Child Sweeps and Climbing Boys in Victorian England

Climbing boys, some as young as four or five years of age, scrambled up Victorian chimneys to brush out the soot. Often, terrified, they stuck fast or fell to their deaths. They worked long hours with the smell of soot in their nostrils and the taste of choking dust in their throats and eyes.

Chimney sweeps
drawing by unknown artist via Wikimedia Commons

The boys’ workplace was a tiny, confined space.  Rough bricks scraped their elbows and knees until they were raw or calloused as the boys struggled to climb through the maze of chimneys. Any child too terrified to move was likely to  find a fire lit beneath him to encourage faster climbing.

Many climbing boys died from cancer, while a lucky few ran away, probably becoming vagabonds on the streets.

Victorian parliamentarians, led by Lord Shaftesbury, disapproved of sending small boys up chimneys, but the habit persisted. After all, who else would fit into a space of 22x22cm?

The Chimney Sweeps Act of 1834 and its revision in 1840 decreed that no child under 14 should be cleaning chimneys, but there was little enforcement of the law until a further Act licensed sweeps in 1875.

As the surviving climbing boys grew older, they often became chimney sweeps themselves. The 1834 Act regulated the noise of their street cries, a common annoyance in London. It became illegal to shout “Sweep, sweep.” As one sweep put it, according to the Morning Post of 21 November 1834.  ‘Vell, I never… I vunder vot next ve shall have. Carn’t even now call out “serveep” for van’s livelywood but vot the beak is arter us and nails us for five bob, or a month in kervod.’

In 1873, The Pall Mall Gazette reported that a Gateshead chimney sweep was convicted of the manslaughter of a ‘climbing boy.’ The sentence imposed on the culprit? Just six months imprisonment.

What do you think of that as a punishment?

Further reading:

TES Connect

The Victorian Dictionary

The British Library


Help Your Child Talk: Telling Stories Your Toddler Will Love

Welcome  to  Help Your Child Talk and Grow Smarter: this week’s extract from the SpeechContacts Kindle and your chance to learn more about the way your child learns to talk. 
This week, there’s more about making up stories for your child. It’s so easy. Enjoy watching as your child uses his own creativity to join in with your storytelling.

One of the great things about toddlers is they just love repetition. So use the same words and sentences in your story: the more you repeat, the more he’ll love it. 
Here’s a story designed to encourage short phrases. It’s built around the phrases “teddy eats” and “eats banana/cake/etc”. When you make up similar stories, just follow these rules:
  1. Keep the phrases short.
  2. Repeat the same words many times.
  3. Tell the story often.
Hungry Teddy
Teddy is hungry. Mummy gives him a banana. 

Teddy eats the banana.    Teddy is still hungry. 


Mummy gives him a cake. Teddy eats the cake. But Teddy is still hungry.

Mummy gives him a biscuit. Teddy eats the biscuit. But Teddy is still hungry…. 

And so on … Then make a big finish:    
Teddy is full right up and he isn’t hungry any more.

When you make up your stories about everyday objects, why not take photos of the objects, print them out and stick them in a book. Hey presto, your child has his very own story book. Or you can download pictures like the ones here, from 
More storytelling posts here:
Storytelling for Toddlers
Five Simple Ways to Improve Your Writing

Help Your Child Talk by Playing and Pretending

Today, we’ve reached the 20th extract from How To Help Your Child Talk and Grow Smarter: your chance to learn more about the way your child learns to talk.
If you’re a new reader, CLICK HERE to read How To Help Your Child Talk and Grow Smarter from the very beginning.This link takes you to the first post, so you can read the extracts in sequence. I try to post every Friday, by noon GMT. 

This week’s extract shows how your baby begins to develop his understanding of ‘pretending’.  This is important, as we saw last week, because it leads him to discover how to use symbols. Language, both spoken and written, is a complex system of symbols.

Play begins as your baby looks closely at his toys during his first year. He puts things in his mouth, turns them over, pokes them and shakes them. Rattles, soft toys, a mother’s earrings: they all come in for the ‘see it, feel it, suck it’ treatment as he finds out what these strange things are, and what they can do. 

He needs time to understand how each object looks, sounds, tastes, smells and feels before he moves on to the next stage. Throughout his first year, your baby’s play revolves around his five senses and real objects. Towards the end of the year, he uses real objects for their intended purpose. He drinks from his cup and maybe uses a hairbrush on his own hair. 

 Play: experiment
Once he becomes familiar with objects, he notices that some have a relationship to others. He puts a spoon in and out of a cup and makes stirring movements. He tries to put other objects in the cup, and finds that some things fit while others, such as bricks, may not fit so well in a cup, but sit nicely on top of each other. He explores constantly, finding out more about the properties of everything around him.

Soon he starts “pretending”, using toys as though they are the real thing. He pretends to drink from a toy cup, or brushes his own hair with a doll’s size brush. At first, he does these pretend actions to himself, but then he begins to offer a “drink” to teddy or brushes dolly’s hair. 

