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160 THE DISCOVERY OF THE CHILD
TECHNIQUE FOR BEGINNING TACTILE EXERCISES
Although the tactile sense is distributed over the whole skin,,
the exercises with which the children begin are limited to the tips
of the fingers and in particular to those of the right hand.
Such a limitation is rendered necessary in practice and is also an
educational necessity, inasmuch as it prepares for daily life, when
man exercises and utilizes the tactile sense with these very areas.
The exercise is specially useful for our educational aims, for
as we shall see, the various exercises of the hand form an indirect
and remote preparation for writing.
I make the children wash their hands well with soap in a
hand-basin; then in a nearby basin they have to give them a short
bath of tepid water. Then I make them dry them and a slight
massage completes the preparatory work of the bath. Then I
teach the child to * touch,' that is, the way to touch the surface,
for it is necessary to take the child's fingers and guide them so
that they stroke the surface very lightly. Another detail of the
method is to teach the child to keep his eyes closed whilst he is
touching, encouraging him by saying that he will feel better and
that he will recognize, without seeing them, changes in the
surface. The child learns at once and shows his great pleasure
in the proceedings. So true is this that, on occasions after the
exercises have been practised for some time, when we enter the
Children's House, it often happens that the children run forward
to meet us, close their eyes and with the very lightest of touches
feel the palms of our hands, trying to find the places where the skin
is smoothest; or they stroke our clothes, especially silk or velvet trim-
mings. They are really exercising the tactile sense, for they never
seem to tire of touching smooth surfaces like satin. They become
very skilful in discerning the differences between polished cards.
The material for first use consists of:
(a) A very long rectangular wooden board, which is divided
into two equal rectangles, one covered with extremely smooth
paper, the other with rough paper.