Friedrich Wilhelm Froebel

His Life

Friedrich Wilhelm Froebel was born in 1782 in Oberweissbach in the German principality of Schwarzburg-Rudolfstadt. Unfortunately, he did not have a happy childhood. He had lost his mother at a young age and later lived with his uncle while he attended school. Before becoming an educational theorist, Froebel studied architecture (1805), language (1810), geology/mineralogy (1812-1816).

He was hired as a teacher for Pestalozzian Frankfurt Model School in 1805. Due to having no background in teaching, he studied under Johann Henrich Pestalozzi. After learning from Pestalozzi, Froebel incorporated his methods into his own teaching which eventually informed his own theories. He studied under Pestalozzi for 2 years (1808) before returning to school to study language and sciences.

In 1818, Froebel married Henrietta Wilhelmine Hoffmeister. And In 1837, he opened the first school of its kind- the kindergarten.

His Contributions

Froebel was the founder of kindergarten. His theory is based on these principles:

  1. All existence originates in and with God
  2. Humans possess an inherent spiritual essence that is the vitalizing life force that causes development
  3. All beings and ideas are interconnected parts of a grand, ordered, and systematic universe.

Froebel emphasized the importance of play in his theories. This viewpoint was not traditional during this time and was frowned upon. Froebel believed that through play, children begin the process of self-actualization. This means that play promotes social skills and lends naturally to children seeking roles and order. Through play, children can explore the world and its people.


Another important aspect of Froebel’s contributions is what he calls “gifts and occupations”. These “gifts” were specially designed toys that allowed for a more teacher-guided play. The reason he called them “gifts” was to foster excitement around the toys. Still centering his beliefs in play, the toys lent themselves to teaching children specific skills or “occupations”. For example, some toys were designed to exercise the fine motors in the hands which got students ready for writing.

Here is a list of all the gifts and occupations:

  • Six soft, colored balls
  • A wooden sphere, cube, and cylinder
  • A large cube divided into eight smaller cubes
  • A large cube divided into eight oblong blocks
  • A large cube divided into twenty-one whole, six half, and twelve quarter cubes
  • A large cube divided into eighteen whole oblongs: three divided lengthwise; three divided breadthwise
  • Quadrangular and triangular tablets used for arranging figures
  • Sticks for outlining figures· Whole and half wire rings for outlining figures
  • Various materials for drawing, perforating, embroidering, paper cutting, weaving or braiding, paper folding, modeling, and interlacing

His Methods Used Today

I think it’s clear how Froebel’s work is used today. Given that kindergarten is now standard for all children proves that his work was impactful. Furthermore, his work around play is still used today in many early childhood settings. Ever since I’ve been studying education, I know that children should spend less time in desks and more time moving around. Part of this idea could be due to Froebel’s work around emphasizing play! I also think that his “gifts and occupations” can be seen in almost every early childhood setting. I think it’s very clever how Froebel tricked his students into learning these important skills. Additionally, Froebel showed us that it’s important to make learning interesting to students. Young children do not want to sit down and practice writing short sentences. They can get ready for writing/practice it through “gifts” or fun (and secretly educational) toys.

Erik Erikson

His Life

Erik Erikson was born in Frankfurt, Germany in 1902. He was raised by a single mother. Later, his mother married a man named Dr. Theodore Homberger. Erikson believed Homberger to be his biological father during his entire childhood. It was a shock for Erikson to learn that Homberger was not his biological father which lead him to rethink his identity. This event inspired his research into the psychosocial identity.

Later in life, he began teaching at progressive school. At this school, he studied psychoanalysis after being prompted by his friend, Anna Freud. Furthermore, he received two certificates from the Montessori Teachers Association and from the Vienna Psychoanalytic Institute. He married Joan Serson in 1930 and eventually had 3 children. In 1933, he moved to America and taught a number of varying universities. Some include: Harvard Medical School (which was his first teaching job), University of California at Berkeley, Yale, the San Francisco Psychoanalytic Institute, Austen Riggs Center, and the Center for Advanced Studies of the Behavioral Sciences. It’s important to note that he never recieved a formal degree in medicince or psychology!

His Contributions

Erikson main contribution to ECE is his theory on Psychosocial Development. Erikson believed that personality develops in stages. The most pertinent for ECE are stages 1-3.

Stage 1, Trust vs. Mistrust, begins at birth and ends around age 1. Infants are entirely dependent on their caregivers. Infants need to be fed, loved, and feel safe. During this stage of development, infants learn whether adults are trustworthy. Since no cargiver is perfect, it’s impossible for infants to learn to completely trust. Erikson believed that it should be a balance of the two which teaches the baby to hope.

Stage 2, Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt, begins around age 2 and age 3. This stage is about all developing a sense of personal control. During this stage, children become more capable of doing tasks themselves. It’s important to the caregivers to take a step back and let the child performs simple tasks. Erikson notes that potty training is an important aspect of this stage. He believed that potty training allowed children to have a greater sense of autonomy by learning how to control their bodily functions.

Stage 3, Initiative vs. Guilt, begins around age 3 and ends around age 5 (preschool age). This stage is about children learning how to assert their power and control through social interactions. Through play, children can become the “leader” and direct or control the environment around them. Children can find purpose in these social interactions. However, if they exert too much power children can experience disapproval which is the guilt part of this stage.

His Methods Used Today

Erik Erikson theory on Psychosocial Development that has been incorporated into early childhood education. From my experience and schooling, infants are suppossed to learn trust and love. I remember hearing about the “Cry it Out” method for babies who cry at night. I always thought that method of self-soothing was always wrong and harmful. Babies who are constantly ignored for their cries may develop mistrust in caregivers/adults. Furthermore, Erikson’s beliefs about early childhood and preschool aged children is accurate to what I’ve seen in my experience in daycare settings. When working with 2-3 year olds, I have been taught to exercise extreme patience for they are learning how to perform simple tasks. 2-3 year olds are supposed to be exercising their autonomy and learning how the world works. Through my experience, I’ve learned that young children are extremely capable! And lastly, I’ve seen how pre-school aged children are constanly finding that balance of power and compromise. All the preschool programs that I have seen are centered around play. Through these social interactions, children can exercise their power and learn purpose. I have seen Erik Erikson’s theory in early childhood settings.