Have you ever led circle time? Have you ever used manipulatives or other educational materials? Have you ever discussed early childhood education with women colleagues? Does your school or center have a kindergarten? If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, you have Friedrich Froebel to thank. Friedrich Froebel is largely responsible for the codification of much early childhood practice. He not only developed the kindergarten, but also created the concepts of circle time, educational materials, and finger plays. He invented a system of geometric blocks for educational purposes, championed mothers as children's first teachers and women as early childhood professionals, and fostered the concept of teacher training for women in early childhood education (Wolfe, 2000). .
Standing on a hill outside of Keilhau, now called Froebelblick, as he contemplated his new conceptual framework for a school for the very young child, Froebel coined the term "kindergarten." In 1839, he opened the first kindergarten in Bad Blankenburg. A man of many failures, at last he had found his life's most important work. Villagers called him an old fool who played with children (Von Marienholtz-Bulow, 1877). Undaunted, he spent years refining the concept of kindergarten, created 20 "gifts" or educational materials, and developed finger plays and other educational experiences (Froebel, 1889). .
In a large downstairs room, where more collections line the walls, is a space where students can actually play with Froebel blocks and materials. It was at Keilhau that Froebel began using his system of blocks to teach children. Froebel believed the blocks made by toy makers of the time were entirely inappropriate for young children; they were quite stylized, with intricate shapes, and were very difficult, if not impossible, to stack. Froebel crafted a set of geometric blocks that allowed the children to make symbolic representations with the blocks through more open-ended experiences.