138 THE MONTESSORI METHOD
probation and they will disapprove more heartily when they hear me speak of a gymnasium for little children. Indeed, if the gymnastic exercises and the gymnasium were those of the common schools, no one would agree more heartily than I in the disapproval expressed by these critics.
We must understand by gymnastics and in general by muscular education a series of exercises tending to aid the normal development of physiological movements (such as walking, breathing, speech), to protect this development, when the child shows himself backward or abnormal in any way, and to encourage in the children those movements which are useful in the achievement of the most ordinary acts of life; such as dressing, undressing, buttoning their clothes and lacing their shoes, carrying such objects as balls, cubes, etc. If there exists an age in which it is necessary to protect a child by means of a series of gymnastic exercises, between three and six years is undoubtedly the age. The special gymnastics necessary, or, better still, hygienic, in this period of life, refer chiefly to walking. A child in the general morphological growth of his body is characterised by having a torso greatly developed in comparison with the lower limbs. In the new-born child the length of the torso, from the top of the head to the curve of the groin, is equal to 68 per cent of the total length of the body. The limbs then are barely 32 per cent of the stature. During growth these relative proportions change in a most noticeable way; thus, for example, in the adult the torso is fully half of the entire stature and, according to the individual, corresponds to 51 or 52 per cent of it.
This morphological difference between the new-born child and the adult is bridged so slowly during growth