Frederick Froebel (1782-1852)
Froebel truly was a pioneer. He was one of the first educators to consider that the education of children under the age of 7 was worthwhile. He established the Kindergarten (Child Garden), where children could learn through play. His approach to play constituted a significant shift in the way that children’s play and its role in their education was viewed. He wrote that “play at this time is not trivial, it is highly serious and of deep significance” (Fröbel, 1826). Froebel maintained that the teachers of young children should be highly educated and he believed that women could and should take on this teaching role.
Although to our contemporary eyes, the play in Froebel’s kindergarten would seem formal, his work has had a significant influence on early years practice. He developed materials that included wooden blocks, wooden tiles, pin boards, sewing, weaving, paper folding, stick laying, construction with sticks and peas, woodwork, drawing, painting and clay, encouraged activity and movement through songs and emphasised the importance of the study of nature and the connection with the outside world. All of these things can still be seen in various forms in many nurseries today.