Froebel's Gifts
by Kate Douglas Wiggin
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The Republic of Childhood






The Republic of Childhood

The Kindergarten is the free republic of childhood.—FROEBEL



The true teacher is a student of human nature, and the student of human nature is the pupil of God.—HORATIO STEBBINS



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The Riverside Press, Cambridge, Mass., U. S. A. Electrotyped and Printed by H. O. Houghton and Company.


The three little volumes on that Republic of Childhood, the kindergarten, of which this handbook, dealing with the gifts, forms the initial number, might well be called Chips from a Kindergarten Workshop. They are the outcome of talks and conferences on Froebel's educational principles with successive groups of earnest young women here, there, and everywhere, for fifteen years, and represent as much practical work at the bench as a carpenter could show in a similar length of time. They are the result of mutual give and take, of question and answer, of effort and experience, of the friction of minds against one another, of ideas struck out in the heat of argument, and of varied experience with many hundred little children of all nationalities and conditions. They are not theories, written in the seclusion of the study; and if perchance they have the defects, so should they have the virtues, too, of work corrected and revised at every step by the "child in the midst." If it is objected that many things in them have been heard before, we can but say with Montaigne: "Truth and reason are common to every one, and are no more his who spake them first than his who spake them after."

The various talks have been cut down here, enlarged there, condensed in one place, amplified in another, from year to year, as knowledge and experience have grown; many of the ideas which they advocated in the beginning have been eliminated, as being completely reversed by the passage of time, and much new matter has been added as the kindergarten principle has developed. They are as much a growth as a coral reef, though the authors have little hope that they will be as enduring.

The kindergarten of 1895 is not the kindergarten of 1880, for the science of education has made great strides in these past fifteen years. Many things which were held to be vital principles when we began our talks with kindergarten students, we now find were but lifeless methods after all. It is not that time has reversed the fundamental principles on which the kindergarten rests,—these are as true as truth and as changeless; but the interpretation of them has greatly changed and broadened with the passage of years, and many of the instrumentalities of education which Froebel devised are destined to further transformation in the future. For this reason, the last book on the kindergarten is sometimes the best book, since it naturally embodies the latest thought and discovery on the subject.

These talks on the kindergarten have purposely been divested of a certain amount of technicality and detail, in the hope that they will thus reach not only kindergarten students, but the many mothers and teachers who really long to know what Froebel's system of education is and what it aims to do. They will never of themselves make a kindergartner, and are not intended to do so; but they certainly should shed some light on Froebel's theories, and establish a basis on which they can be worked out in the home and in the school.

We shall attempt no defense of the kindergarten here. It has passed the experimental stage; it is no longer on trial for its life; and no longer humbly begging, hat in hand, for a place to lay its head. As an educational idea, it is a recognized part of the great system of child-training; and to say, in this year of our Lord, one thousand eight hundred and ninety-five, that one does not believe in the kindergarten is as if one said, I do not believe in electricity, or, I never saw much force in the law of gravitation.

True, Froebel's ideas are often misinterpreted and misapplied; often espoused by ignorant and sentimental persons; often degraded in their practical application; true, the ideal kindergarten and the ideal kindergartner are seldom seen—(though they are worth traveling a thousand miles to see)—all this is true, and no one knows it better than we; but that a divine idea is wrongly used does not invalidate its divinity.

That kindergarten principles are gaining ground everywhere; that every year more free and private kindergartens are established, more training schools opened, more students applying for instruction, more books written on the subject, more educational periodicals seeking for kindergarten articles, more cities adding it to their school systems, more normal schools giving courses in kindergarten training, more mothers and teachers seeking for light on Froebel's principles,—all these are matters of statistics which any one may verify by consulting the Reports of the Commissioner of Education and the various educational magazines.

Our modest volumes, of which the second will deal with the occupations, the third with the educational theories of Froebel, do not claim to be deeply philosophic, nor even to be exhaustive. They are, in a sense, what is called a "popular" treatise on a scientific subject; and though some scientists decry such treatises, yet there are many persons to whom a simple message carries more conviction than a purely philosophic one.

It is hoped that the psychologic principles on which the talks rest are at least measurably correct, though when doctors disagree on vital points, how shall the layman know the extent of his own ignorance?

The authors have always been of a humble and docile spirit, and in the earlier years of their work with children, looking upon all treatises on education as inspired, tried faithfully to make the child's mind work according to the laws therein laid down. But sometimes the child's mind obstinately declined to follow the prescribed route; it refused to begin at the proper beginning of a subject and go on logically to the end, as the books decreed, but flew into the middle of it, and darted both ways, like a weaver's shuttle. If, then, any one of the theories we enunciate does not coincide with your particular educational creed, we can only say that ours, we fear, has sometimes been a "rule of thumb" psychology, and that in our experience it has occasionally been necessary to turn a psychologic law the other end foremost before it could be made to fit the child.

We have endeavored not to be dogmatic in any of these talks, for we do not claim to have seen and counted all the facets of the crystal of truth. We humbly acknowledge that we have often been wrong in the past, and no reason has latterly been given us to believe ourselves infallible; but these disputed points in the kindergarten are, after all, of no more vital importance than the old theologic controversy as to how many angels can stand on the point of a needle. If the occupations are found to be based on incorrect psychologic principles, do not use them; if a similar objection is made to the gifts, substitute others. These are all accessories,—they are of no more importance than the leaves to the tree; if time and stress of weather strip them off, the life current is still there, and new ones will grow in their places.






"A correct comprehension of external, material things is a preliminary to a just comprehension of intellectual relations." FRIEDRICH FROEBEL.

"The A, B, C of things must precede the A, B, C of words, and give to the words (abstractions) their true foundations. It is because these foundations fail so often in the present time that there are so few men who think independently and express skillfully their inborn divine ideas." FRIEDRICH FROEBEL.

"Perception is the beginning and the preliminary condition for thinking. One's own perceptions awaken one's own conceptions, and these awaken one's own thinking in later stages of development. Let us have no precocity, but natural, that is consecutive, development." FRIEDRICH FROEBEL.

"Every child brings with him into the world the natural disposition to see correctly what is before him, or, in other words, the truth. If things are shown to him in their connection, his soul perceives them thus as a conception. But if, as often happens, things are brought before his mind singly, or piecemeal, and in fragments, then the natural disposition to see correctly is perverted to the opposite, and the healthy mind is perplexed." FRIEDRICH FROEBEL.

"The linking together which is everywhere seen, and which holds the Universe in its wholeness and unity, the eye receives, and thereby receives the representation, but without understanding it except as an impression and an image. But these first impressions are the root-fibres for the understanding that is developed later." FRIEDRICH FROEBEL.

