Froebel designed "Gifts" to encourage young children to make connections in their learning. The Gifts allow children to experiment and build on their knowledge and skills.

...all children have the desire to build and to build a house is a universal form of unguided play...

Friedrich Froebel

The Gifts

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. The Gifts are central to Froebelian practice.

The Gifts provide opportunities for creative play and allow young children to explore aspects of mathematics, science, engineering and architecture.

The Gifts are designed to encourage young children to make connections in their learning; allowing them to take something familiar (a simple wooden block) and encourages them to experiment and build on their knowledge and skills. Children use the blocks to re-create things and events in the world around them.

Some of the gifts are soft and can be rolled, some are hard, some have flat sides and some can be balanced on others.

The Gifts encourage open-ended play

Babies and young children can play freely with the Gifts and discover connections, similarities and differences. Froebel recognised that young children are drawn to taking things apart, exploring them and re-forming them. Froebel also recognised the appeal of patterns and order for children; how the whole relates to the parts.

Froebel believed the role of the adult was also crucial. With the Gifts, a supportive adult, be that parent/carer or teacher, introduces the language of shape and form, of similarity and difference, of fractions, division and symmetry, of mathematical 3D shapes, of architecture and engineering, of storytelling and the arts.

The Gifts are sequential, moving from simple to complex

Gift 1 : A set of coloured felt balls


Gift 2 : A set of three hard, naturally coloured three-dimensional shapes - a wooden sphere, cylinder and cube hanging by string from a bar.

These can also be held, spinning by string from a hand.

Gifts 3 to 6 : Sets of cubes, rectangular blocks or wooden prisms. Each set is contained within its own small box.


Find out more about Froebel's Gifts

Froebel believed that each child should have their own set of Gifts to allow the child to explore ideas on their own. He wanted children to share their ideas with each other, rather than sharing the actual blocks. You can purchase the Gifts (now made by SINA in Germany) from the Froebel Network in the UK.

Find out more in our free to download pamphlet Froebel's Gifts and Block Play Today.

Learning from Froebel... the Gifts by Professor Tina Bruce and Jane Dyke, an article published in Nursery World, January 2017

Froebel’s Gifts by a PhD thesis by Suzanne Flannery Quinn, University of Roehampton, 2013 - available to download for free from our Research Library.

Try one of our short courses which explore the relevancy of the Gifts in modern practice.

Recent exhibitions featuring Froebel's Gifts

Play Well, The Wellcome Collection, London, October 2019

The Rules of Play, V&A Dundee, February 2019

Froebel’s Gifts and the Principles of Design, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, August 2017.

Download our latest Block Play pamphlet

Packed with activities and information all about Froebel's Gifts

Download a free copy

To learn a thing in life and through doing is much more developing, cultivating and strengthening than to learn it merely through the verbal communication of ideas.

Friedrich Froebel

Occupations

Froebel also wrote about "Occupations" - educational activities which enable children to be creative, to communicate, develop physical and problem-solving skills and develop an understanding of the natural world.

Occupations encourage children to develop independence; offering them first-hand experiences.


Occupations relate to real life and practical work

Occupations include a a range of craft activities for young children such as paper cutting, paper folding, sewing, woodwork, cooking, stick and pea constructions, clay, weaving, paper pricking and more. Froebel believed that it was important for children to have access to a wide range of media.

A Froebelian Occupation: Paper folding
"To have found one quarter of the answers (to his own questions) by his own effort is of more value and importance to the child than to half hear and half understand it in the words of others"
Friedrich Froebel, 1826

Find out more about Occupations


Have a look at our free to download set of pamphlets which explore ways to introduce these creative activities/ Occupations at home and in any early years setting.

For a more in-depth understanding, explore our reading list which focuses on all aspects of Froebelian principles and practice.

The V & A Museum of Childhood, London, hosted a series of events in 2019 looking at Play and Design. Watch the seminar in which Professor Tina Bruce discusses Froebel and his Gifts.

Simple playthings that allow children to feel and experience, to act and represent, and to think and recognise...

Friedrich Froebel
cited in Brosterman 1997:51