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32 DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET | Giants in the Nursery Contributions to Practice The School of Infancy In his advice to parents, Comenius was quite contemporary. He urged mothers to breast-feed their children and complained about those mothers of wealth who made use of wet nurses. As children moved beyond breast-feeding, their food should be soft, sweet, and easily digestible. He strongly advised mothers not to give their children highly seasoned foods and, above all, not to give them medicines. Apparently in Comenius’s time, as is true today, there were hucksters hawking pan- aceas that often did more harm than good. Comenius believed that infants reared on such medicines would grow up to be “feeble, sickly, infirm, pale-faced, imbecile, [and] cancerous” (Monroe 1900, 114). He cautioned parents to ensure that their infants and young children had abundant fresh air, sleep, and exercise. Comenius also emphasized the importance of math and language development. With respect to math, he contended that very young children should be able to count to ten and be able to distinguish different quantities. But he also recognized that going beyond those attainments was too difficult for children in the first years of life. He did argue that very young children could learn some beginning geometry by distinguishing among geometric shapes and between larger and smaller shapes. But he recognized that such children could not really understand true measure- ment until they reached the age of reason at six or seven. Comenius also had much to say about language development in young children. He was adamant that children should learn to identify things like shapes, plants, and animals either before or at the time that they are given words for these objects. He emphasized that it is important that children speak correctly. He also believed that children should first learn to speak and comprehend their own mother tongue before learning another language. And he challenged his contemporaries by insist- ing that Latin not be taught until at least age twelve. During the early childhood years, children could profit from listening to poetry as well as jingles and nursery rhymes. They might not always understand the words, but they would enjoy the rhythm and rhymes of the language. In many ways, Comenius anticipated what is now considered the best preparation for reading—namely, language enrichment. Comenius believed that children should be introduced gradually into language learning, going from the simple to the complex step by step. He wrote four Latin COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL