English Literature

Christmas-Tide by Charles Dickens

Christmas-Tide by Charles Dickens.jpg



Many mothers are sorely perplexed as the Christmas-tide approaches by the problem of how to select such presents for their children as will help them rather than hinder them in their much-needed self-activity. Let the toys be simple, strong, and durable, that your child may not gain habits of reckless extravagance and destructionwhich flimsy toys always engender. Remember a few good toys, like a few good books, are far better than many poor toys. Toys in which the child’s own creative power has full play are far better than the finished toys from the French manufacturers. In fact, too complex a toy is like too highly seasoned food, too elaborately written books, too old society, or any other mature thing forced upon the immature mind. Your choice should be based, not so much on what the toy is, as on what the child can do with it. The instinctive delight of putting their own thought into their play-things instead of accepting the thought of the manufacturer explains why simple toys are often more pleasing to children than expensive ones.

The following list has been compiled from such toys as have delighted as well as have helped the children of kindergarten-trained mothers.


Linen picture-books, rubber animals, cotton-flannel animals, rubber rings, worsted balls, strings of spools, knit dolls, rag dolls, rubber dolls, wooden animals (unpainted), new silver dollars.

The kindergarten materials helpful at this period of the child’s development are the soft worsted balls of the first gift. When the child begins to listen to sounds and to attempt to articulate, the sphere, cube, and cylinder of the second gift may be given to him. These two gifts, when rightly used, assist the clear, distinct, and normal growth of the powers of observation and aid the little one in expressing himself, even before he has language at his command. Songs and games illustrative of the various ways in which these gifts can be used with a young child, are to be found in the Kindergarten Guides now published. Some very good ones are included in the first year’s course of study for mothers of the Kindergarten College. However, almost any mother can invent plays with them for her child.


Blocks, dolls, balls uncolored (also six of red, yellow, blue, green, orange, purple), woolly lamb, cradle, chair, picture-book of families of birds, cats, dogs, cows, etc., anchor stone, blocks, furniture for dolls’ houses, express cart (iron or steel), spade, rake, or hoe, biscuit-board and rolling-pin, a churn, a wooden case with a six-inch rule and pencil in it, a box of non-poisonous paints—water-color—pair of blunt scissors, paper windmill.

The kindergarten materials found most helpful for this period of the average child’s growth are the second gift and the divided cubes of the third gift. With the latter the child can early be trained into habits of constructive play, rather than destructive play. As all children like to transform and rearrange their toys, this gift is particularly adapted to that purpose. It is simple and easy to handle. Much logical training can be given the child by teaching him to change one form made with his blocks into another, without scattering, or entirely destroying the first form. Many suggestive forms may also be found in the various Kindergarten Guides already published. A series of these are now being prepared by the College for general sale. However, the child himself will oftentimes name the forms made by some name of his own, which should be accepted by the mother. The wooden tablets, sticks, rings, and points of the kindergarten can also be used with a child from three to four years of age though they are, as a rule, less satisfactory than the blocks. The second gift beads furnish an almost exhaustless amusement for some children at this stage of their growth. A long linen shoe-string with a firm knot tied at one end has been found to be the most serviceable kind of a string on which to string the beads. Knowledge of color, form, and number are also incidentally taught the child by these beads.

Low sand tables are an almost endless pleasure to small children, as sand is one of the most easily mastered of the materials of nature, and can serve as a surface for the first efforts at drawing, or can be the beginning of the childish attempts to mold the solid forms about him. When lightly dampened it serves as an excellent substance on which to leave the impress of various objects of interest. In fact, there is scarcely any play in which the sand may not take part. The child should be taught from the very beginning that he must not spill the sand upon the floor nor throw it at any one. In case he violates these laws of neatness and safety, the sand table may be removed for a time.

A blackboard and chalk are usually a source of much keen and innocent enjoyment to three and four year old children, especially if the mother sometimes enters into the making of pictures, or story-telling by means of pictures, no matter how crudely drawn. Various other kindergarten “occupations” may be used by the trained mother—but the untrained mother often finds them confusing and of little use.

