The Self-Respecting Child: Development through Spontaneous Play

The Self-Respecting Child: Development through Spontaneous Play

The Self-Respecting Child: Development through Spontaneous Play

The Self-Respecting Child: Development through Spontaneous Play


This classic study of child development, unavailable in recent years, combines observations of children playing with insight into the nature and meaning of their games.


by John Holt

Most books written about how to rear or teach children miss the point. They talk about what we should make children do, and the best or easiest ways to make them do it. Some talk about how to make children into geniuses, others only about how to make them obedient. But they all talk as if children must be and can only be what adults make them. They rarely if ever talk about what children can make of themselves, about the powers that from the day or moment of birth are present in every child.

This book does. One of the many excellent photographs in it shows a child, only sixteen months old, who has climbed unaided to the top of a jungle gym and, holding on with one hand, is using the other to wave away imperiously her mother (the author) who (so the child fears) is coming up to "help." The gesture says, more clearly than words, "Thank you, but I don't need and don't want your help. I am managing fine on my own." The picture sums up what this book is about. It is by far the best, the most detailed and vivid account I have yet read of the extraordinary energy, persistence, independence, courage, and resourcefulness with which young children, even babies, gradually explore, master, and make sense of the world about them. It is also about the ways in which adults, at home or in child-care centers, nursery schools, or playgroups, can make it possible for them to do this.

Nothing in this delightful book is more delightful and revealing than the many detailed descriptions, by the author, or by Milicent Shinn, Jean Piaget, and others, of the activities of babies. Milicent Shinn was an American biologist who, around 1900, describe minutely, in The Biography of a Baby and other writings, the daily doings of her baby niece, Ruth. At one point she described Ruth, less than a year old and not yet walking, slowly and for the first time climbing the stairs in her house (her mother's hands close behind).

For the rest of the month she was not satisfied without going up several times daily, and having people who believed in letting her do things, and ensuring her safety by vigilance while she did them, instead of holding her back, she soon became expert and secure in mounting. She made assaults too on everything that towered up and looked in the least climbable.

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