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No Scale of Normal Motor Abilities Yet

III

THE ACTIVE NATURE AND NEEDS OF CHILDHOOD

S IT necessary for Ann to make such a clatter as

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she goes up and down stairs? Do all children bang

doors at this age or that? Is John being babied because he is helped with his buttons and has his face washed? Does it need special training to enable children to turn corners without bumping, and to keep their hands off the wall at the turn of the stairs? Is Mary below par because she does not carry a well filled cup and saucer without spilling? Why does this youth appear so disjointed, whether walking, sitting, or standing?

How much we should appreciate standardized scales of motor abilities in ordinary life tasks, so that we could get a rating for performance just as we do for reading ability or for general intelligence! Most of the norms that are available, however, are for tests such as strength of grip, rapidity of tapping, steadiness in fine movements of aiming at a mark or tracing a line. From the thousands of measures taken on such tests we know-what we probably guessed before-that boys are stronger than girls, on the average, at every age; and that strength and speed increase with age. Over 86% of children are right handed, while dull children are more likely to be left handed than bright children.

Observation of infants reveals that the first use of the limbs is in simultaneous, parallel fashion. Nerve coördination has developed by the sixth month so that deliberate alternate movement is possible. Grasping is stimulated at first by the sense of being touched;

but during the fourth month reaching and grasping follow

upon seeing an attractive object. In the earliest grasping, thumb and fingers act together, making the hand a simple hook. By the twelfth week the thumb is opposed to the fingers. For a considerable period in taking hold of an object proffered, say a book, the overhand grasp is preferred (thumb under, fingers over) in distinction from the older, adult underhand hold (fingers under, thumb over). For smaller objects, such as a spoon, the overhand grasp will be retained till the wrist motion of turning at the right time to permit safe conveyance of the contents of the spoon to the mouth is coördinated. That is to about three years old.

By courtesy of Miss R. Andrus, whose intensive observation work with young children is yet unpublished, a few selected norms of performance are here given. Beyond the age of four we have little as yet but vague generalizations from the experience of gymnasium directors, psychologists, doctors and health clinics.

Children can use a cup by the handle by two years and a half. They can carry cups from two and a half to three, and carry a small pitcher of water easily by three. By three also they can assist in laying plates, spoons, etc., on the table, and by four should be able to fold their table napkins. They can wash their hands, palms and backs, by three years old, and dry their hands, too. Shoes and rubbers can be put on unaided from two and a half to three, and fastened by buttons or lacing by three and a half. The stockings should be put on at this age also. In learning to go upstairs, they hold on and go both feet on one step at first, then with the feet the same way but without holding, till two and a half. Then, using the feet as we do but with hand assistance till three or more; between three and a half and four they can progress as we do.

Children can use a dust pan and brush by three and a half. In playing ball, it is after three before it is usual

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Large,

Movements

First

to catch a ball of tennis size, though it may be successfully thrown forward a distance of seven feet between two and a half and three. Bouncing a ball straight is a feat for the four-year-old.

Therefore some few of the queries above for Ann, John, Mary and the rest can be answered. Much of the bumping, clattering, spilling, dependence on assistance is an unnecessary retention of an earlier habit, and is an evidence of lack of good training.

How is control gained? Movements of the larger Simple muscles, those older in point of developmental history, and nearer the trunk, are controlled before movements in the smaller, accessory muscles. Thus, a baby is able to bend, to roll over, sit up, hitch along, before it can stand or walk. It can use the tongue for efficient eating before the adjustments for speech sounds are possible. The fine adjustments for the dentals, d, t, th, and for r, 1, and s are learned last of all. The nerve strain of focusing the eyes and steadying the hands to thread a needle and string small beads is too much for the fouryear-old. Fine technique of violin and piano work is not to be demanded of five-year-olds' fingers, nor delicate wrist play in fencing from the eight-year-olds. But running, balancing, climbing, jumping rope, tossing balls, dancing, are helpful activities, in graded series of difficulties.

Tyler points out three stages of growth for every organ in the body. First is mere enlargement, when exercise is unnecessary, second is growth requiring much exercise for healthy development, third is the approach to full maturity, when severe training looking towards endurance of strain is possible. The restlessness and quick tiring of young children indicates a need for plentiful free exercise which is not continued for long at a time. The ten-year-old could well go for an eight-mile hike which the five-year-old could not do; though the five

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Even the youngest children can engage in constructive activities.

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