Kindergarten was invented to be an interesting, playful, child-centered pre-school for kids.
The inventor, Friedrich Froebel (born in Germany on this day in 1782) thought that kids could learn all sorts of thing through song and play—which were previously unheard of in school—and through art and interaction with the natural world. That “natural world” part explains why many kindergartens (which means “children's gardens” in German) had actual gardens attached to them, which kids tended. Froebel thought that, while kids were cultivating the garden, they would cultivate their own inner lives, too.
Froebel said that all topics (or school “subjects”) were interconnected.
He said that children were innately curious and interested in learning new things.
And Froebel was right about all of these ideas.
But being right doesn't always guarantee success.
Froebel started the first kindergarten in 1837 and sold stock in the enterprise. Although the kindergarten idea spread throughout Germany, he never got rich from his idea. The autocratic Prussian government was against Froebel's kindergartens—they promoted democracy, and we can't have that!—and eventually, in 1851, kindergartens were outlawed in Prussia.
Froebel died a year after that...some say of a broken heart. However, his legacy lives on in the word he invented and also in the ideas he promoted. There are many kindergartens in Germany named for Froebel, and in the Netherlands, froebelen means to be busy with arts and crafts.
By the way, I've noticed that many modern kindergartens (a word used here in the U.S. for the grade immediately before first grade, mostly for children age 5) are much more book-paper-pencil oriented, rather than centered on play and song, paintbrush and outdoors. That's a darn shame, because the play-and-activity center idea that Froebel put forth is much more what kids need!
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