Froebel's Gifts

Children in one of Wellington's earliest kindergartens played with these blocks. They are one of Friedrich Froebel's 'Gifts' and were an important teaching tool in the first kindergartens.  

Friedrich Froebel (1782 - 1852) was a German educationalist. He believed in a child-centred approach to education and that children learn best through creative play. Froebel created a set of ‘Gifts’ to support children's learning and development in his kindergarten in Germany in the 1840s. These ‘Gifts’ include six sets of cubes, spheres and cylinders and included one of the first sets of wooden blocks developed specifically for young children to explore, create and play with.

Froebel believed that children should learn in harmony with God, and the natural world around – hence the name 'kindergarten', meaning 'children's garden'. 

Kindergartens started as a private scheme in Dunedin in 1889 with the aim of providing education and guidance to the city's 'waifs and strays', unruly children who were outside all day playing in what was thought of as 'unsanitary conditions'. A kindergarten was set up based on the ideas of Froebel. 

By 1911, New Zealand's four main centres Dunedin, Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland all had thriving kindergartens.


Froebel's Gift
Collection of New Zealand Museum Te Papa Tongarewa

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