The purpose of the author is to give a cross-section of the child at various stages from birth to sixteen years. The reader is not to consider any characteristic peculiar to one period, but at a particular age, some given characteristic may stand out more than at another. The life of child is divided into the following periods: 1 to 5, 5 to 7, 61/2 to 81/2, 9 to 11 or 12, 12 to 16. The first is characterized by the education of muscles and nerves. The predominant change is the establishment of nervous connections in the cerebral cortex. Lack of nervous connections accounts for slowness of reaction on the part of the very young. For developing these, the child needs freedom of movement, nourishment, large playthings, and small things to use. Proper brain connections should be established by the formation of habits. The diagrams used to illustrate this leave much to be desired in respect to accuracy.
When the child commences to classify objects, however crudely, he has passed the first stage of babyhood. Imagery and imagination now stand out prominently in his play. In these he differs from his younger or older brothers and sisters, for the younger ones enjoy play for sensory repetition, while the older ones desire more reality. Emotions of self and sex are also becoming evident. The writer agrees heartily with Miss Niemeyer in the fact that children should be taught simply but accurately facts about sex. Evasions lead to false suppositions. This is also the period of instilling proper habits of discipline and thinking. Discipline should not be repressive.
The period of 61/2 to 81/2 years is one of transition. The child differentiates between the real and fantastic. Dullness and backwardness, if present, are more evident than previously. Between the age of 9 and 12, the child shows more stability, physically and mentally, than in babyhood. During this period especial attention should be given to the training of the memory. Miss Niemeyer also emphasizes the necessity of transfer of habits at this age by producing classroom situations more like those of the world, for only when the two situations are alike in one essential point is there transfer. She hastens to explain in a footnote that this really signifies no transfer. The child's thought and interest are self-centered. Attention to these, however, does not have to be created, but has to be trained.
The last period, or that of adolescence is marked by the arousal of sex- and self-emotions. Self-emotion leads to reflective thought and self-willed actions. During this age, the adolescent should be taught to decide his own problems of discipline. All of these factors properly guided should lead to the establishment of a strong character.
Miss Niemeyer's book is well worth the time of perusal of the mother interested in the psychology of her child or the student beginning the study of child life. It would serve as a good introduction to the possibilities of the subject. But for the more mature student, the book is scarcely thorough enough. One of the best features of the book is the original excerpts appended to illustrate various characteristics of the different ages of childhood. After reading this little volume one should understand children better in the light of their activities and conversation; and that, after all, was the main purpose of the author.
-The Journal of Educational Research, Vol. 6 show more