Teddy is like a real person to him now. He might kiss him and wash him. He reproduces aspects of his own life through his play with a teddy or a doll. Let him take teddy everywhere, exploring the world of make believe and expanding his understanding of language. 

Come back next week to find out how you can enjoy this exciting stage with your toddler, and help him learn to talk at the same time. 

 If you’re finding these extracts useful, and can’t wait to read the rest of the ebook, just download How To Help Your Child Talk and Grow Smarter to your Kindle in seconds for only £3.53 ($5.73).

Storytelling for Toddlers: Help Your Child Talk With His Own Stories

Twitter buddies have been tweeting about bedtime stories. Most toddlers seem to like the made up ones best. 

Sometimes,  mums and dads worry about whether they can make up ‘good enough’ stories. So to prove how easy it is, here’s one I prepared earlier.

Kids love repetition and it helps them learn language skills. This story is as simple as can be. Start it off, and your toddler will soon join in.

Go ahead and add your own variations, using your own child’s name. 

You’ll soon find your own stories are better!

Aunt Jemima’s Cakes

Nick woke up one morning feeling excited. His Aunt Jemima was coming to tea. 

“She likes cakes” he thought. “We’ll have cakes for tea.” Nick liked cakes, too! “I’ll go to the shops straight away.” 

And he ran off, forgetting to make a list of the things he would need. 

He ran as fast as he could, and bought some flour. He ran home again and put it in his mixing bowl. 

“Oh dear,” he said. “I bought the flour but I forgot the chocolate.”

He ran back to the shop and bought some chocolate. He ran home again and put it in his mixing bowl. 

“Oh dear, ” he said. “I bought the flour and the chocolate but I forgot the butter.”

He ran back to the shop and bought some butter. He ran home again and put it in his mixing bowl.

“Oh dear,” he said. “I bought the flour and the chocolate and the butter but I forgot the eggs.”

He ran back to the shop and bought the eggs… and so on. You get the picture!

Keep going, adding new items for the cakes and repeating them all in a list each time.

Finally, go for a big finish.

At last Nick was very hot and tired, but he had all the things he needed for Aunt Jemima’s cakes. He had the flour, the chocolate, the eggs, the milk, the sugar ….etc.

He made the cakes, then looked at the calendar.

“Oh bother” he said. “Aunt Jemima isn’t coming today at all – she’s coming next week.”

“Never mind, I’ll just have to eat all the cakes myself.”

And so he did. 


What stories do your toddlers like? I’d love to know. Use the contact me button to get in touch or just leave a comment on the blog.

How To Make Positive Suggestions and Improve Your Child’s Behaviour: Communication Skills That Work

Don’t peek at the picture at the end of this post.

I bet you found it hard to resist just taking a quick look. As soon as you read that suggestion, your curiosity jumped into action. Maybe the ‘don’t’ also annoyed you enough to want to disobey.

I wonder how many times you say ‘don’t’ or ‘stop’ to your child every day. You may have the best intentions, but every time you mention something you want him to avoid, you plant the suggestion in his mind.

Once his brain has a clear picture or idea in it, he’ll find it hard to resist. He needs your help to replace it with something else.

Avoid encouraging negativeideas and images by changing your own language.

Learn to make positive suggestions that focus your child’s attention on the behaviour you want to encourage.

Stop coughing
A tickly cough can be a nightmare when you want to keep quiet. The more she tries not to cough, the more that tickle irritates your child. Better advice would be: Breathe out slowly, counting to four, then in again gently.

Distract her attention to another part of her body, making a comment on her shoes or suggesting her ear may be itching. Or get her to distract herself by pinching her finger tips together or getting her to sip a glass of water.

Stop laughing at that man
Sometimes, your child or teen will be overcome by embarrassing embarrassing giggling that he just can’t control. Help him to get a grip on himself by making alternative suggestions that distract his attention, like: Look what’s happening over there? and pointing in the opposite direction.

Don’t run
Much better to say: Walk slowly and carefully. That focuses attention on to the action you want and helps your child put his energy into walking as slowly as he can.

Stop shouting
A class of noisy six year olds will quieten much more quickly if you ask them to practice their whispers, tell them to copy your actions as you put your finger on your lips or point and say: Look! in a commanding voice.

Don’t look down
Imagine you’re walking along a tightrope and a helpful friend calls that out. It maybe hadn’t occurred to you to look down until they suggested it! Your friend would have done much better to say: Keep looking at the tree straight ahead.

Get better results by planting positive suggestions in your child’s mind.

Here’s that picture at last: Your Happy Kids!

Some more posts on communication skills:

How to Avoid the Unscrupulous Salesman’s Language Traps

How to Banish Guilt Through Positive Thinking

How to Give Advice: Communication Skills That Work