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Introducing Emilie Poulsson

Emilie Poulsson is my new friend. I first became familiar with her name because she wrote the words to some of songs in the American adaptation of Froebel’s Mother Play songs. Now I am learning her finger plays with my children, which are so delightful. In that light I wanted to learn more about her so I’m reading her “Love and law in child training, A book for Mothers”. This is good stuff!  Yet in spite of the legacy of written work she has left us, we are largely unfamiliar with her work today, aside from her most famous poem, which I have indeed seen on posters in libraries:

“Books are keys to wisdom’s treasure;
Books are gates to lands of pleasure;
Books are paths that upward lead;
Books are friends. Come, let us read.”

(source, Wikipedia )

 I highly recommend her work.  She was well read, highly educated, and her love for early childhood education make her a relevant model for this blog.

From her book, “Love and Law in Child Training”, from the first chapter, “How Play Educates the Baby”:

“Hardly you seem a Life at all,
Only a Something with hands and feet:
Only a feeling that things are warm,
Only a longing for something to eat.”
J.W. Chadwick

That is baby as he manifests himself at first. The newly born infant must adjust himself, so to speak, to the conditions of existence. Heart, lungs, food system, brain,– must all become accustomed to their proper exercise. Air and food, warmth and sleep, will adequately cherish the physical life, and the vital functions are soon established.

But baby is more and other than the soft, rosy body, to be flannel-wrapped and milk-fed; not

“Only a Something with hands and feet,”

but Somebody, a person, man in embryo. The true mother discerns that he has other than bodily needs; and from his first drawing of breath, if she begin no farther back, by faith in that of which there is no sign, by mother instinct, she addresses herself to the delicate task of supplying spiritual nourishment. What is as yet unmanifested by the child must be nurtured in the child.
It is for this, — although often (perhaps as a usual thing) unwittingly,– that she croons her bits of song over the unconscious darling; for this, that

“her quick embrace
Presses his hand and buries his face
Deep where the heart throbs sing and swell,
With a tenderness she can never tell,
Though she murmur the words
Of all the birds,–
Words she has learned to murmur well.”
J.G. Holland

She also wrote the lyrics to this song from the “Mother Play” collection.

But we especially love her finger plays. Our hands have become little people, cats chasing mice, baby chickens hatching, growing plants, bridges, water mills, and so many other things. 

“What a child imitates,” says Froebel, “he begins to understand. Let him represent the flying of birds and he enters partially into the life of birds. Let him imitate the rapid motion of fishes in the water and his sympathy with fishes is quickened. Let him reproduce the activities of farmer, miller and baker, and his eyes open to the meaning of their work. In one word let him reflect in his play the varied aspects of life and his thought will begin to grapple with their significance.”

 Get to know her, get to know her work, and she will be your friend too!


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