Froebel Play Gifts
uncovering the orderly beauty of nature
Friedrich Froebel's theories on children's play and learning revolutionized teaching and remain influential to this day. Froebel developed a specific set of twenty "gifts" and "occupations".
"The gifts are intended to give the child from time to time new universal aspects of the external world, suited to a child's development. The occupations, on the other hand, furnish material for practice in certain phases of the skill."
"Nothing but the First Gift can so effectively arouse in the child's mind the feeling and consciousness of a world of individual things; but there are numberless occupations that will enable the child to become skillful in the manipulation of surfaces."
"The gift leads to discovery; the occupation to invention. The gift gives insight; the occupation, power."
"The occupations are one-sided; the gifts, many-sided, universal. The occupations touch only certain phases of being; the gifts enlist the whole being of the child."
The original five gifts were published by Froebel in his lifetime. The remaining gifts were used by Froebel in his Kindergarten and published after his death. They extend the exploration of solids to surfaces and lines, thus moving from the concrete to the abstract representation of solids using lines. Starting with feeling and comprehending the basic volumes, sphere, cylinder and cube, the gifts progressively unfold into activities that develop more complex skills of perception, manipulation and combination. Weaving, needlework, and moulding complete the process to produce two and three dimensional images of the original volumes and the natural world as well as intricate decorative designs.
a spontaneous, enjoyable experience for children.
"The character and purpose of these plays may be described as follows: They are a coherent system, starting at each stage from the simplest activity and progressing to the most diverse and complex manifestations of it. The purpose of each one of them is to instruct human beings so that they may progress as individuals and members of humanity is all its various relationships. Collectively they form a complete whole, like a many branched tree, whose parts explain and advance each other. Each is a self-contained whole, a seed from which manifold new developments may spring to cohere in further unity. They cover the whole field of intuitive and sensory instruction and lay the basis for all further teaching. They begin to establish spatial relationships and proceed to sensory and language training so that eventually man comes to see himself as a sentient, intelligent and rational being and as such strives to live." - Friedrich Froebel
The theories of Froebel and his "kindergarten gifts" were an acknowledged influence on Frank Lloyd Wright and the Bauhaus. Both were fascinated with the possibilities of geometry. Both stressed primary shapes: the circle, the square and the triangle, and agreed about the symbolism of each.
The Swiss educator Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi (1746-1827) asserted that students need to learn through their senses and through physical activity, arguing for "things before words, concrete before abstract". Friedrich Froebel, who created the world's first kindergarten in Germany in 1837, was very influenced by Pestalozzi's ideas. Froebel's kindergarten was filled with objects for children to play with. Froebel developed a specific set of 20 "gifts" - physical objects such as balls, blocks, and sticks -for children to use in the kindergarten. Froebel carefully designed these gifts to help children recognize and appreciate the common patterns and forms found in nature. Froebel's gifts were eventually distributed throughout the world, deeply influencing the development of generations of young children.
Walk into any kindergarten, and you are likely to see a diverse collection of "manipulative materials." You might see a set of Cuisenaire Rods: brightly colored wooden rods of varying lengths. The colors and lengths of the rods are carefully chosen to engage children in explorations of arithmetic concepts and relationships. Children discover that each brown rod is the same length as two purples -- or four reds. On the next table, you might see a set of Pattern Blocks. Children can use these polygon-shaped tiles to create mosaic-like patterns -- and, in the process, learn important geometric concepts. As children build and experiment with these manipulative materials, they develop richer ways of thinking about mathematical concepts such as number, size, and shape.
In many educational settings, manipulative materials (such as Cuisenaire Rods and Pattern Blocks) play an important role in children's learning, enabling children to explore mathematical and scientific concepts (such as number and shape) through direct manipulation of physical objects.
Children explore mathematical and scientific concepts (such as number and shape) through direct manipulation of physical objects. As children build and experiment with blocks they develop richer ways of thinking about mathematical concepts such as number, size, and shape.
Kids, Blocks and Learning
"In our changing society, children now play with techno-toys instead of toys such as blocks, dolls, or others which engage the imagination. Children are not participating in self-directed activities which develop eye/hand coordination, spatial perception or visual memory." Patricia Gaffney Ansel
The role of blocks in the cognitive, affective and psychomotor domains as well as the findings of studies with children and their use of blocks is described. Lessons are presented in three areas of the curriculum, math, language arts and architecture(art). An annotated bibliography for teachers is included, as is a reading list for students. more information
The Value and Limitations of Froebel's Gifts as Educative Materials Parts I, II Patty Smith Hill The Elementary School Teacher, Vol. 9, No. 3 (Nov., 1908), pp. 129-137 This article consists of 9 pages. read this article online
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Froebel play gifts: buy online from The Froebel Gallery
Each gift should aid the child to make the external internal, the internal external, and to find the unity between the two.
ball on string
sphere, cube and cylinder
eight rectangular blocks
more cubes, some halved or quartered to introduce the triangle
more rectangular blocks, some halved lengthwise or breadthwise
list of gifts and occupations
buy or make your own Froebel Gifts
Froebel carefully designed these gifts to help children recognize and appreciate the common patterns and forms found in nature. Froebel's gifts were eventually distributed throughout the world, deeply influencing the development of generations of young children. Frank Lloyd Wright credited his boyhood experiences with Froebel's gifts as the foundation of his architecture.
"This system though intellectual, is truly infantile; it treats the child as a child; encourages him to think for himself; teaches him by childish toys and methods, gradually to develop in action his own idea, to tell his own story and to listen to that of others; there is no use of hard names, whatever is said and whatever is done is totally and altogether such as belongs to a child" Rev Muirhead Mitchell 1854