"The correct perception is a preparation for correct knowing and thinking." FRIEDRICH FROEBEL.

"No new subject of instruction should come to the scholar, of which he does not at least conjecture that it is grounded in the former subject, and how it is so grounded as its application shows, and concerning which he does not, however dimly, feel it to be a need of the human spirit." FRIEDRICH FROEBEL.

"The sequences which the child builds, as well as the sequence of the kindergarten gifts, point on the one hand to physical evolution, wherein each form 'remembers the next inferior and predicts the next higher,' and on the other to the process of historic development, which magnifies the present by linking with it the past and the future." SUSAN E. BLOW.

"Let us educate the senses, train the faculty of speech, the art of receiving, storing, and expressing impressions, which is the natural gift of infants, and we shall not need books to fill up the emptiness of our teaching until the child is at least seven years old." E. SEGUIN.

"As soon as we, young or old, have taken to the habit of asking the book for what it is in our power to learn from personal observation, we dismiss our organs of perception and comprehension from their righteous charge, and cover the emptiness of our own minds with the patchwork of others." E. SEGUIN.

"Natural geometry (taking the word in its limited sense of study of form in space) is the object of a desire which generally precedes the artificial curiosity for the meaning of letters." E. SEGUIN.

"Without an accurate acquaintance with the visible and tangible properties of things, our conceptions must be erroneous, our inferences fallacious, and our operations unsuccessful." HERBERT SPENCER.

"The truths of number, of form, of relationship in position, were all originally drawn from objects; and to present these truths to the child in the concrete is to let him learn them as the race learned them." HERBERT SPENCER.

"If we consider it, we shall find that exhaustive observation is an element of all great success." HERBERT SPENCER.

"Learn to comprehend each thing in its entire history. This is the maxim of science guided by the reason." WM. T. HARRIS.

"Geometrical facts and conceptions are easier to a child than those of arithmetic." THOMAS HILL.

"Instruction must begin with actual inspection, not with verbal descriptions of things. From such inspection it is that certain knowledge comes. What is actually seen remains faster in the memory than description or enumeration a hundred times as often repeated." COMENIUS.

"Observation is the absolute basis of all knowledge. The first object, then, in education, must be to lead the child to observe with accuracy; the second, to express with correctness the results of his observation." PESTALOZZI.

"If in the external universe any one constructive principle can be detected, it is the geometrical." BULWER-LYTTON.

"The education of the senses neglected, all after-education partakes of a drowsiness, a haziness, an insufficiency, which it is impossible to cure." LORD BACON.

"Of this thing be certain: Wouldst thou plant for eternity? Then plant into the deep infinite faculties of man, his fantasy and heart. Wouldst thou plant for year and day? Then plant into his shallow, superficial faculties, his self-love, and arithmetical understanding, what will grow there." THOS. CARLYLE.


"I wish to find the right forms for awakening the higher senses of the child: what symbol does my ball offer to him? That of unity."

"The ball connects the child with nature as much as the universe connects man with God." FRIEDRICH FROEBEL.

"Line in nature is not found, Unit and Universe are round."

"Nature centres into balls." R. W. EMERSON.

"From thy hand The worlds were cast; yet every leaflet claims From that same hand its little shining sphere Of starlit dew." O. W. HOLMES.

"The Small, a sphere as perfect as the Great To the soul's absoluteness." ROBERT BROWNING.

1. The first gift consists of six soft woolen balls colored in the six standard colors derived from the spectrum, namely, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet.

The balls should be provided with strings for use in the various motions.[1]

[1] "The string unites the ball, symbol of the outer world, with the child, and is the means by which it can act upon his inner nature." (E. G. Seymour.)

2. Froebel chose the ball as the first gift because it is the simplest shape, and the one from which all others may subsequently be derived; the shape most easily grasped by the hand as well as by the mind. It is an object which attracts by its pleasing color, and one which, viewed from all directions, ever makes the same impression.[2]

[2] "The Egyptians and the Greeks hung geometrical forms over their cradles, so as to strike the eyes of the child with lawful relations. Froebel introduces colored balls for the same purpose, which, considering the psychological and emotional condition of the child, leads to the joyful conception of motion, color, and life." (Emma Marwedel.)

3. The most important characteristics of the gift are Unity, Activity, Color.

The various colors serve to distinguish these several playmates of the child by special characteristics, and enable him to make his first clear analyses or abstractions, since the color is the only point wherein the objects differ. This contrast in color results in the abstraction of color from form.

4. Since the ball is the most mobile of inanimate shapes, it may be considered as the "opposite equal" of the living organism. The quickness and ease of its motion as well as its elasticity cause the child to regard it as instinct with life, while its softness renders him able to grasp and handle it readily.

Its material is also of great advantage in that it lessens the possibility of startling noises which would distract the child from the contemplation of its qualities. By its use, he is first led to observation, and then to self-expression. As the simplest type-form as well as the most universal, it offers a satisfactory basis for the classification of objects in general; while its indefiniteness and adaptability make it a useful medium for the expression of the child's vague ideas. With the ball we give first impressions of Unity, Form, Color, Material, Mobility, Motion, Direction, and Position. The ball songs and plays are used as the first exercises in language, singing, and rhythm.

5. As the kindergarten gifts are designed to serve as an alphabet of form, by whose use the child may learn to read all material objects, it follows that they must form an organically connected sequence, moving in logical order from an object which contains all qualities, but directly emphasizes none, to objects more specialized in nature, and therefore more definitely suggestive as to use.

"Each successive gift in the series must not only be implicit in, but demanded by, its predecessor;" so Froebel selects the ball, with its simplicity but great adaptability, for the starting-point of his series.

6. Connected contrasts of Motion, Direction, and Position are shown in the first gift. By the use of pigments, the so-called secondary colors, purple, orange, and green, may be produced from the opposite hues, red and blue, red and yellow, and blue and yellow.

"The mind is aroused to attention and led to comparison by contrasts; on the groundwork of comparison, it is enabled to do the work of classification, of clear abstraction, of the formation of definite ideas by the connection of these contrasts."[3]

[3] "Suppose, e. g., that the child, by dint of repeated and varied playing with the blue ball of the first gift, has succeeded in getting a tolerably clear notion of the blue ball. If then you bring the yellow ball to his notice, his mind will be led to examine more closely and to compare the two playthings, resembling each other so fully in every respect, yet differing so widely in color. The other balls of the gift are introduced in judicious succession, offering new yet milder contrasts: these reconcile, combine, the contrasts first offered; they are aided in this by the colors of surrounding objects. The child begins to feel that these color impressions, however widely they differ, have a similar source; he is connecting the contrasts, and as he succeeds in this, he succeeds, too, in separating, abstracting, the ball from its color." (W. N. Hailmann.)

* * * * *

The Ball a Universal Plaything.

"The presentiment of truth always goes before the recognition of it," says Froebel; and it would seem, indeed, as it, in selecting the first gift, he looked far back into the past of humanity, and there sought the thread which from the beginning connects all times and leads to the farthest future.

"The ball is the last plaything of men, as well as the first with children." In Kreutzer's "Symbolik" we read that the educators of the young god Bacchus gave him golden balls to play with, and also that the youthful princes of Persia played with them, and alone had this privilege.

It is a significant fact that we find balls even among the remains of the Lake Dwellers of Northern Italy and Switzerland, while small, round balls, resembling marbles, have been found in the early Egyptian tombs. The Teutons made ball-plays national, and built houses in which to indulge in these exercises in all sections of Germany, as late as the close of the sixteenth century. The ancient Aztecs used the game of ball as a training in warfare for the young men of the nation; and that it was considered of great importance is evident from the fact that the tribute exacted by a certain Aztec monarch from some of the cities conquered by him consisted of balls, and amounted to sixteen thousand annually.

The ball entered into many of the favorite games alike of the Greeks and the Romans, the former having a special place in their gymnasiums and a special master for it. It may be noted also that nearly all our modern sports are based upon the effort to get possession of a ball.

Froebel's Ideas of First Gift.

Froebel considered the ball as an external counterpart of the child in the first stages of his development, its undivided unity corresponding to his mental condition, and its movableness to his instinctive activity. Through its recognition he is led to separate himself from the external world, and the external world from himself.[4]

[4] "But as he grows he gathers much, And learns the use of 'I' and 'me,' And finds 'I am not that I see, And other than the things I touch.'

"So rounds he to a separate mind From whence clear memory may begin, As through the frame that binds him in His isolation grows defined." Tennyson's In Memoriam.

Froebel's intention was that the first gift should be used in the nursery,[5] but as this is for the most part neglected, or imperfectly and unwisely done, we begin the series of kindergarten play-lessons with it, illustrating its qualities and asking questions concerning them, always diversifying the exercises with rhymes, games, and songs. We must remember that to the young child, as to primitive man, the activity of an object is more pleasing than its qualities, and we should therefore devise a series of games with the fascinating plaything which will lead the child to learn these qualities by practical experience.

[5] Many suggestions for the use of the ball in the nursery may be found in Froebel's Pedagogics of the Kindergarten, translated by Josephine Jarvis.

Manner of Introduction.

Before beginning any exercise we should fully decide in our own minds the main point or points to be brought out,—Color, Form, or Direction, for example; then, and only then, will the child gain a clear, definite impression, and have a distinct remembrance of what we have been trying to teach. By way of diversion, every song or rhyme in which the ball can play a symbolic part in action, and illustrate the point we wish to make, is of use in the lessons.[6]

[6] See Kindergarten Chimes (Kate D. Wiggin), pages 22-32, Oliver Ditson Publishing Co.

With this dainty colored plaything we begin our first bit of education,—not instruction, mere pouring in, but true education, drawing out, developing. The balls should be kept in a pretty basket, as the beautiful should be cultivated in every way in the true kindergarten; and when they are given to the class, it should be with some little song sung by the kindergartner or one of the older children. At the close of the lesson, as the basket is passed, each child may gently drop his ball into it, saying simply, "Thank you for my ball," or naming its color. At other times they may be called by the names of fruits or flowers, the child saying, "I will give you a cherry," or, "I will give you a violet."

Method of Introduction.

The qualities of the ball must of course be brought before the child's observation in some more or less definite order, and it will be profitable to consider the relative claims of Form and Color to the first place.

We might say, correctly, that to illustrate the ball, we should begin with its essential qualities.[7] The essential quality is Unity. Unity depends on Form, and the ball's form never changes; therefore we might conclude that this should be the first subject under consideration, since we always treat of the universal properties of objects before special ones, proceeding from homogeneous to heterogeneous. This view of the subject is supported by Ratich's important maxim, "First the thing, and then its properties."

[8] "The infant begins to examine forms from the commencement of his existence; for without this knowledge it is doubtful if he could distinguish one object from another, or even be aware of an external world. Gradually he begins to know objects apart and to recognize them, and in time discerns resemblances which cause him to classify them."—W. W. Speer's Form Lessons.

Conrad Diehl.

On the other hand, Conrad Diehl says: "Color is the first sensation of which an infant is capable. With the first ray of light that enters the retina of the eye, the presence of color forces itself on the mind.... When light is present, color is present. The first impression which the eye receives of an object is its color; its form is revealed by the action of light upon its surfaces. We recognize at a distance the color of a leaf, an apple, a flower or berry, long before we are able distinctly to make out their forms. In the absence of light, neither the color nor the form of an object can be seen."[8]

[8] Conrad Diehl's Elements of Ornamentation and Color.

Herbert Spencer.

Spencer says:[9] "The earliest impressions which the mind can assimilate are those given to it by the undecomposable sensations, resistance, light, sound, etc. Manifestly decomposable states of consciousness cannot exist before the states of consciousness out of which they are composed. There can be no idea of form until some familiarity with light in its gradations and qualities, or resistance in its different intensities, has been acquired; for, as has long been known, we recognize visible form by means of varieties of light, and tangible form by means of varieties of resistance. Similarly, no articulate sound is cognizable until the inarticulate sounds which go to make it up have been learned. And thus must it be in every other case."[10]

[9] Education, page 130.

[10] "That priority of color to form which, as already pointed out, has a psychological basis, and in virtue of which psychological basis arises this strong preference in the child, should be recognized from the very beginning."—Spencer's Education.


The balance of authority seems to be, on the whole, upon the side of presenting color first to the young child, as we appeal to the emotions at this age rather than to the intellect; and while the senses revel in color, form follows more the law of use. Let us hear, however, what the "great pioneer of child study" says upon this point. Froebel says, as distinct and different as color and form may be in themselves, they are to the young child indivisible, as inseparable as body and life. Nay, the idea of color seems to come to the child, as perhaps to mankind in general, through the forms; so, on the other hand, the forms gain prominence and impressiveness by the colors. Hence ideas of colors must at first be coupled with ideas of form, and vice versa; color and form are in the beginning an undivided unity.[11]

[11] "A person born blind, and suddenly enabled to see, would at first have no conception of in or out (of eye), and would be conscious of colors only, not of objects; when by his sense of touch he became acquainted with objects, and had time to associate mentally the objects he touched with the colors he saw, then, and not till then, would he begin to see objects."—Preyer's Mind of the Child, page 58.

"Color cannot be abstracted from that which gives it vitality,—i. e., Form,—from which it cannot be abstracted without rendering the color flat and meaningless." (Geo. L. Schreiber.)

