Tuesday 25 January 2011

We Are Amused

A marvellous article, filleted a little, about how to amuse small children, from the Leisure Hour, 1875. The detailed instructions on 'this little piggy' are brilliant.


Every mother who has babies of her own, and everyone who has other people's babies to mind and care for, is aware of the fact that when a baby is wide awake it must and will be amused. It is not only necessary for the peace of the household, but promotive of the health of Miss or Master baby, to amuse him, or her, as the case may be. It awakens the intelligence of the child, it exercises its limbs, and all the muscles of those limbs, for baby is a very demonstrative person, and his delight is expressed by a great deal of gesticulation. Even crying has some compensating good in exercising the lungs, but laughter is always useful by promoting the general circulation and digestion in particular.
    For the wee-wee earliest young, sounds alone  suffice, as with the triangle in our picture. Without any instrumental aids, animated movement, tone of voice, and manner, make up the chief attraction; but babies of two or three years old generally hare a keen perception of the humorous. They criticise from a different point of view from what we do, and they see fact and fiction in a totally different light, a vaster range of being than in after years is true and real for them. Babydom is a world separate from ours, and comparatively fow amongst us hare power to understand baby language, to sympathise with baby thought, and still less to compose works or use language mith sufficient merit to meet the approval of baby censorship. Few, if any, of us remember how we thought and felt, and from what point of view we regarded such things in our own child days. Success in amusing or interesting is best gained by observation of what things have most eff'ect on young imaginations. The keenest touch of wit, the rare tit-bits of fun contained in baby games and rhymes, seem to most grown people arrant nonsense. But happy he or she who can enter into the fairy world of the little ones, and bring the bright light into their little eyes and the rosy smiles on their dim led cheeks, and the merry laugh from their musical voices. There is more art and merit in composing a single nursery rhyme, mith the genuine ring about it, than in stringing together a whole sensational novel, or in writing volumes of verse such as the critics call poetry in these days. What intense fun and  amusement always exists in the juvenile mind in "Pat a cake, pat a cake!" Can any baby resist bursting into a merry peal of laughter invariably when it comes to "mark it with B" ? or fail to go into a fit of uproarious fun when the little pig "cried  tweek! tweek! tweek!" in the game of the three little pigs? . . .

 . . . . To amuse baby children requires considerable histrionic art. Eloquence and action must he infused into all that is said. "A plain unvarnished tale" will not suffice to interest them. It is the manner in which the rords are spoken that gives effect to the drama, or points to the tale. Various comic voices must be assumed, and sensational gestures
descriptive of the words employed.
    For instance, say quietly and tamely, as in ordinary reading :-
    This little pig went to market ;
    This little pig stayed at home;
    This little pig had roast beef;
    This little pig had none;
    This little pig cried, "Tweak! tweak! tweak!"
It wil1 have little or no effect on a very young child.
But mark the difference. Take the baby hand in one of yours. Spread out the hand. Point to the
thumb, and say decidedly, yet confidingly-
    1.  "This little pig went to market." (Grunt and let it be an ordinary pig's grunt.)
    Point to the next finger and say, in the deepest bass you can assume-
    2.  "This little pig stayed at home." (Give a morose bass grant and frown.)
    Point to the next finger and say, with an insinuating tone and smile, elevating your eyebrows and bowing-
    3.   "This little pig had roast beef" (and add three quick little grunts of satisfaction).
    Point to the next finger and say, in a voice just ready to cry-
    4.   "This little pig had none." (Give two low grunts of weariness, and look ready to cry.)
    Then pointing to the little finger, say very pleasantly, in a shrill, droll voice, laughing meanwhile, "This little pig cried, 'Tweak! tweak! tweak!'" pinching and twirling the child's finger gently, as if you had hold of the pig's tail.
    This makes a complete harmless drama of the story of the pigs, and rouses baby's feelings, sensations and ideas in a healthy manner. Five distinct emotions are raised: 1. Interest; 2. Fear; 3. Pleasure or sympathy; 4. Grief, almost to tears; 5. A sudden reversion to mirth, and "All's well that ends well," a great desideratum in baby estimation. We must remember too, that the feelings during babyhood are ephemeral in the extreme, light and evanescent. . . .
. . . Anumber of children of two or three years of age may be very well diverted with "the well-known toys," "the dancing sailor," or the celebrated donkeys that have been advertised as creating "roars of laughter." If the child or children are in cradles, a string may be tied from one leg to another of the table, and a figure or two of this sort suspended from it. The string across is not to be quite tight, so that by attaching another string long enough to reach where she is sitting, thw mother may, from time to time, renew the vibration  by a dexterous pull.
    Here is another way of amusing a cllild, or a whole room full of them, by a  performance sure to have "a long run" in babydom. All that is wanted is a sheet of paper, four large highly coloured figures, and a couple of common rattles. A common green lamp shade will be better than the sheet of paper. Pin the four figures round the shade, fix the shade over the jack, which must be suspended from the ceiling by a rope, and have a weight attached, such as the kitchen scales will afford, or an old flat-iron, to cause it to turn round. Below the weight set the rattles at the same distance with string. As the jack turns and shows the figures alternately, the rattles will knock against one another and make a noise.
    A moving diorama may also be constructed by the help of two jacks enclosed by cardboard cylinders, and fixed at opposite sides of the room. For durability the panorama had better consist of paper pasted on calico. On this paste all the coloured pictures you can get - figures, birds, flowers, fruit, etc. - after having neatly cut them out. An end is to be fixed to either of the jacks. Roll up one to within the length required, then roll up the other, hang a weight on, and the performance will commence. When it is desired to stop the performance, the weights must be removed. For a charitable institution no doubt friends would be willing to contribute the necessary materials.
     A simple way to amuse young children is by cutting rows of figures out of white paper, old letters etc. The paper is folded as many times as the scissors will cut through, and a whole row of young ladies, or milkmaids with their pails, brought into existence by a single cut of the scissors. The two ends of the paper should be held, and the young ladies or milkmaids caused to dance on the table.
    Children of two years to five years old can be taught to amuse themselves for hours by pricking pictures. Draw an outline of any object they can understand - a man, a woman, a house, a bird, a cat, a fireplace, etc. and fix the corners by four pins over a pincushion. Then show the child how to prick all round the outline with a pin, pricks at regular intervals. When finished, the pin-picture is held up to the light, which comes like rows of little stars through the pricks. Printed outlines for pricking can be bought at a small cost.
    The Kinder Garten is eminently suited for amusing, training and teaching very little children, especially when brought together in numbers. The little employments with sticks and peas are readily entered into by children from two to four years of age, and it is wonderful the ingenuity some of them soon begin to display. Of more value, whether at school or in the nursery at home, are various play games, such as "Here we go round the mulberry-tree," which promote healthy exercise and mirth.
The Leisure Hour, 1875

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