Friedrich Fröbel upbringing was steeped in the Lutheran Christian faith, providing strong foundations of his own early education. At age nine, following the death of his mother, Fröbel traveled to Stadtilm to live with his uncle, and at the age of 15, he became the apprentice of a forester. After a couple of years, he left his apprenticeship to pursue mathematics and botany in Jena.
In 1805, Fröbel began as an educator and was introduced to Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi’s pedagogue ideas, and later would work with him in Switzerland where those ideas would be further developed.
After serving in the Lützow Free Corps, he founded several educational institutes and published various educational pamphlets and publications. Returning to Germany, he dedicated himself exclusively to preschool education and began to manufacture educational toys. Fröbel recognized the importance of activity in child learning and from there created the concept of Kindergarten -- which is now an introductory level of school for young children to establish themselves into the world through the concept of self-directed play as a means of education. This was also encouraged through Fröbel’s Gifts, which included singing, dancing, gardening, and games.
Baroness Bertha Marie von Marenholtz-Bülow was integral in introducing Fröbel’s ideas of childhood development and education into the academic and royal circles, where the influential support of dukes and duchesses also assisted Fröbel in training the first women as Kindergarten teachers.
Fröbel passed away in 1852, leaving behind a legacy and academic practices that continue on today within our own education systems across the globe.
Lived: April 21, 1782 - June 21, 1852
Why He Matters
Recognizing that children have unique needs and capabilities, Fröbel’s “kindergarten” concept significantly influenced early-years education on a global and historical scale.
Created the concept of “Kindergarten” (which means “garden for the children” in German), also coining the term.
Served in two campaigns against Napoleon.
Developed a lasting friendship with H. Langenthal and W. Middendorff during the 1813 Napoleonic Campaign, who would join a school he opened at Griesheim in Thuringia, and the school would later be moved to Keilhau.
Wrote various pieces, with his most significant one titled Menschenerziehung (The Education of Man), which was a philosophical presentation of principles and methods pursued at Keilhau.
The idea of kindergarten was appealing to many, but was banned in Germany by the Prussian Government, deeming it “atheistic and demagogic” because of its alleged “destructive tendencies in the areas of religion and politics”; turns out the ban was due to a confusion in names between Friedrich and his nephew, Karl Fröbel, whose socialist views at the time were looked upon disapprovingly.
Designed and manufactured educational toys called Fröbel’s Gifts, which included geometric building and pattern activity blocks.
A student of Fröbel’s, Margarethe Schurz, founded the first kindergarten in the United States
Leaving a Legacy
Fröbel’s introduction of Kindergarten has been widely accepted and implemented among many countries, especially in North America.
Many modern educational techniques today, especially his integration of encouraging self-expression through play in individual and group activities, is much indebted to Fröbel.