The color and form of the ball being indissolubly blended in the child's eyes, we can scarcely teach them separately at first. We may, however, consider each by itself, in order to present the subject more clearly.


To teach form in an interesting manner, to make it plain to the child without giving him any terms, but rather coaxing him by ingenuity to formulate his own knowledge, is a difficult thing to do, and should not be attempted at all with very young children. It seems unnecessary to say that Froebel did not intend the ball should be made a medium of object lessons for babies, although this distorted view of his idea seems to have entered the minds of some critics.

The child, when old enough to enter a kindergarten, will generally know round objects, and be somewhat familiar with the ball already in his home plays. We should let him roll and grasp it in his tiny fingers, till gradually, in comparison with other objects handled in the same way, he notices the absence of corners, edges, or any obstructions which would meet his touch or eye. Then we may ask him if he could make a ball out of a rough block of wood which we show. Some bright little one will guess that a carpenter could do it with his tools. "What would he have to do?" "Plane it off," will perhaps be the answer. "Where and how is he to plane?" may be the next inquiry, and the child often answers, "All the rough parts and the parts that stick out." "Why does he like to play ball?" He does not know exactly. "Would he like to play ball with the scissors?" "Why not?" "Then why does he like to feel the ball in his hand?"

After such preliminary conversations upon the form of the ball, we may lead the children first to note other round things in the room, and then to recall what they have at home of a similar shape and what they may have seen in the streets. These exercises are always delightful to the little ones, and are invaluable to the kindergartner, as they furnish a thorough test of the child's comprehension of the subject she has been handling.[12] We should notice slight divergences from the spherical form in the objects the children name, and speak of them. They will soon be able to tell in every case where the egg or cobblestone is not "just round."

[12] "Finding forms of the same general shape as those taken as types is of the highest importance. Unless this is done, pupils are not learning to pass from the particular to the general. They are not taught to see many things through the one, and the impression they gain is that the particular forms observed are the only forms of this kind. Unless that which the pupil observes aids him in interpreting something else, it is of no value to him. Certain things are taught that through them other things may be seen. Pupils should not be trained to see for the sake of the seeing, but that they may have the power to see." W. W. Speer, Lessons in Form.

They will of course mention stove-lids, dinner-plates, etc., as round objects, and the attempt to give a clear and definite understanding of the difference between solids and planes is difficult at first, but they very soon discriminate between rounding objects that possess thickness and those that are flat but have curved edges. A ball of putty or one of dough is a good thing with which to illustrate this difference.

We must remember that any abstract teaching on Form is too difficult at this time, much more difficult than Color. Let the children, during these first few weeks, draw circles on the blackboard and on paper, and sew, and draw pictures of balls, peaches, or round fruits; they may also make balls of wax, dough, or clay. Rousseau says, "A child may forget what he sees, and sooner still what is said to him, but he never forgets what he has made."


"The comprehension of the single tone of color gradually leads to the comprehension of the full chord; the recognition of single colors leads to the recognition of shades and their harmonious connections: thus, step by step, the capacity of comprehending nature in its beauty and with its treasures is developed."[13]

[13] Emma Marwedel, Childhood's Poetry and Studies, page 35.

Again, suppose the play-lesson for the day to be upon Color. Of course, the subject may be handled in a dozen different ways and serve for a dozen different lessons; a few hints only are here given, as in matters of detail it is better that each teacher should be free and unguided in the use of her own ingenuity.

We may take, perhaps, the red[14] ball, and, holding it high in the air, ask, "Who has a ball exactly like mine? Look carefully, now, and then show me." A volley of balls, comprising every color in the rainbow, will be shot into the air, and then becomes necessary the task of discrimination. We may find the red ones, and gratify the children by naming those who possess them, as it seems a great honor in their eyes. Now they should be led to find every bit of red in the room,—Andrew's stockings, Mary's ribbon, the tiny pipings on Katie's apron, Jim's necktie, your belt, the flowers on the wall, etc. The scene will become intensely exciting; the bright eyes will begin searching in every corner of the room, and the transport which will greet us when anything far out of sight and of the right color is discovered is truly refreshing.

[14] Professor Earl Barnes, of Stanford University, reports that in his various color experiments on the Pacific Coast, 1000 children having been studied, a very large majority selected red as their favorite color.

All the children, as far as possible, should be engaged in this diversion, while the most timid and backward should be kept near and encouraged with word and smile. The name of the color should not be asked for, or given, till it can be matched by all, and found in surrounding objects.

We may ask what flowers they have seen which were like the color they are studying, and show them some of the more familiar kinds; also speak of the action of the sun in making certain fruits red,—the raspberries and strawberries, for instance. Some rosy-faced little urchin in the class may be chosen and asked how he keeps such red cheeks, and from this the idea of red as the color of warmth and life may be developed. We may proceed with blue and yellow, then with violet, orange, and green, in like manner, constantly diversifying the exercises with plays, songs, and appropriate stories.

Hints on Additional Color Exercises.

The formation of the so-called secondary colors will not be very obvious to the younger children, nor is the fact to be taught scientifically or learned by them; they will, however, be greatly interested in the mixing of paints in small dishes, or the blending of different colored crayons on the blackboard.

Red and Yellow into Orange. Yellow and Blue into Green. Blue and Red into Purple.

Pieces of glass are serviceable objects with which to show the same thing, or we can buy the "gelatine films" from any kindergarten supply store. Holding the red and yellow, one on the other, for instance, the piece nearer the eye will, of course, determine the shade; if the red piece be next the eye, the orange color will be deeper than if the yellow were in the same position. None of these experiments, however, will produce pure colors, the green and purple being especially unsatisfactory.

Among the devices with which to teach color may be recommended a color quilt made of various shades and shapes of woolens and silks or ribbons. This may be used as a sort of chart, to the great delight of the children, and is one of the valuable aids in teaching, because it calls out both individual and general action. We may also make a clothes-line of twine and suspend it from door to door, or between any two suitable points, attaching to it pieces of all colors, and, after a while, of various tints and shades of worsted, letting the children touch the ones designated, or find bits of the same color as their balls.

Cards wound with different tints and shades of the same color are also useful when the children have developed greater powers of discrimination, and a chart or map may be made by pasting colored squares, triangles, oblongs, or circles on a ground of gray Bristol board.

Then, too, we may have a box of tablets of the simple geometrical figures, and, giving a quantity to the children, let them arrange the different colors in separate rows.

Children of all ages will be fascinated by the spectrum, "Nature's palette of pure colors," which the sunlight streaming through a prism shows upon the wall; and as it can be supplemented by a spectrum chart for cloudy days, they will delight to arrange their colored papers to imitate it. The older children will gain much valuable knowledge by experimenting with the color tops, and if a color wheel with the accompanying Maxwell disks can be obtained, the materials for color education will be quite complete.

