Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 46.djvu/201

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STUDIES OF CHILDHOOD.

thought of as substantial; at least this is suggested by the following story from the Worcester collection: A girl aged nine years was looking out and seeing the wind driving the snow in the direction of a particular town, Milbury, whereupon she remarked, "I'd like to live down in Milbury," Asked why, she replied: "There must be a lot of wind down there; it's all blowing that way."

Children are, as may be seen in this story, particularly interested in the movements of things. Movement is the clearest and most impressive manifestation of life. All apparently spontaneous or self-caused movements are accordingly taken by children as by primitive man to be the sign of life, the outcome of something analogous to their own impulses. Hence, the movements of falling leaves, of running water, of feathers, and the like are especially suggestive of life. Some children in the infant department of a London Board School were asked what things in the room were alive, and they promptly replied, the smoke and the fire. Big things moving by an internal mechanism of which the child knows nothing, more especially engines, are of course endowed with life, and the author of The Invisible Playmate tells us that his little girl wanted to stroke the "dear head" of a locomotive.

What is more extraordinary, the child's impulse to give life to many things often leads him to overlook the fact that movement is caused by an external force, and this even when the force is exerted by himself. The boy C——, on finding the cushion he was sitting upon slipping from under him in consequence of his own wriggling movements, pronounced it alive. In like manner children ascribe life to their moving playthings. Thus C——'s sister

when five years old stopped one day trundling her hoop, and turning to her mother exclaimed: "Ma, I do think this hoop must be alive, it is so sensible; it goes where I want it to." Another little girl, two years and a quarter old, on having a string attached to a ball put into her hand, and after swinging it round mechanically began to notice the movement of the ball, saying to herself, "Funny ball!" In both these cases, although the movement was directly caused by the child, it was certainly in the first case and apparently in the second attributed to the object. This tendency to attribute self-movement and will to toys survives in the older player. Do we not when playing billiards or bowls catch ourselves talking and thinking of the moving body as having a will of its own, and capable of carrying out our purpose if it only would, and equally capable, alas! of maliciously thwarting it?

Children are disposed, too, to form their own ideas about the mechanism of these spontaneous-looking movements. The examination of the mystery of a mechanical toy may set the young brain trying to construct a whole theory of motion. How far children apply this idea of machinery to their own movements I have not