Whenever it is possible the back yard should have a sand pile, a load of kindling, and a swing in it, that the child in his instinctive desire to master material, to construct, and to be free, may find these convenient friends to help him in his laudable aspirations. The street has less temptations for children thus provided for.


Blackboard and crayon, building blocks, balls, train of cars, doll and cradle, wooden beads to string, small glass beads to string, rocking-chair, doll’s carriage, books with pictures of trade life, flowers, vegetables, etc., tracing cards and paper dolls, toy poultry yard with fences, trees, a woman, and a dozen ducks and chickens.

The more advanced gifts of the kindergarten now interest the child. Clay modeling and paper folding can easily be taught him, and many of the simpler formulas for the mat weaving, also some of the sewing. A good kindergarten is the best play ground for a child at this stage of his development, as he needs comrades of his own age and ability. If a kindergarten cannot be had the mother must be as nearly a child herself as she knows how to be. Good, simple, wholesome stories now become a part of the child’s life. They form the door by which he is later to be led into the great world of literature. Therefore, story-books may be numbered among the suitable toys for four and five year old children, though stories told to the child are better. Almost any mother who has her child’s best interests at heart can simplify the old Greek myths as retold by Hawthorne in his “Wonder Book,” or the Norse legends as given us by Hamilton Mabie in “Norse Stories,” or the rich, pithy experience of the Teutonic peoples as collected in Grimm’s “Fairy Tales.” All of these contain the seeds of wisdom which the early child races stored away in childish forms, and therefore, they delight the heart of the child of to-day and aid materially in cultivating his imagination in the right way.


Kitchen, laundry and baking sets, balls, building blocks, picture puzzles, dissecting maps, historical story-books, outline picture-books to color with paint or crayon, trumpet, music-box, desk, blackboard, wagon, whip, sled, kite, pipe for soap bubbles, train of cars, carpenter tools, jackstraws, hobby-horses, substantial cook-stove, sand table, skates, rubber boots, broom, Richter’s stone blocks, shovel, spade, rake and hoe, marbles, tops, swing and see-saw, strong milk-wagon equipped with cylinder cans, substantial churn, a few bottles filled with water, spices, coffee, sugar, etc., for a drug store.

Ordinarily children of this age still love their kindergarten tools, and can be led to do really pretty work with their mats, folding, pasting, etc. The fifth and sixth gifts [1]now come into use and aid the child in more definite expression of his ideas. More stories should be told, and the beginning made of collections of pictures for scrap-books, also collections of stones, leaves, curios for his own little cabinet. Many references may from time to time be made to the books to be read by and by, which will tell him wonderful things about these treasures. In this way a desire to learn to read is awakened, and soon the world of nature and of books takes the place of toys, except of course, those by means of which bodily skill is gained and tested. These later belong in general to the period of boyhood and girlhood.

To this list of Christmas toys is added a list of books suitable for Christmas gifts. Very handsome books are to be avoided, as the child delights in handling his own books almost as much as his own toys. The value of the right kind of books cannot be too much emphasized. Is not the food which you give to your child’s mind of as much importance as that which you give to his body?

When your boy stops questioning you, he has not stopped questioning concerning life and its problems; he has turned to those silent companions which you have placed upon his bookshelf or on the library table. Shall heroes and prophets be his counselors, or shall “Peck’s Bad Boy” and the villain of the dime novel teach him how to look at life? It rests with you.

There is a great difference between books which are to be read to children, those which are to be read with children, and those which are to be read by children.

The second kind, which are more profitable than the first, require the mother’s sympathetic and genuine interest in the subject-matter in hand; and frequent stops for little talks about what has been read are necessary.

The third class are books for older children who can read well enough to peruse them alone; but, if the mother will take time to read them before giving them to the child, she will strengthen the bonds of intellectual sympathy between herself and him.

LIST No. 1.


  • Mother-play and Nursery Song, by Frederick Froebel.
  • Nursery Finger Plays, by Emile Poulsson.
  • Mother Goose, in one syllable.
  • Songs for Little Ones, by Eleanor Smith.
  • Æsop’s Fables, in one syllable, by Mary Mapes Dodge.
  • Boley’s Own Æsop; illustrated by Walter Crane.
  • Baby World, by Mary Mapes Dodge.
  • Rhymes and Jingles.
  • Little People of the Air, by Olive Thorne Miller.
  • Nonsense Book, by Edward Sears.