It must not be forgotten that the purpose of all these exercises is that the child may learn to know the six standards, and subsequently their intermediates, and may in time learn to use and combine them harmoniously. It is, therefore, essential that the colors supplied him shall be fresh and pure,[15] and that he not only have freedom to make his own experiments, but materials to preserve them in permanent form when they prove successful.

[15] "Care should be taken, in the selection of all materials for color lessons, to get as perfect foundation colors as possible; no faded or poor shades are allowable, as they lead the child astray."

When the children are just making friends with the teacher and with each other, it is very interesting and profitable for them to formulate their mite of knowledge into a sentence, each one holding his ball high in the air with the right hand, and saying:—

My ball is red like a cherry. My ball is yellow like a lemon. My ball is blue like the sky. My ball is orange like a marigold. My ball is green like the grass. My ball is violet like a plum.

We should not, however, allow this to degenerate into mere recitation, but let the child find his own objects of comparison, and change them when he chooses for any others that occur to him. This prevents parrot repetition, and gives room for individuality and real self-expression.


The child of three or four years has seldom any conception of the terms:—

Right——Left. Here ——There. Up ——Down. Near ——Far. Over ——Under. Front——Back.

Even if he has a dim idea of direction, he cannot express himself regarding it, nor is he certain enough of his knowledge to be able to move or place the ball according to dictation.

Motion is always easy and delightful to the child, and therefore he will move his ball in different directions, as the words and music suggest, when he would be too timid to express a thought, and is willing and happy to do in unison what he would hesitate to do by himself.

The ball may be made a starting-point in giving the child an idea of various simple facts about objects in general, and in illustrating in movements the many terms with which we wish him to become familiar. The meaning of the terms to swing, hop, jump, roll, spring, run away, come back, fall, draw, bounce, and push may be taught by a like movement of the ball, urging the child to give his own interpretation of the motions in words. All the children may then make their balls hop, spring, roll, or swing at the same time, accompanying the movements by appropriate rhymes.

The ball is more purely a plaything than anything which the child receives in the kindergarten, and its mobility is so charming, it so easily slips from his hands and travels so delightfully far when dropped, that exercises with it soon become riotous if not carefully guided. Every play-lesson on the ball should close with some active exercise in which the children may indulge their wish for a game with their dear playfellow, and in which they may also gain greater skill and learn practically the laws of motion.

When sitting at their tables, each pair of children may roll a ball to and fro, all beginning at the same moment; or the first pair may begin, the second and third follow, and so on until all are rolling. They may throw balls against the wall, or toss them in the air, or throw them alternately first in the air, then against the wall; they may toss them to each other at increasing distances. The whole company of children may be arranged in two rows and throw the balls to each other in unison, or they may pass them from hand to hand as in a Wandering Game,—all the exercises being accompanied with appropriate songs or rhymes.

The laws of incidence and reflection may be simply taught by leading the children to note that if they strike the ball straight against the wall it will bound straight back, and then asking them to see if it returns when thrown in a slanting direction.

Symbolic Stage of Child's Development.

In order to present the ball in a more attractive light in the kindergarten, to suit it to the symbolic stage of the child's development, and to bring it nearer to his sympathies, we constantly, in our play, suppose it to be something which it resembles in certain of its characteristics. By its color, it may represent a fruit, a flower, or a gayly dressed child; by its form, an egg, a downy chicken, a tiny duckling; by its mobility, a bird, a squirrel, a baby; or when fastened to its string, a bucket in the well, a toy wagon, a pendulum, or a pet lamb tethered by the roadside.

The child is always at home in the world of "make-believe," and delights in the stories and the many charming songs to which this imaginative use of the ball gives rise.

Perhaps we may wisely remind ourselves, however, that though the child's fancy is most vivid, and though the ball is well adapted to represent many objects, yet if it resemble in no single point the thing to which we liken it, we are indulging in empty imaginings which will only hinder the child's comprehension of truth.[16]

[16] "The resemblance of the symbol to the thing signified is a very important matter in education, especially in kindergarten education."—Geo. P. Brown, Essentials of Educational Psychology.

Cooperative Exercises.

The teacher who truly understands the great principles on which Froebel built the kindergarten will ever be mindful of one of the highest of these,—"the brotherly union of those who are like-minded." Even in the simple plays with the first gift, group work is easily possible. The stringing of the first gift beads or the supplementary modeling in clay may be made into a cooperative exercise, the work with the balls at the sand-table may have a similar aim, and many of the ball games are well fitted to unite the whole community of children, older and younger, in a common aim, a common purpose.[17]

[17] "If, therefore, genuine brotherliness, ... consideration and respect for playmates and fellow-men, are again to become prevalent, they can become so only by being connected with the feeling of community abiding in each man (however much or little of it may be found), and by fostering this feeling with the greatest care."—Friedrich Froebel, Education of Man, page 74.

What we should strive for.

We must remember that on a carefully prepared plan of procedure depends much of the value of any system of education; therefore we must decide, when the child comes under our tutelage, what we wish to accomplish and what shall be our method of accomplishing it; and yet as the first gift is not the last, as it is but the first link in a chain of related objects, it is obvious that it must be chiefly useful as a starting-point. Each lesson should be carefully studied by the teacher, for the foundation is being laid for all future acquisition.

The kindergarten gifts are designed to lead to the mastery of material objects, but at the same time they are always connected with the child's experience and affection by being often transported into the region of fancy and feeling in a blending of realism and symbolism. Omitting everything which has reference to the moral and physical development, and speaking now only of that which is intellectual, what we should strive for at the beginning is that the child may acquire a habit of quick observation, with clear and precise expression; that in due time he may see not only quickly, but accurately; in short, that a slight degree of judgment may begin to attend his perceptions, so that he may know as well as observe. It is not enough to awaken the curiosity of a child, and to heap up in his memory a mass of good materials which will combine of themselves in due time, and which the brain when more highly developed will arrange in systematic groups; we should endeavor as far as possible to control the first impressions which sink unconsciously into a child's mind, but still more careful should we be in the selection of those later ones which we try to inculcate, and of the links which we wish to establish between such and such perceptions, sentiments, or actions.

We should seek to develop, side by side with the perceptions, the faculty of judging and acting rightly.

To give a child very little to observe at a time, but to make him observe that little well and rightly, is the true way of forming and storing his mind.

The process of receiving an idea must be through sensation, attention, and perception, conception and judgment being later processes. The curiosity to know must be kept alive, for it is our greatest ally, and the imagination must be fed, for the child remembers only what interests him.

