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  • In 1838 the German educator Friedrich Fröbel laid the foundations of modern education when

  • he opened the "Play and Activity Institute".

  • Fröbel soon called his institute a Kindergarten , reflecting his belief that young children

  • should be nurtured and nourished "like plants in a garden”.

  • Fröbel, who studied under the Swiss educator Johann Pestalozzi, established the idea that

  • games and playing are typical and essential forms of life.

  • Activities in the kindergarten included singing, dancing, gardening, and self-directed play.

  • Quality time spent like this was a considerable improvement to the life of many children,

  • given that the alternative was often to help parents with work.

  • He also introduced the concept of "Frei-Arbeit", which can be translated into "free work".

  • During set periods of time, children were allowed to work on things by themselves.

  • Where many adults saw pointless play, Fröbel saw important learning taking place . While

  • practicing their concentration skills and resilience,the children also learned about

  • engineering, logic and physics.

  • To help facilitate this process, he developed a set of educational toys known as Fröbel

  • Gifts . The set contained 20 objects, such as balls, blocks, and sticks.

  • Fröbel carefully designed the toys to help the children in his kindergarten recognize

  • and appreciate common patterns and forms found in nature.

  • His innovative ideas soon found appeal and many young educators came to learn from Fröbel

  • and to see the immense potential displayed by children at his institute.

  • Later, many of Fröbel's students opened their own Kindergarten and Germany experienced

  • a rapid growth in the numbers of early childhood centers.

  • Then something bad happened.

  • After suppressing the German revolutions of 1848–49, the Prussian government started

  • a crackdown on new democratic ideas and women were forbidden from being politically active.

  • The fact that some were operating a kindergarten all by themselves was seen as problematic.

  • And so it didn't take long for the government to label Fröbel's Kindergarten ideas as

  • dangerous to both the State and church; soon all schools that followed Fröbel's principles

  • were banned.

  • For Fröbel, who saw his life's work destroyed and the future of all the children disrupted,

  • this was a terrible blow.

  • He died in dismay just a year later.

  • But the ban caused a diaspora of kindergarteners who could no longer work in Germany, spreading

  • Fröbel's ideas all over the world.

  • One of Fröbel's students founded the first kindergarten in the United States in 1856.

  • But the story was far from being over.

  • Exactly 20 years later, a young woman named Anna Lloyd Jones stumbled upon a set of Fröbel's

  • Gifts at a visit to the first World's Fair in the United States.

  • Anna, a teacher by training, was so excited by the wooden toys that she bought a set for

  • her nine-year-old son.

  • Little Frank loved the toys his mother brought home and began building all kinds of geometrical

  • structuresfirst with the wooden toys, later in miniatures and with other materials.

  • Without formal training, Frank Lloyd Wright became one of the world's most renowned

  • architects, responsible for some of the most iconic buildings in modern architecture, many

  • of which resemble Fröbel's toy blocks.

  • Germany lifted its ban on kindergartens in 1860, realizing that it was a terrible mistake.

  • And while Fröbel wasn't around anymore to witness the rebirth of his ideas in his

  • homeland, they continued to spread around the world and became an inspiration for Maria

  • Montessori, Rudolf Steiner, and many others who set out to innovate formal education.

  • Fröbel once said thatPlay is the highest expression of human development in childhood,

  • for it alone is the free expression of what is in a child's soul.”

  • Frank Lloyd Wright described the influence of such play in his approach to design as

  • follows: "For several years, I sat at the little kindergarten table-topand played

  • with the cube, the sphere and the trianglethese smooth wooden maple blocks

  • All are in my fingers to this day.”

  • How was your personal experience with play and learning when you were young?

  • Did you go to kindergarten?

  • And what are your thoughts on the play as a way of growth and development?

  • Share your thoughts!

  • To download this video without background music, or learn more about the topic, visit


In 1838 the German educator Friedrich Fröbel laid the foundations of modern education when

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The Curious Case of the World's First Kindergarten

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    Summer posted on 2021/05/31
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