LIST No. 2.


  • Doll World, by Mrs. O. Reilly.
  • Sparrow the Tramp, by Wesselhoeft.
  • The Joyous Story of Toto, by L. E. Richards.
  • Doings of the Bodley Family, by H. E. Scudder.
  • Bodleys Telling Stories, by H. E. Scudder.
  • The Bird’s Christmas Carol, by K. D. Wiggin.
  • Hans Andersen’s Fairy Tales, translated by H. S. Brackstad.
  • Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll.
  • Bible Stories from the Old Testament, by Richard G. Moulton.
  • Moon Folks, by Jane Austin.
  • Mopsa the Fairy, by Ingelow.
  • Evenings at Home, by Barbould and Aiken.
  • Posies for Children, by Anna Lowell.
  • Shanny and Light House.

LIST No. 3.


  • Seven Little Sisters, by Miss Jane Andrews.
  • Each and All, by Miss Jane Andrews.
  • Ten Little Boys on the Way from Long Ago to Now, by Miss Jane Andrews.
  • Story of a Short Life, by Mrs. Juliana Horatia Ewing.
  • Mary’s Meadow, by Mrs. Juliana Horatia Ewing.
  • Jackanapes, by Mrs. Juliana Horatia Ewing.
  • Dandelion Clocks, by Mrs. Juliana Horatia Ewing.
  • The Wonder Book, by Nathaniel Hawthorne; illustrated by Howard Pyle.
  • Tanglewood Tales, by Nathaniel Hawthorne; illustrated by Howard Pyle.
  • True Tales, by Nathaniel Hawthorne.
  • Fairy Tales, by Jean Macé.
  • Grimm’s Household Tales.
  • Fairy Tales, by Hans Christian Andersen.
  • Two Grey Girls, by Ellen Haile.
  • Three Brown Boys, by Ellen Haile.
  • Chivalric Days.
  • Robinson Crusoe, by De Foe.
  • Hans Brinker, by Mary Mapes Dodge.
  • Arabian Nights; illustrated by A. H. Houghton.
  • Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey; illustrated by John Flaxman.
  • Shakespeare’s Tempest and Two Gentlemen of Verona; illustrated by Walter Crane.
  • Gulliver’s Travels, by Dean Swift; illustrated by Gordon Browne.
  • Legends of Sleepy Hollow, by Washington Irving; illustrated by A. H. Houghton.
  • Christmas Stories, by Dickens; illustrated by E. A. Abbey.
  • Child’s Dream of a Star, by Dickens.
  • Water Babies, by Charles Kingsley.
  • A Child Garden of Verse, by Robert Louis Stevenson; illustrated by Charles Robinson.
  • The Boy with an Idea, Putnam & Sons, publishers.
  • Young Merchants, Putnam & Sons, publishers.
  • Boy Engineer, Putnam & Sons, publishers.
  • Story of the Nations (8 vols.), Putnam & Sons, publishers.
  • Adventures of Ulysses, by Charles Lamb.
  • Tales from Shakespeare, by Charles Lamb.
  • Stories from Greek Tragedians, by Rev. A. J. Church.
  • The Golden Age, by James Baldwin.
  • The Vision of Dante, by Elizabeth Harrison; illustrated by Walter Crane.
  • Æsop’s Fables (without the moral explanations attached).
  • Swiss Family Robinson.
  • The Lame Prince, by Miss Mulock.
  • Parables from Nature, by Margaret Gattey.
  • Child Life, by J. G. Whittier.
  • Child’s History of England, by Charles Dickens.
  • In Storyland, by Elizabeth Harrison.
  • Bible Stories from the New Testament, by Richard G. Moulton.
  • Nonsense Books, by Edward Lear.
  • The Monkey that Would Not Kill, by Henry Drummond.
  • The Heroes, by Charles Kingsley.
  • At the Back of the North Wind, by George MacDonald.
  • Uncle Remus, by Joel Chandler Harris.
  • Tom Brown at Rugby, by Thomas Hughes.
  • Nehe, by Anna Pierpont Siviter; illustrated by Chase Emerson.
  • The Princess Story Book.
  • The Cruise of the Cachalot, by Frank Bullen.
  • The American Boys’ Handy Book, by D. C. Beard.
  • The Jungle Book, by Rudyard Kipling.