Recognizing what is to be accomplished, we say, then:—

a. The ball is one of the first means used in awakening and developing the dawning consciousness and growing faculties of the child.

b. The beginning must be well made, or no later step will seem clear.

c. If the first opportunity which occurs of dealing with the gift (or with any instrumentality of education) is wasted, interest on the part of the child is permanently lessened.

d. The mind retains clear impressions in proportion to the degree of spontaneous interest and attention with which they are received.

e. The law of diminishing interest decrees that each point in a successful exercise shall be more interesting than the previous one.

f. The lessons must not be confined to so narrow a channel that they become monotonous, and they must leave room for the child to develop and not attempt to prescribe his mental action.

Tiedemann says: "Liberty of action even in imitated actions is one of the conditions of a child's happiness; besides that, it has the effect of exercising and developing all his faculties. Example is the first tutor, and liberty the second, in the order of evolution; but the second is the better one, for it has inclination for its assistant."


From Cradle to School. Bertha Meyer. Pages 118-20. Education. Herbert Spencer. 128-40. Kindergarten Culture. W. N. Hailmann. 41-46. Education. E. Seguin. 7, 8. The Kindergarten. Emily Shirreff. 10. Kindergarten at Home. Emily Shirreff. 46. Reminiscences of Froebel. Von Marenholtz-Buelow. 208, 209. Lectures on Child-Culture. W. N. Hailmann. 24. Kindergarten Guide. J. and B. Ronge. 1-3. Koehler's Kindergarten Practice. Tr. by Mary Gurney. 5-12. Child-Culture. Henry Barnard. 567, 568, 570-75. Education of Man. Fr. Froebel. Tr. by J. Jarvis. 105, 106, 206. Lectures to Kindergartners. E. P. Peabody. 30, 31, 38, 39, 44-51. Pedagogics of the Kindergarten. Fr. Froebel. Tr. by J. Jarvis. 31-69. Paradise of Childhood. Edward Wiebe. 7-9. Law of Childhood. W. N. Hailmann. 31-33. Kindergarten Guide. Kraus-Boelte. 1-15. Froebel and Education by Self-Activity. H. Courthope Bowen. 136-38. Childhood's Poetry and Studies. E. Marwedel. Part I. 7-15. Childhood's Poetry and Studies. E. Marwedel. Part II. 6-17. A System of Child-Culture. E. Marwedel. 1-5. The Dawn of History. A. Keary. 44-47. Hints to Teachers. E. Marwedel. 5, 6. Froebel's Letters. Tr. by Michaelis and Moore. 83-85, 98, 101-03, 107, 176, 220. Conscious Motherhood. E. Marwedel. 106, 107, 118, 119, 153, 162-64, 170-74, 256-62, 291-96.


"From the ball as a symbol of unity, we pass over in a consecutive manner to the manifoldness of form in the cube."

"The child has an intimation in the cube of the unity which lies at the foundation of all manifoldness, and from which the latter proceeds." FRIEDRICH FROEBEL.

"Notice has now become observation, and observation leads to discrimination. He sees and is curious by nature, but it belongs to us to lead him to observe and inquire." EMILY SHIRREFF.

1. Froebel's second gift consists of a wooden sphere, cube, and cylinder, two inches in diameter (as now made), with rods and standards for revolution.[18]

[18] "The wooden sphere has no string like the balls of the first gift, because the child no longer needs the outward connection; he now realizes the spiritual connection between himself and the outer world." (E. G. Seymour.)

2. In the first gift the child received objects of the same shape and size but of different colors, thus learning to separate color from form. In the second gift he receives unlike objects, and learns to distinguish them from each other by their individual peculiarities. The first gift suggests unity, and leads to the detection of resemblances; the second suggests variety or manifoldness, and emphasizes contrasts.

3. The most important characteristic of the gift is contrast of form, leading to the distinction of different objects. The mediation of contrasts here suggests the connection of all objects, however widely separated.

4. The purpose of the gift is to stimulate observation and comparison by presentation of striking contrasts, and to afford new bases for the classification of objects. Spencer says that any systematic ministrations to the perceptions ought to be based upon the general truth that in the development of every faculty markedly contrasted impressions are the first to be distinguished; that hence sounds greatly differing in loudness and pitch, colors very remote from each other, and substances widely removed in hardness or texture should be the first supplied; and that in each case the progression must be by slow degrees to impressions more nearly allied.[19]

[19] Education, page 132.

5. The geometrical forms illustrated in this gift are:—

{ Sphere. { Cube. Solids. { Cylinder. { Double Cone. } Seen in motion. { Conoid. }

Planes. { Circles. { Squares.

6. The sphere and cube are sharply contrasting forms, and the cylinder illustrates the connecting link between the two, possessing characteristics of both.

"The cylinder is the first example Froebel gives of the intermediate transition—forms connecting opposites, which he explains as the very ground plan of Nature, and on which his fundamental law of contrasts and connection of contrasts, the law of all harmonious development and creative industry, is based."[20]

[20] E. Shirreff.

* * * * *

Points to be noted in each New Gift.

"That which follows is always conditioned upon that which goes before,"[21] says Froebel, and he makes this apparent to children through his educational processes; the gifts show this idea in concrete form.

[21] "We cannot evolve what has not first been involved."

In entering upon a consideration of the second gift one thing cannot fail to impress us, and that is the continuous development in each new set of objects placed before the child; together with an increase of difficulty or complexity which is never without a corresponding forethought, careful arrangement, and attention to logical sequence; thus the newly introduced objects can never seem unnatural to him.

We shall find that in every new gift or occupation there is always a suggestion of the last, enough to make it a pleasant reminder of knowledge gained and difficulties surmounted, and so the child sees not everything painfully strange, but something which at least recalls to his mind his former friend and familiar playfellow.[22]

[22] "Nothing charms us more than the recognition of the old in the new. The man who hurries through a foreign city, indifferent and inattentive to the passing crowd, feels a quick thrill of pleasure when in the midst of all the strangers he recognizes a familiar face." (E. Minhinnick.)

Method of Attack in First Exercise.

In the first lesson with the second gift the child will quickly see the similarities between his former worsted ball and his new companion, the wooden sphere. Let him take these two balls together, and find out the similarities and dissimilarities, remembering that before he compares objects consciously, experiences should invariably be given him.

We should always draw attention to the universal properties of things first and then proceed to the specific. The qualities common to all objects are the universal ones: Form, Size, Color, Material, etc. The invariable rule should be: simple before complex, concrete before abstract, unity before variety, universal qualities before special ones.

