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influence of Friedrich Froebel

Froebel's Kindergarten

Froebel's kindergarten was a school for the psychological training of little children by means of play and occupations. The kindergarten method as defined by Froebel is based upon a series of geometrical gifts and a system of categories. In the kindergarten, the child plays with one of the gifts at a time to discover its properties and possibilites for design. The gifts were presented to the child in sequence and the child was allowed to play with them freely. Whenever the child ran out of ideas for play, the mother or teacher can invoke one or more of the categories to suggest another way to play. The child is thus encouraged to think about certain kinds of designs that can be made with the gifts.

Froebel's Gifts

  1. colored balls - red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple
  2. solid wood sphere, cylinder, and cube with dowels to make them tops and connect them and a gibbet for swinging them
  3. wooden cube divided into 8 smaller cubes
  4. wooden cube divided into 8 oblong blocks
  5. wooden cube divided into 21 smaller cubes, 6 half-cubes and 12 quarter-cubes, an elaboration of gift 3
  6. wooden cube divided into 18 oblong blocks, 6 pillars, and 12 squares, an elaboration of gift 4
  7. parquetry - flat wood shapes to be arranged on a grid

Other gifts consisted of slats, sticks, rings, strings and points, colored tablets, colored papers to cut and fold, clay and sand, pencils and paints.

Froebel's Categories

Forms of Knowledge
mathematical and logical ideas such as number, proportion, equivalence and order. These ideas serve to define natural divisions of a gift and to suggest ways of rearranging or transforming these parts.

Forms of Life
represent things that can be seen in the outside world . . . buildings, house, table, sofa, tree, etc.

Forms of Beauty
blocks arranged on a grid without stacking to have some kind of symmetry, to form patterns viewed as ornament


  • "Kindergarten Grammars: Designing with Froebel's Building Gifts" by G. Stiny, Enviroment and Planning B, 1980, vol. 7, pp. 409-462.
  • Inventing Kindergarten by Norman Brosterman, Harry N. Abrams, Inc., New York, 1997.
  • "Froebel, Friedrich,"Microsoft Encarta 98 Encyclopedia, 1993-1997, Microsoft Corporation.

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source of this document

German educator

the originator of the kindergarten

worked and studied with the noted Swiss educational reformer Johann Pestalozzi

1816, founded athe Universal German Educational Institute for children aged 3 to 7

established in 1837 the first Kindergarten, meaning "children's garden"

begins training of kindergarten teachers in 1849

stressed the natural growth of children through play

kindergartens to be established throughout western Europe, and the US in the 1850's and in Germany and Japan after 1860.

secure online ordering of the original Froebel gifts and blocks from The Froebel Gallery.

Inventing Kindergarten

Inventing Kindergarten uses extraordinary visual materials to reconstruct this successful system, to teach young children about art, design, mathematics, and nature.

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