There once was a little boy named Friedrich Froebel. Friedrich was born a very long time ago in a far away place called Germany.
Friedrich lived in a forestry town with his mother and father, a Lutheran pastor.
When Friedrich grew up, he became a teacher. He taught children in Germany and Switzerland, created several institutions, and published many articles about education. In 1837, he created the first Kindergarten, a play, care, and activity center for small children.
The name Kindergartensignifies both a garden for children, a location where they can observe and interact with nature, and also a garden of children, where they themselves can grow and develop in freedom from arbitrary political and social imperatives.
At Kindergarten, students played with educational learning materials or 'gifts' designed by Friedrich. The youngest children played with colorful yarn balls, and additional toys like sticks, building blocks and pattern shapes were introduced to older children as they grew.
Friedrich created occupations (activities) for the children at Kindergarten that centered on “free work” and simple games to engage children creatively and naturally with their environment. The children at Kindergarten sang, danced, gardened, and enjoyed lots of free play with Friedrich’s toys. According to Friedrich, this allowed the potential growth to wholeness of each individual child within the natural world, fulfilling an ideal within the mind of God.
Friedrich's ideas of child development became popular and Kindergarten spread throughout the world. The first Kindergarten in the United States was established in 1856 in Watertown, Wisconsin.
Friedrich's ideas can be applied to grown-ups as well. The play exercises of Kindergarten bring out the natural powers of observation, judgement, and invention. Play is the highest expression of human development because it is the free expression of what is in one's soul. Our task today is to fulfill Friedrich's theory by allowing the true, spontaneous, freedom of structured play to lead naturally into work. Use our play time today as an opportunity to naturally and creatively address projects or challenges in your personal or professional lives. Go Play!