If we are in doubt as to whether we shall first direct attention to the similarities or to the dissimilarities between the ball and sphere, we may recall the educational maxim, "The child's eye always at first seizes the analogous, the point of union, the whole connection of things, and only after that begins to discern differences and opposition."[23]

[23] "The infant mind is transparent to resemblance, but opaque to difference."—Susan E. Blow, Symbolic Education, page 83.

Ball and Sphere.

In comparing the ball and the sphere the child will observe, in the first place that they are both round and both roll equally well, but that one has color, one being without; one is soft, the other hard; one quiet, one noisy; one a little rough to the touch, the other velvet smooth. He should find for and by himself, aided by our suggestive questioning, the reasons for these evident differences.

It is absolutely necessary that each child should have one of the boxes containing the solids, or at least the three forms of the gift without the box, rods, and standards, and examine them thoroughly and often as he will be glad to do.

If the solids as ordinarily manufactured are too costly for a kindergartner of limited means, she can substitute large marbles, blocks, and linen thread spools; the material does not matter so long as each child has the objects to handle.

Value of the Discriminative Power; Method by which it may be developed.

We need not be distressed if the lessons are a little noisy when the children are making the acquaintance of these wonderful new friends. To be sure they will pound the wooden forms heartily up and down on the table (if they are three-year old babies, they certainly would and should do so); but within bounds what does it matter? If it can be arranged so that other classes shall not be disturbed, and each child can have the same opportunity for experimenting as his neighbor, there will be no great harm done.

We are endeavoring to rouse all the latent energies of the child by the presentation of these objects to his observation, and he must have full liberty to make the various experiments which suggest themselves to him. His desire to hear the sound of the objects is so manifest that it would be folly to try and thwart it. It is far better to use the desire for educational purposes and divert it into the channel of systematized noise. Let us suppose that we are carpenters today and pound the wooden objects on the floor in exact time with a building song; let us play we are drummer boys and tap with our drumsticks for the soldiers to march; or shall we make believe that the sphere is a woodpecker and let it tap on the trees while we recite some simple little rhyme?[24]

[24] For second gift songs, see Kindergarten Chimes (Kate D. Wiggin), pages 32, 33, Oliver Ditson Publishing Co.

"This craving of young children for information," says Bernard Perez, "is an emotional and intellectual absorbing power, as dominant as the appetite for nutrition, and equally needing to be watched over and regulated."

It is not alone the noise of the sphere which delights the child,[25] though this is always pleasing,—it is the knowledge he is gaining, the new ideas that dawn upon him for the first time in recognizable form. It is, in fact, a knowledge of cause and effect. He has often dropped the woolen ball and pounded it on the table, and it produced no sound. He does the same with the sphere and recognizes the difference. He will begin to experiment with other objects, by and by to classify his knowledge, and finally, he will see and remember that like causes produce like effects, and in progressing thus far will have made a tremendous stride. The child will see all the more clearly, in comparing the woolen ball and wooden sphere, the difference between soft and hard, rough and smooth, light and heavy, if he is allowed to perform his own experiments.

[25] "The sound is a yet higher sign of life to the child, as he then, and also later, likes to lend speech to all dumb things; therefore he also desires to hear sound and speech from everything."—Froebel's Pedagogics, page 72.

The Cube.

We will now turn to the investigation of the cube and open a new world of information to the child, and here we seem to deviate a little from the famous educational maxim, "Proceed from the known to the unknown," and almost to make a leap into the dark. However, we very soon give the cylinder, and thus connect the opposites. Here he meets a dazzling quantity of new appearances; the square sides or faces, and the many edges and corners, all of which must be viewed in comparison with the sphere. We can give him an experience of the faces of the cube without conscious analysis, by letting the ball roll against them.

Mediation of Contrasts.

Of course we shall see the underlying idea of the gift to be the connection of opposites. Not too much can be said of this law, so all-important and significant in Froebel's system.[26] We should bear it constantly in mind, and bring it in connection with every new phase of our work. Froebel cannot be understood clearly unless this deep principle, which lies at the very root of his system, is appreciated and comprehended. At the same time it is, when formulated, an abstract and metaphysical statement, which one cannot grasp at once, but to which one must grow.

[26] "But each thing is recognized only when it is connected with the opposite of its kind, and when the union, accord, similitude with this object are found; and the connection with the opposite, and the discovery of the uniting, renders the recognition so much the more complete."—Froebel's Education of Man, page 26.

It may be said that comparatively few kindergartners know its value; nevertheless knowledge of this kind can never be useless or fruitless to the person who is forming the mind of the child, and who should be a perfect mistress of her science and her art.

Value of Contrasts.

These contrasts of the second gift, and all contrasts, arouse the mind to attention. We can have no judgment without comparison. We should have no idea of heat or darkness if we had not a conception of cold and light; the quality of sweetness would have no meaning if its opposite did not serve to stimulate comparison.

The sphere is sharply contrasted with the cube, so that there may be a ready perception of the striking qualities of both. The more abrupt the contrast the more readily noticed and described; for it takes a more developed eye to discern the difference between a sphere and a spheroid, for instance, than between a sphere and a cube.

The contrasts of the first gift were contrasts of color, mediations of them being shown also, and contrasts of direction and position or situation. Another point less readily seen in the first gift perhaps was Froebel's thought that the ball, in its perfect simplicity and unity, when first given to the young child, is regarded by him as another contrasted individuality, almost as capable of life in its varied movements as he is himself.

Mobility of Sphere.

The sphere is the symbol of motion, the cube the embodiment of rest, and the fact should be illustrated in divers ways. We may, for instance, place the sphere near the rim of a plate, and by inclining the latter a little, the sphere will roll rapidly round its own axis and round the rim. A few simple little rhymes may be taught, which the children may say or sing together while the sphere is journeying rapidly round and round the plate, for, as Froebel says, the thought always grows clearer to the child when word and motion go hand in hand.

Sphere and Cube.

The cube can only be moved, on the contrary, when force is exerted, and then it merely slides, to stop when the force is removed. The children will soon see why the cube is so lazily inclined, and why the sphere is ever rolling, rolling about, scarcely to be kept still, for by various experiments we may show that the sphere stands only on a little part of its face, the cube on the whole.

The sphere is always the same in whatever way regarded, and to whatever tests subjected. It is always an emblem of unity, and cannot be robbed of its simplicity, its unity, its freedom from all that is puzzling.

The cube, on the contrary, being made to revolve on any one of its axes, constantly shows a different aspect, so that the child views it as a very extraordinary little block, full of fascinating surprises and whimsical apparitions.

It is put upon the string, and, when whirled rapidly, mysteriously loses its identity, and appears to the little one's laughing gaze as an entirely different object; and yet as the motion grows more sedate, the new form fades away and the cube reappears so quickly as to make him rub his eyes and wonder if he has been dreaming.

Counting Faces.

