214 THE DISCOVERY OF THE CHILD
to learn the unknown language of those around him; he makes
great spontaneous efforts to understand and to imitate. The
teaching given to the little ones ought to be directed to lessening
such efforts, changing them into the enjoyment of easier and more
extended success. We are the guides of these travellers who are
making their entry into the human life of thought, and we help
them to avoid wasting time and strength over useless things.
The other prejudice to which reference has been made is that
it is more suitable to present to the child geometrical solids rather
than plane figures—sphere, cube, prism, etc.
Leaving aside the physiological question, which shows how
the vision of solids is more complex than that of plane figures, let
us restrict ourselves to the more pedagogic field of practical life.
The objects which present themselves to our vision in the
greatest numbers in our surroundings are comparable with our
plane insets. In fact, the cupboard doors, the panel-work, the
window and picture frames, the wooden or marble top of a table,
are certainly solid objects but have one of the dimensions greatly
reduced so that the two more noticeable dimensions determine
the shape of the plane. As a result the shape of the plane surface
predominates, and we say that such and such a window is
rectangular, such a frame is oval, a certain table is square.
The solids determined in form by the surface which shows the
greatest dimensions are those which really and almost solely meet
our eyes. And it is precisely these solids which are represented
by our solid insets. The child will very often recognize in his
surroundings the forms thus learnt, but very rarely will he recognize
the forms of geometrical solids.
That the long prismatic legs of a table is a prism, and the
rotunda is a truncated cone or an elongated cylinder, he will see
much later than the rectangular top of the table on which he places
the objects whilst at the same time he looks at it. We do not
speak then of the fact of recognizing that a cupboard, and much
less a house, is a prism or a cube. For the time being there never
exist pure geometrical solid forms in the objects around, but