Tina Bruce explains that “[Friedrich] Froebel [(1782-1852)] was the inventor of the kindergarten.” (p.56) “Froebel’s ideas have entered mainstream educational practice, but at the time he put them forward, they were revolutionary. Froebel did not set down his ideas with great detail in his main work (The Education of Man, translated into English and published in 1887) but his principles for educating young children are made clear in the examples he gives.
Key ideas include the Gifts and the Occupations. The Occupations set out a range of craft-like activities such as paper folding, stick and pea patterns in three dimensions, paper weaving, paper pricking and clay. The Gifts were one of the first sets of wooden blocks to be developed for learning, and were groundbreaking in their educational possibilities.
Froebel wrote about Principled practice rather than prescribing lists of what to do. For this reason, his influence is subtle and can be missed. From 1851 his ideas spread, particularly in Europe and the USA. Froebelian practice today is very different from Froebelian practice in the 1850s. It remains an international movement.” (p.56)
“In Froebel’s kindergarten, each child tended a plot of garden, and there was also a community garden. He pioneered outdoor education, giving it the same status as learning indoors.” (p.57)
“Froebel realized that a child’s play is of central importance in developing and learning, writing at length on the subject in his essays in The Education of Man.” (p.57)
(Bruce outlines the features of play-based learning in the Froebelian sense on pp.58-59).
“Froebel pioneered the realization that we learn from the time we are born and that the loving home is an important part of this. The idea that young children should learn in a homelike environment, with a garden, remains strong in Froebelian education. So too does the view that parents are active participants, and that family life is central to a child’s education. This involves children in active learning, with emphasis on first-hand and meaningful experience, rather than book-based learning.” (p.59)
“Froebel pioneered the view that women are capable of teaching. Kindergartens were an important part of the development of educational and professional career possibilities for middle-class women in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Their strength lay in the fact that they did not challenge the deeply held belief that woman’s place was in the home, with her children, performing the duties of a good wife, or caring for parents and being a good aunt or daughter. At the same time as Florence Nightingale was, against all the odds, developing nursing as a respectable profession for women [-p.60], so the early Froebelian kindergarten movement was raising the status of mothers spending time with children, both their own and other people’s.” (pp.59-60)
“Free Froebelian schools were set up by the voluntary sector in the early 19th century in order to influence practice in the maintained sector, but also to offer a Froebelian education to children living in urban poverty. This was the beginning of the Nursery School Movement.” (p.60)
Ref: Tina Bruce ‘Froebel Today’ pp.55-70 in Eds. Linda Miller and Linda Pound (2011) Theories and Approaches to Learning in the Early Years. Sage: Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, Singapore, Washington DC