Fröbel was the founder of the kindergarten. His vision was to stimulate an appreciation and love for children, to provide a new but small world for children to play with their age group and experience their first gentle taste of independence.

His kindergarten system consisted of three aspects:

  1. games and songs,
  2. construction,
  3. gifts and occupations

Incorporating the object-teaching of Pestalozzi, he designed a series of instructional materials that he called gifts and occupations, which demonstrated certain relationships and lead children to compare, test, and explore.

Fröbel's philosophy of education rested on four basic components:

  1. free self-activity,
  2. creativity,
  3. social participation,
  4. motor expression.

Self-activity set the direction for childrens' development and enabled them to be actively creative and social participants. Motor expression, on the other hand, referred to learning by doing rather than following instructions.

It is tempting to trace the roots of the finest modern art, architecture, and psychology back to the aesthetically, conceptually, and spiritually rich Froebel kindergarten.

Smith, M. K. (1997) 'Friedrich Froebel and Informal Education', The Informal Education Homepage:

Baroness von Marenholtz-Buelow recalls her first meeing with Friedrich Fröbel

Inventing Kindergarten

Inventing Kindergarten


Invented in the 1830s by German educator Friedrich Froebel, kindergarten was designed to teach young children about art, design, mathematics, and natural history. Inventing Kindergarten uses extraordinary visual materials to reconstruct this successful system, which grew to become a familiar institution throughout the world by the end of the 19th century. 130 illustrations, 55 in color.

"By 1872, kindergarten had become compulsory throughout the Austro-Hungarian Empire for all children under six years of age, and instruction in the Froebel method was made obligatory for all students of normal schools and teacher training classes. In 1909, there were seventy two kindergartens in Vienna alone." from "Inventing Kindergarten" by Norman Brosterman, Kiyoshi Togashi (Photographer) Hardcover, 144 pages Published by Harry N Abrams April 1997 Dimensions (in inches): 11.28 x 9.34 x .83 Buy the book Inventing Kindergarten from online.

The definitive study of Froebel's kindergarten

The kindergarten is ubiquitous, but how many of its former pupils really know how it came about and what philosophies it is based upon. Norman Brosterman lovingly and meticulously studies the background of this 19th century invention, spurned by conservatives, embraced by those who wanted child-centered education for their young children, and which influenced 20th century painters and architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright, Kandinsky, Paul Klee and many others. Brosterman leaves no stone unturned. Through carefully written text and rich photographs of actual educational games ("Gaben" in German) by Kiyoshi Tagashi, he explains the goal of each "Gabe", its aesthetic value and then illustrates for the reader how these influenced a generation of artists who had been schooled with them. As an educator, gallery director, and Froebel descendant, I can say unequivocably that Brosterman's book is perhaps the best book written about Froebel in this century. Surely it is the most thought provoking book about art history that I have read in a very long time.

review by Johannes Froebel-Parker The Froebel Gallery 16 April 97 rating=10 The definitive study of Froebel's kindergarten

Kindergartens in the United States of America

A new emphasis upon childhood was promoted by such new institutions as the kindergarten, which was inspired by the ideas of Friedrich Froebel and stressed the socialization of the child through play. The kindergarten idea was first introduced into the United States in the late 1840s, but it was not until after the 1876 Centennial Exposition, where the advocates of the kindergarten had presented an exhibition of their methods, that Froebel's ideas become popular. Froebel's major contribution was to divide the process of early education between birth and the age of six, into distinct stages of physical and mental development - infancy, early childhood, and childhood. For each of these stages he developed distinct educational tasks. Froebel declared the child to be essentially good by nature, a bundle of possibilities at the beginning of life. As a result of these ideas, Froebel and his followers developed a new theory of childhood education - symbolic education. This advanced the idea that the child's thoughts pre-existed as feelings and emotions, but that these could not be cultivated directly, only through the strenuous training of intellectual faculties were these feelings given general form thus/allowing them to become ideas. Having formed his own ideals through symbolic training and through directed play, the child learned to adapt these ideals to others before leaving the kindergarten.

The average poor child in 1860s St. Louis completed three years of school before being forced to begin work at age 10. Susan Elizabeth Blow addressed that problem by offering education to children earlier. Applying Friedrich Froebel's theories, she opened the United States' first successful public kindergarten at St. Louis' Des Peres School in 1873. Blow taught children in the morning and teachers in the afternoon. By 1883 every St. Louis public school had a kindergarten, making the city a model for the nation. Devoting her life to early education, Susan Blow was instrumental in establishing kindergartens throughout America.

While the kindergarten idea was not always welcomed by the middle classes for their own children, since it stressed the importance of the trained kindergarten teacher rather than the mother in the training of the child, it was widely accepted by them as a means of training immigrant children and other children of the slums. With the establishment of free kindergartens in working-class neighborhoods in the 1870s, the advocates of kindergartens began to suggest that the proper training of these children might eventually lead to the elimination of urban poverty. For they believed that not only could they socialize the slum child in the habits of cleanliness and discipline but, through evening classes, educate working class mothers in the principles of Froebelian child nurture. Thus, through the child and his now educated mother, the family could be taught 'proper', that is middle-class, ideals of family life. It was further believed that by recovering the child before the stamp of the slum was irrevocably placed upon him, he could be taught habits of virtue and thus prevent the creation of future generations of paupers and criminals

The Swedish Fröbel Movement

The first Swedish Kindergarten teachers were trained by Schrader-Breymann at Pestalozzi-Fröbel-Haus in Berlin. Anna Warburg was the founder of the Swedish Fröbel Foundation in 1918. The Fröbel-Institute was one of the first training institutes in Sweden, and started during the first years of this century. It was founded by the sisters Ellen and Maria Moberg. They also controlled the Swedish Fröbel Foundation and its journal until 1939. In 1934 Carin Ulin started The YWCA Institute in Stockholm, under the direct inspiration from Vienna, where she had studied in the late 1920´s. Her intention was to give a scientific alternative to Fröbel pedagogy. In 1936 Alva Myrdal started her Social-Pedagogical Seminar, also in conflict with the Fröbelians. But if one analyzes this conflict it becomes clear that all three institutes stayed inside a general Fröbel tradition. Underlying this argument is the fact that Fröbel pedagogy was transformed into a modern form with the help of Elsa Köhler, an Austrian educational researcher, who worked together with Ellen and Maria Moberg. Köhler introduced child psychology from Karl and Charlotte Bühler together with a new perspective on Fröbel.

SOS Kindergartens are established in areas in Europe, Asia, Latin America and Africa with insufficient kindergartens or pre-school facilities. They help to integrate the facilities into the neighbourhood and are also open to local children. A SOS Kindergarten is under construction in Vukovar, Croatia.

Come, let us live with and for our children
Friedrich Fröbel 1782 -1852

Kindergarten - Fröbel blocks - Fröbel gifts
influence on Alfred Adler - Frank Lloyd Wright
Friedrich Fröbel quotes - ancestors - relatives
Baroness von Marenholtz Bülow reminiscences - her life

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