Friedrich Froebel (1782-1852) was born in the Oberweibach area of Thuringia, Germany on 21 April 1782. His father was an orthodox Lutheran pastor who ran the parish there. So it was not surprising that the Church and the Lutheran religion became the first pillars of Froebel’s own education. To his bad luck, the health of Froebel’s mother began to fail soon after his birth and she died within nine months. Froebel’s father also passed away in 1802 and he was sent to live with an uncle in the adjoining village of Stadt-Ilm.
Froebel started his career as an educationist in 1805 as a secondary school teacher in Frankfurt. At this time he was impressed by the work of Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi, also working with him in Switzerland to further develop his ideas. In 1811 Froebel once again went to Berlin and became a teacher at a boarding school for boys that specialized in pedagogy and patriotism. After serving in the Napoleonic wars of 1813-14, he was employed in the Institute of Mineralogy by Christian Samuel Weiss. However he did not hold this job for long and ultimately founded the German General Educational Institute in Arnstadt, Thirungia. He began publishing pamphlets about the need for education in 1820. In 1826 he published the Education of Man, his main work, followed by the Educating Families in 1828. In 1840, he finally started the first kindergarten concept in Germany at the Play and Activity Institute which he had established in 1837 (Rusk & Scotland, 1979: 32). He also designed toys and activity materials dubbed Froebel’s Gifts for these young kids. He died at Mariental on 21 June 1852. Important Contributions Froebel was instrumental in including the concept of play and free association for kids in the classroom. He also trained people in his teaching methods and discipline. Following the success of his methods, his student Margaret Schultz opened up a kindergarten at Wisconsin in 1856 and Elizabeth Peabody in Boston in 1860. By 1911, kindergarten education was officially recognized in Germany under its own state and regulatory laws. Froebel College in South West London in the UK was started in 1892 to respect and follow his traditions. He also was the first to train women in pedagogy at the premises granted by the Duke of Meiningen for this purpose(Weber, 1969: 13). According to Sniegoski (1994: 3), Froebel can be credited for ignoring the idea that the child was like a plant or a lump of clay into which education can be implanted. This concept originated by Locke was in vogue at the time, but the tireless efforts of Frobel and his followers soon brought in a new concept, namely the importance of play and learning at one’s own pace. Each new activity grew out of a previously available idea and thus a child was able to grow in stages of intellectual development. Much the same thing has been recognized and identified by other thinkers such as Jean Piaget. Froebel regarded play as the most important basis for the spontaneous development of the child. Another idea Froebel encouraged was self activity. He preferred that the learner educate himself. The task of the teacher was just to create a learning environment for the child, and shield the child from danger or unwanted processes. Froebel opined that for the first year of life, the mother was a child’s most important teacher, while they depended on the whole family for support and contentment. As the child