Who was Friedrich Froebel (1782-1852)?
Born on 21 April 1782 Friedrich Froebel was a German educator who invented the kindergarten. He believed that "play is the highest expression of human development in childhood for it alone is the free expression of what is in the child's soul." According to Froebel, in play children construct their understanding of the world through direct experience with it. His ideas about learning through nature and the importance of play have spread throughout the world.
Froebel considered the whole child’s, health, physical development, the environment, emotional well-being, mental ability, social relationships and spiritual aspects of development as important. Drawing on his mathematical and scientific knowledge Froebel developed a set of gifts (wooden blocks 1-6) and introduced occupations, (including sticks, clay, sand, slates, chalk, wax, shells, stones,scissors,paperfolding).
Froebel believed that it was important for practitioners to understand the principles of observation including professional practice, the multiple lenses through which they see children - and that children see their worlds, as well as offering children freedom with guidance and considering the children's environments including people and materials as a key element of how they behave.
Because Froebel based much of his understanding of children on observing them this has changed the way we think about children's play.
We have Froebel's insights to thank for placing child initiated activity with adults working with children to give them freedom with sensitive guidance and symbolic and imaginative play at the heart of our curriculum which in Scotland is the Curriculum for Excellence.
Froebelian principles as articulated by Professor Tina Bruce (1987, 1st edition and 2015, 5th edition).
- Childhood is seen as valid in itself, as part of life and not simply as preparation for adulthood. Thus education is seen similarly as something of the present and not just preparation and training for later.
- The whole child is considered to be important. Health – physical and mental is emphasised, as well as the importance of feelings and thinking and spiritual aspects.
- Learning is not compartmentalised, for everything links.
- Intrinsic motivation, resulting in child-initiated, self-directed activity, is valued.
- Self-discipline is emphasised.
- There are specially receptive periods of learning at different stages of development.
- What children can do (rather than what they cannot do) is the starting point in the child’s education.
- There is an inner life in the child, which emerges especially under favourable conditions.
- The people (both adults and children) with whom the child interacts are of central importance.
- Quality education is about three things: the child, the context in which learning takes place, and the knowledge and understanding which the child develops and learns.
Excerpts from Early Education.