Born in Germany in 1782, Friedrich Fröbel was the inventor of the kindergarten. With a profound understanding of the importance of the activity of a child in its learning, he founded his first “Play and Activity Institute” in 1837, which took a revolutionary approach to preschool learning increasing the engagement of children with structured, activity based learning such as singing, dancing and gardening.
He also encouraged independent play with educational toys made from simple geometric forms, known as ‘Fröbel’s Gifts’ – encouraging children to think abstractly and to relate ideas, objects and symbols. Those attending the early kindergartens included the world renowned architects Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier and Buckminster Fuller and artists Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky, all inspired very early on by this ordered and linear focus on shape, form and colour.
These pioneering learning techniques of the 19th Century are still as relevant today with the focus on activity based learning, or “learning-by-doing”, central to the philosophies of modern kindergartens and schools.
The design of these environments, in which future generations shape their early physical, cognitive and social development, is fundamentally important. We must put the child right at the heart of the design process, to understand the psychological and behavioural patterns behind how they learn and how they play.