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Froebel Gifts are educational toys for children which are designed to encourage them to explore shapes, the relationships between objects, and the nature of beauty. These education tools are designed for very young children, and they are part of a larger educational framework developed by Friedrich Froebel, a German educator, in the 1800s. Froebel believed that children learned best through exploration and play, and he developed his “Gifts” to encourage this. He also developed the concept of kindergarten, which is widely used around the world today.
Today, there are 11 Froebel Gifts available, five of which were invented by Froebel himself. The gifts are presented to children in order, growing increasingly more complex and stimulating a deeper understanding of the world as children progress through them. Froebel referred to his educational toys as gifts because he felt that they were most effective when presented directly to children as presents. As children use the gifts, parents or teachers are supposed to provide assistance and support, offering suggestions to the child to help him or her use the gift in a new way.
Each gift consists of a number of parts, ranging from balls on strings in the first gift to a complex collection of curved blocks in gift 11. The user is encouraged to open the box that the gift is kept in, to examine the objects it contains, and then to use them in a variety of ways, stacking them, sorting them, and constantly rethinking their relationships and potential applications.
Froebel devised several “categories” to think about when looking at gifts. The first is the form of knowledge, focusing on the wordly knowledge that each gift stimulated. For example, the geometric shapes in many of the gifts illustrate mathematical concepts, and children can use the Froebel Gifts to think about fractions, the relations between shapes, and so forth. In the forms of life category, children are encouraged to liken the objects in the Froebel Gifts to objects that they know; for example, a ball could be an orange, or a stack of blocks could become a tower.
Finally, children are also encouraged to think about forms of beauty, using the objects in the Froebel Gifts to create purely aesthetic and attractive displays. This encourages creativity in the users, as they think about symmetry, color relationships, shapes, and so forth. Children can move through each Froebel Gift at their own pace, with a supervisor ensuring that the child gets the full benefit of the gift, exploring its full richness and complexity.
Beyond the official Froebel Gifts, parents and teachers can also make their own with collections of everyday objects. In regions where education funding is low, the ability to assemble educational tools out of things like scrap wood is extremely useful, and many people believe that early enrichment of children can lay the groundwork for better performance later in life, even with minimal resources.
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