Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 45.djvu/597

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THE

POPULAR SCIENCE

MONTHLY.

 

SEPTEMBER, 1894.


 

STUDIES OF CHILDHOOD.

II.—THE IMAGINATIVE SIDE OF PLAY.

By JAMES SULLY, M. A., LL. D.,

GROTE PROFESSOR OF THE PHILOSOPHY OF MIND AND LOGIC AT THE UNIVERSITY COLLEGE, LONDON.

CHILDREN'S play has been studied under different aspects. One of the most attractive of these is its imaginativeness. All play is to some extent fanciful—that is, inspired and vitalized by fantasy; and the element of fancifulness is especially rich and varied in the pastimes of the small people of the nursery.

Viewed on this side, child play may be described as the working out into actual visible shape of an inner fancy. In many cases, no doubt, the actual surroundings may supply the starting point; the child, for example, sees the sand, the shingle, and shells, and says, Let us play keeping a shop. Yet this suggestion by something present is accidental. The root impulse of play is to realize a bright, pretty idea; hence its close kinship with art as a whole. This image is the dominating force; it is for the time a veritable idée fixe, and everything has to accommodate itself to this. Since the image has to be acted out, it comes into collision with the actual surroundings. Here is the child's opportunity. The carpet is instantly mapped out into two hostile territories; the sofa-head becomes a horse, a coach, a ship, or what not, to suit the exigency of-the play.

This stronger movement and wider range of childish imagination in play is explained by the characteristics and fundamental impulse of play—the desire to be something, to act a part. The child adventurer, as he personates Robinson Crusoe or other hero, steps out of his every-day self and so out of his every-day world.