Boyhood is pre-eminently the period of perception. Hence all books on scientific subjects are helpful, if they are simple enough to aid the child in seeing nature and her marvels. The mother should be careful that the child does not rest in mere perception of the objects of nature, but that he compares and classifies them, and above all, that he is led to trace a purpose in created things, in order that he may learn “to look through nature up to nature’s God.”


  • The Story Mother Nature Told, by Jane Andrews.
  • Child’s Book of Nature (3 vols.), by Worthington Hooper.
  • Among the Stars, by Agnes Giberne.
  • History of a Mouthful of Bread, by Jean Macé.
  • Overhead, by Laura and Anna Moore.
  • Life and Her Children, by Arabella Buckley.
  • Winners in Life’s Race, by Arabella Buckley.
  • Fairyland of Science, by Arabella Buckley.
  • Little Folks in Feathers and Furs, by Olive Thorne Miller.
  • Queer Pets.
  • Little Lucy’s Wonderful Globe, by Charlotte M. Yonge.
  • Four Feet, Two Feet, and No Feet.
  • Odd Folks at Home, by C. L. Mateaux.
  • Tenants of an Old Farm Yard, by McCook.
  • Home Studies in Nature, by Mary Treat.

Many other valuable books might be added to this list. However, a few good books are better than many less good ones. It is well to lead a child to the world’s great books as soon as possible. Enough have been given to show the kinds of books which are not hurtful to children. Each book on the above list has been personally inspected.

After all, it is not so important what your child reads as what you read. If the father reads nothing but the newspapers and the mother nothing but novels, what then? Children are taught as much by the general tone of conversation of their parents as by the books they are given to read.


  • Mother-play and Nursery Song, by Frederick Froebel.
  • Letters to a Mother, by Susan E. Blow.
  • Symbolic Education, by Susan E. Blow.
  • Commentaries of Froebel’s Mother-play Songs, by Denton J. Snider.
  • A Study of Child Nature, by Elizabeth Harrison.
  • The Child, by Madam Marenholtz von Bulow.
  • Household Education, by Harriet Martineau.
  • Levana, by Jean Paul Richter.
  • Christian Nurture, by Horace Bushnell.
  • Conscious Motherhood, by Emma Marwedel.
  • Bits of Talk about Home Matters, by H. H.
  • Reminiscences of Froebel, by Madam Marenholtz von Bulow.
  • The Children for Christ, by Rev. Andrew Murray.
  • From the Cradle to the School, by Bertha Meyer.
  • Gentle Measures in Training the Young, by Jacob Abbott.
  • Emil, by Jean Paul Rousseau.
  • Leonard and Gertrude, by Pestalozzi.
  • Hints on Early Education, Anonymous.
  • For Boys, a Special Physiology, by Mrs. E. R. Shepherd.
  • For Girls, a Special Physiology, by Mrs. E. R. Shepherd.


  • Steps in Scientific Knowledge, by Paul Bert.
  • History of a Mouthful of Bread, by Jean Macé.
  • Ministry of Nature, by Hugh Macmillan.
  • Bible Teachings in Nature, by Hugh Macmillan.
  • Sabbath in the Fields, by Hugh Macmillan.
  • Elementary Book of Zoölogy, by Packard.
  • Little Folks in Feathers and Furs, by Olive Thorne Miller.
  • The Geological Story Briefly Told, by Dana.
  • Science Primer—Geology, by Archibald Geikie.
  • Science Primer—Botany, by F. D. Hooker.
  • Science Primer—Chemistry, by H. E. Roscoe.
  • Madam How and Lady Why, by Charles Kingsley.
  • Principles of Geology, by Lyell.
  • How Plants Grow, by Gray.
  • How Plants Behave, by Gray.
  • Child’s Book of Nature, by Hooker.
  • Elementary Botany, by Bessey.
  • Revised Manual of Botany, by Gray.
  • Plant Relations, by John M. Coulter.


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