TANNIE.
Typed July 2013