Friedrich Froebel

By Ashley Scherle, Jennifer Meyer, & Sarah Todas
The intention of this page is to provide a brief history of Friedrich Froebel's life, his theories of education, and how he has influenced education today.


Friedrich Froebel was born on April 21, 1782 in Oberweisbach, Germany. His mother died nine months after Froebel was born and his father was a Lutheran minster. After his mother's death, Froebel's father remarried and had a baby boy; a brother for Froebel. By age eleven Froebel was neglected. His uncle, also a Lutheran minster, took over the role of father to Froebel.

Froebel started his career off in the forestry industry where he studied botany and biology, but later ended up teaching in a primary school. It was his study of and love of nature that influenced his views on the importance of nature on young children. He loved the experience in working with children so much, that he decided to make education his life long career. Froebel ventured to Switzerland where he tutored boys at a Pestalozzi's Institute. He felt he needed more training in education and decided to go back to school in Germany to learn more. He then briefly served in the army against Napoleon. After his studies he opened the Universal German Educational Institute where the curriculum was modeled on his educational beliefs and theories.

After the success of his teachings and instruction, Froebel began to educate teachers in his theories and practices and started to spread the idea of Kindergarten around the educational community. Eventually Froebel's ideal of Kindergarten was shut down and banned by the Persian government on grounds that it was a threat to the state. Froebel did not live to see his vision of Kindergarten realized.

"[The] preschool experience for children grew out of Froebel's belief that man is essentially part of the total universe that is God."
His program intended for the child to be a free, creative spirit within the classroom, where one can grow and express themselves as God intended. He believed this process should begin at a very young age.

Check out the following two links for more information on Froebel's life and timeline of events:

An overview of Froebel's life
Timeline of Frobel's life


The following is taken from the Froebel Educational Institutes web site and depicts Froebel's main concepts of early childhood education:

Elements of a Froebelian Education for Children from Birth to Seven years

1. Principles which include
• recognition of the uniqueness of each child's capacity and potential
• an holistic view of each child's development
• recognition of the importance of play as a central integrating element in a child's development and learning
• an ecological view of humankind in the natural world
• recognition of the integrity of childhood in its own right
• recognition of the child as part of a family and a community
2. A pedagogy which involves
• knowledgeable and appropriately qualified early childhood professionals
• skilled and informed observation of children, to support effective development, learning and teaching
• awareness that education relates to all capabilities of each child: imaginative, creative, symbolic, linguistic, mathematical, musical, aesthetic, scientific, physical, social, moral, cultural and spiritual
• parents/carers and educators working in harmony and partnership
• first hand experience, play, talk and reflection
• activities and experiences that have sense, purpose and meaning to the child, and involve joy, wonder, concentration, unity and satisfaction
• an holistic approach to learning which recognizes children as active, feeling and thinking human beings, seeing patterns and making connections
• encouragement rather than punishment
• individual and collaborative activity and play
• an approach to learning which develops children's autonomy and self confidence
3. An environment which
• is physically safe but intellectually challenging, promoting curiosity, enquiry, sensory stimulation and aesthetic awareness
• demonstrates the unity of indoors and outdoors, of the cultural and the natural
• allows free access to a rich range of materials that promote open-ended opportunities for play, representation and creativity
• entails the setting being an integral part of the community it serves, working in close partnership with parents and other skilled adults
• is educative rather than merely amusing or occupying
• promotes interdependence as well as independence, community as well as individuality and responsibility as well as freedom.

Another point of reference is where the Froebel Foundation USA was established in 2001 to promote Froebel's philosophies and ideals to and to ensure the history of the US Kindergarten movement is not forgotten. They map out Froebel's Kindergarten Philosophy as follows:

Humans are creative beings.
What separates us from other life forms is that we alter our environment. More than simple tool building, our brains allow us to visualize in 3-D and imagine a different future. True education must help children to understand their true nature as creative beings.
Play is the engine that drives true learning.
Play is not idle behavior. It is a biological imperative to discover how things work. It is happy work, but definitely purposeful. Froebel sought to harness this impulse and focus a child's play energy on specific activities designed to lead them to create meaning from this experience.
Children can only learn what they are ready to learn.
Each child is unique and develops according to their own schedule. Nothing can be more wasteful or frustrating than to try to force a child to march to a different beat. Froebel works with each child's own rhythm but makes it purposeful and guides the child toward the group.
Education means to "lead someone to knowledge."
The Latin root of the education ("educare") means "to lead to." Education was designed for the teacher to guide - to lead the child to an understanding. Trying to force knowledge into a young mind has been proven ineffective for centuries. It works for the short term (like cramming for a test) but does not produce lasting results.
Kindergarten was meant to be a prepared environment.
Froebel recognized that you cannot control the child so he controlled everything else. A prepared environment provides the teacher with the proper tools and gives children the experiences that the teacher feels are most beneficial, leading the child's mind to the subject at hand. It feels less structured or forced, but it is actually extremely efficient.
Activities are a window into a child's inner world.
Activities in a prepared environment give children experiences but they also provide the teacher with sophisticated diagnostic tools to assess where a child is at developmentally. The verbal exchanges between teacher and student are a window into a child's mind. The Froebel Gifts provide an organized "conversation piece" with which a teacher can naturally launch into any possible subject.
Mathematical work is not just for instruction, it also emphasizes order.
The greatest misconception is that the Gifts are intended as math manipulatives. The materials are part of a method to engage a child's mind, creativity, and playful spirit. The Gifts can lead to sophisticated experiences of geometry and physics, but can also be used for design or storytelling. Froebel's German heritage colors the perception of the materials. Imagine if they were from Italy or Japan? The focus shifts to the simplicity, elegance and beauty of the Gifts.
Teaching should always be joyful, fun and easy.

