Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/465

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449
PHYSICAL TRAINING OF YOUNG CHILDREN.

PHYSICAL TRAINING OF YOUNG CHILDREN.
By M. FERNAN LAGRANGE.

IT would be a great mistake to apply, in the physical training of children, the same principles as those by which gymnastics for adults is adapted. And as we recognize different grades in the intellectual teaching of children, corresponding with their different ages, so the exercises prescribed for them should vary, to correspond with the different degrees of their bodily development. The child's gymnastics should be quite distinct from that which is considered best suited to mature age. It should not look to utility, but should serve an exclusively hygienic end. The first object should be to give good carriage, to aid the pupils in reaching a full maximum of growth, and see that they are developed regularly, without deformity and without blemishes. All these conditions are within the domain of hygiene. A second feature of the exercise adapted to children regards the cerebral conditions which result from their being at school. They require diversion from the mental work that is put upon them, and such diversion can be obtained only by giving them the pleasure of recreation.

Hence, we have the two essential features that should be secured in infant gymnastics—the hygienic and the recreative.

The usual school gymnastics lacks much of being irreproachable from the hygienic point of view. Some of the methods seem to have been chosen rather because they were convenient of application than on account of any hygienic value. They are not adapted so much to the requirements of the child as to the accommodations of the school premises. Methods have been sought by which they could be applied in narrow spaces, and considerable muscular effort called out in a very short time. It may be convenient to collect a class of children once or twice a week and make them perform vigorous movements, but it is hardly what their hygiene demands. To measure out approximately the amount of exercise that ought to be taken in a week and administer it all at once is no more valid than it would be to give food for several days at a single meal. The child's exercise should be as carefully allotted to him as his food, and excessive fatigue as sedulously avoided as indigestion. A system of giving gymnastic exercises at too long intervals involves the dilemma that too great exertion may be called out at each lesson, or, if the labor is moderated, too little will be done. The child does not want intense effort at rare intervals, but moderate exercises frequently repeated.

The fact that intense muscular effort interferes with the de-