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Friedrich froebel

Friedrich Froebel

The purpose of education is to encourage and guide man as a conscious, thinking and perceiving being in such a way that he becomes a pure and perfect representation of that divine inner law through his own personal choice. (Friedrich Froebel 1826 Die Nenschenerziehung, pp. 2)

  • Froebel was born in Prussia in 1782, son of a clergyman.

  • His mother died soon after he was born and he had an unhappy early childhood, brought up by and uncaring stepmother.

  • However he grew up to be a highly spiritual man whose appreciation of the natural world guided his philosophies.

  • Aged 10 he went to live with an Uncle who was kinder to him and sent him to school.

  • His first job was a forester, which allowed him to spend a lot of time exploring the natural world

  • After various jobs he took a post as a teacher at the school of Pestalozzi, a Swiss educator who believed every child had a right to an education based on using the senses, indoor and outdoor learning and development from concrete to abstract ideas. This had a major influence on the young Froebel.

Friedrich froebel

Community of Learning

Let us live with our children, let them live with us, so we shall gain through them what all of us need.

Froebel in ‘The Education of Man’

  • Froebel left Pestalozzi’s school to study mineralogy. He developed ideas about the links between the patterns in nature (in this case crystals) and the laws of human life.

  • He then served in the army fighting for the Prussians against Napoleon.

  • In the early 19th century play was seen as idle and children seen as miniature adults who should be taught to be productive in society as soon as possible

  • Against this background Froebel set up his own school based on his observations of nature and young children and their families – a revolutionary idea!

  • He championed the role of the family in the education of children and this first school was a community where teachers and other families lived together.

Friedrich froebel

Learning through play

“Play is the highest expression of human development in childhood, for it alone is the free expression of what is in a child's soul.” Friedrich Froebel

  • Although he was married for 21 years, Froebel had no children of his own

  • Froebel moved his school to Keilhau and began to develop his educational theories based on the idea of child centred education.

  • The main focus was developing the creativity of the child through games and exploration.

  • He used nursery songs which he later published as an educational resource.

  • He spent some time in Switzerland working as the head of an orphanage school. This sparked his interest in early years development.

  • His book ‘The Education of Man’ was published in 1826. It was deeply philosophical, discussing his belief in the links between God, man and nature.

Friedrich froebel


“Children are like tiny flowers; they are varied and need care, but each is beautiful alone and glorious when seen in the community of peers.” Friedrich Froebel

  • Froebel set up his first ‘kindergarten’ school in Bad Blankenburg. The name is thought to reflect both the idea that children grow like a plant, and the importance he attached to outdoor learning.

  • Each child had their own patch to plant as they wished, but there was also a communal area where things were planned and they worked together. This way the ideas of individual creativity and responsibility towards the community were combined.

  • Outdoor activities were balanced with intricate indoor tasks designed to develop manual skills and the child’s thoughts about the nature of the world.

  • Frobel invented a sets of ‘gifts’. These were solid geometric shapes which the children used to create structures or explore the laws of nature. The first was a simple ball, which he believed would attract and inspire them throughout their life. The gifts were arranged in sets to gradually develop the child’s understanding.

  • There were complimentary activities, such as weaving, cutting and sewing to develop motor skills.

Friedrich froebel


  • Kindergarten were banned in Prussia in 1851, a year before Froebel death. They were very radical in their time and the Prussian government linked them to the more fiery socialist views of Friedrich’s cousin.

  • Froebel died in 1852, probably heart-broken by the apparent failure of his life’s work.

  • However his ideas had travelled far and wide and his philosophies spread to Europe, the USA and Britain where they have survived to this day.

  • Froebel’s methods and ideas are still relevant today as seen in:

  • The kindergarten movement in the USA

  • Teacher education in Britain – the Froebel college was amalgamated into the Roehampton Institute of Higher Educationin 1975, now the University of Roehampton.

  • In Europe including Germany where his supporters worked to have the ban lifted and kindergarten survives to this day.

  • Learning through structured play – dormant in the UK for a long time, but now back in mainstream EY and infant education.

Friedrich froebel

Froebel pioneered a comprehensive theory and practice for the holistic education of young children.

  • Froebel’s key ideas:

  • He valued the role of the mother in a young child’s development and deliberately recruited women teachers

  • He believed in the education of babies and young children at a time when it was not considered possible for children under 6 years to develop socially or intellectually

  • He encouraged children’s own development as saw this as a spiritual activity

  • He believed children should be given opportunities and equipment to make sense of the natural world

  • He considered play (including outdoor play) and singing games essential components of a child’s learning experience

  • He developed structured methods of play and activities and he believed the whole family should be involved in the education of children

Friedrich Froebel

Froebel’s influences:

Cornelius(1592 – 1670 )believed the purpose of education is to open the mind so the pupil’s understanding can develop organically, that all children whether boy or girl, rich or poor should be educated and that all humanity was equal.

Pestalozzi (1746-1827)believed in a safe environment where all children could learn using their senses to develop from concrete to abstract studies. Froebel’s first teaching job was in Pestalozzi’s school.

“Play is the highest expression of human development in childhood, for it alone is the free expression of what is in a child's soul.” Friedrich Froebel

  • Froebel’s legacy:

  • The kindergarten system in the USA

  • The Froebel College of teacher training founded in 1892 which is now part of the University of Roehampton.

  • The Froebel ‘gifts’, similar to items now found in every early years setting, were designed to help children recognise the patterns and forms found in nature

  • The idea that children learn through play and outdoor exploration