Above all, Froebel's Theory of education is one of freedom and creativity. Furthermore, you cannot force a child to learn, you guide them. Through play and self discovery a child will learn when they are ready. Froebel's Theory works together with the teacher, child, parents and the community.

Here is a cute, short clip from describing Froebel's phylosophy:

Influence Today
As the founder of the kindergarten movement, Froebel is responsible for the kindergarten programs of many public and separate school systems today. The website sums up his original thought and how it is used today quite nicely:

"Synopsis: 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."

Froebel also invented gifts for the classroom; toys which help children recognize and appreciate patterns found in nature. They also help develop better eye and hand coordination and visual memory of the child. His gifts can be seen used in many kindergarten classrooms today. Examples of these gifts include: blocks, cylinders, spheres, tiles, balls,and rings to name a few.
blocks.JPG sphere,_cube,_cylinder.jpg seven.jpg balls.jpgrings.jpgbeads.gif

"Realising how the Gifts were eventually misused by Kindergarten teachers who followed after Froebel, it is important to consider what Froebel expected the Gifts to achieve. He envisaged that the Gifts will teach the child to use his (or her) environment as an educational aid; secondly, that they will give the child an indication of the connection between human life and life in nature; and finally that they will create a bond between the adult and the child who play with them" Joachim Liebschner on page 82 in his book, A Child's Work: Freedom and Guidance in Froebel's Educational Theory and Practice
This quote was found on

A great link to buying Froebel's gifts for your classroom or home is:

Froebel has greatly influenced education in Canada. As noted from the website
, Froebel is one of three major influences that changed Canadian education at the turn of the twentieth century:

His views initiated or influenced: The child development approach to education; the kindergarten as the foundation of education; the use of creative educational toys and materials; and the importance of utilizing the child's inner motivation by encouraging his self-activity and cultivating his inner discipline.

Integrated studies such as Social Studies combined History and Geography to aid students in their grasp of the interrelatedness of things. Nature study led to General Science, Music and Art became necessary parts of the curriculum, Manual Training led to Industrial Arts to enable youngsters to develop useful trade skills and Domestic Science became Family Studies where young people learned the art of homemaking. This balanced structure of education was influenced by Froebel.

Froebel introduced Mother's Meetings, which would later become Parent-Teacher Associations. They were designed to unite the home and kindergarten in order that the transition from home to school would be easier for the young child.


Anyone looking to study in depth, Froebel's practices can look into taking a certificate course from Roehampton University in London, England. The School of Education is based out of Froebel College at Roehampton.

external image ru.gif School of Education Froebel Certificate/Graduate Certificate in Early Childhood Studies

“I will certainly be encouraging others to attend, particularly from my own team” L.M. 2005
“The teaching and knowledge we received from Jane and Tina was second to none” J.L. 2005
“ Wonderful experience – very life affirming” S.L. 2005
“I am now in the process of telling everyone it is the best course I have ever been on, it just felt so right” L.M. 2005
“ A good balance of class, group and individual support” J.W. 2005

The Froebel Certificate and the Froebel Graduate Certificate in Early Childhood Studies have been designed to provide a programme of study for a diverse range of practitioners working across the early years sector who wish to obtain a qualification which draws strongly on the work of Froebel and on other historical perspectives in the context of current debates and practice.
These courses are described here:
Inquiries should be made direct to the School of Education at Roehampton University

Another school of interest is the Froebel College of Education located in Dublin, Ireland:

fro.jpgWhat is Froebel Education?

Froebel College of Education, Sion Hill, established by the Dominican Congregation, is one of the five Colleges in the Republic of Ireland recognised by the Department of Education and Science for the training and education of national school teachers. Froebel College, along with St Mary's College, Marino and Church of Ireland College of Education, Rathmines is associated with the University of Dublin, Trinity College, which awards the degree of Bachelor in Education (B.Ed.) and the Higher Diploma in Education (Primary Teaching). Froebel Education is associated with progressive child-centred education. It seeks to foster quality teaching and learning, creativity, integration and sound practical classroom management in whatever situations teachers work with children.

Who was Froebel?

Froebel College of Education takes its name from the 19th century German educator, and founder of Kindergarten, Friedrich Froebel (1782 - 1852). He advocated reverence for the child, learning through activity, exploration of the environment, enjoyment of beauty in all its manifestations and acceptance of the gifts of each individual.