The square faces of the cube, in comparison with the one curved, unbroken surface of the sphere, must now be noted, and may be counted if we are using the gift as a means of instruction.

We must beware, however, of making this counting exercise into a lesson, or requiring that the number of faces shall be learned and recited. Every teacher of experience will corroborate Mr. W. N. Hailmann when he says: "If the kindergartner sets the cube before the child and counts the faces, edges, and corners, so that he may 'know all about it,' the child's interest, if born at all, will soon die."

If the faces are counted, as they are all so exactly alike, the children may sometimes be puzzled as to the number, by enumerating the same one more than once. This difficulty may be obviated by pasting a paper square of a different color on each face, and then submitting it to examination, giving each child an opportunity to count, since independent self-activity is to be more and more encouraged.

If the faces, edges, and corners be made the integral point of an interesting story or play, the child will have little difficulty in recalling their number and character, but we must remember that "lively interest and steady progress come only from following and feeding the child's purposes."


We now proceed to the cylinder, the reconciliation of the two opposites; an object which having qualities possessed by both occupies a middle ground in which each has something in common.

Froebel originally took the doll[27] as the intermediate form "uniting in itself the opposites of the sphere and cube," and thus showed that he understood child nature well, for no toy follows the ball with greater certainty than the doll.

[27] "But now as man both unites the single, which finds its limits in itself, and the manifold, which is constantly developing, and reconciles them within himself as opposites, there results also to the child from both, from sphere and cube outwardly united, the expression of the animate and active, especially as embodied in the doll."—Froebel's Pedagogics, page 106.

The cylinder, however, was subsequently selected, as being more in line with the other geometrical forms shown in the sequence of gifts. It is as easily moved as the sphere, upon one side; as prone to rest as the cube, when placed upon the other; it has the curved surface of the sphere and the flat faces of the cube; it has no corners but two curved edges; more edges than the sphere, fewer than the cube; less unity than the sphere, more than the cube.

Its importance as a mediation, or connecting link, is further shown by suspending the cube on a string, by which it may be twisted rapidly and caused to revolve; in this motion a cylinder being readily seen. When the cylinder is spun in like manner a sphere suddenly appears, and so the wonderful and subtle bond of union is complete.[28]

[28] "On revolving the cylinder on an axis parallel to the circular faces, we find that it incloses a solid, opaque sphere; teaching us the lesson, not only that each member of the second gift contains each and all of the others, but that whatever is in the universe is in every individual part of it; that even the meanest holds the elements of the noblest; that the highest life is even in what in short-sighted conceit we call death."—W. N. Hailmann, Law of Childhood, page 35.

Hints as to Manner and Method.

Let the children call the cylinder a "roller" or "barrel" if they choose, and tell them the right name when it is needful. Each gift must be thoroughly understood before we pass to the next, or there will be no orderly development; but as the impressions have all been made through the senses of the child, we must not expect him to voice these impressions in logical phrases all at once, so beware of making the lesson irksome or wearisome to him through a formal questioning that does not properly belong to childhood.

When the keen appetite for knowledge disappears we may well despair. If several children in our class express dislike of a certain exercise or lesson, and seem to dread its appearance, we may be well assured that the fault lies in our method of putting it before them, and strive in all humility for a better understanding of them, of ourselves, and of the subject.

We must not, however, be too hard in our self-judgments and lose courage. We are not responsible for a child who is "born tired," and who seems to have no interest in anything, either in heaven above or in the earth beneath, until, by ingenuity and perseverance, we are able to open the eyes and ears which see and hear not.

It will be remembered that in discussing the first play or lesson with the second gift great freedom was advised; but let us note the difference between liberty and lawlessness, between spontaneity and the confusion of self-assertion which is sometimes mistaken for it.

No lesson or play amounts to anything unless conducted with order and harmony, unless at its close, no matter how merry and hearty the enjoyment, some quiet and lasting impression has been made on the mind. Many teachers miss the happy medium, and in trying with the best intentions to allow the individuality of the child proper development, only succeed in gaining excitement and disorder.

Dangers of Object Lessons.

The second gift is, more than any other, too much used for mere object lessons, and these are invariably dangerous because there is apt to be too much impressing of the teacher's own ideas upon the mind, and too little actual handling, perceiving, observing, comparing, judging, concluding, on the child's part, and that is the only logical way in which he is able to form a clearly crystallized idea.

We can have no higher authority than Dr. Alexander Bain, who says that the object lesson more than anything else demands a careful handling; there being "great danger lest an admirable device should settle down into a plausible but vicious formality."

How to deal successfully with Second Gift.

It is not uncommon to hear students in kindergarten training classes (and even some full-fledged kindergartners) express a distaste for the second gift, and it is, unfortunately, even more common to find the children dealing with it either sunk in deepest apathy, or mercifully oblivious of the matter in hand and chatting with their neighbors. The fact is that we have too commonly made the exercises dull, dreary affairs; we have doled out the forms to the children and asked a series of formal questions about them, giving no experiments, no concerted work, and no opportunity for action. The children have been intensely bored, therefore either stupid or wandering, and the kindergartner has attributed her want of success to the gift, and not to her method of dealing with it.

Let the light of imagination shine on the scene, and note the answering sparkle in the children's eyes. Who cares for the names of all the faces on a stupid block; but who doesn't care when it's a house and Johnnie can't find his mother, though he looks in the front door and the back door, the right-hand door, the left-hand door, the cellar-door, and finally the trap-door leading to the roof? Nobody knows, or wants to know, when questioned if the cylinder rolls better on its flat circular face, or on its rounding face; but when it's a log of wood in the forest, and must be taken home for winter fires, then it is worth while to experiment and see how it may be moved most easily.

The second gift, too, is delightful for groupwork in the sand table, where the objects may be treated symbolically, and likened to a hundred different things. With the second gift beads, which in the natural wood color are admirable supplements to the larger forms, the children are always charmed, assorting and stringing them according to fancy or dictation, and with the addition of sticks making them into rows of soldiers, trees in flowerpots, kitchen utensils, churns, stoves, lamps, and divers other household objects.

The kindergartner may give many a lesson in the simple principles of mechanics with the second gift and its rods and standards, allowing the children to experiment freely as well as to follow her suggestions. The pulley, the steelyard, the capstan, the pump, the mechanical churn, the wheelbarrow, etc., may all be made, adding the beads where necessary, and thus the child gain a real working knowledge of simple machinery.

Treatment of Previous Gifts when passed over.

The preceding gift need not entirely disappear, but be used occasionally for a pleasing review as a bond of friendly intercourse between older and younger pupils.[29] This will convey an indirect hint, perhaps, to the little ones that it is not well to neglect old friends for new ones, but that they should still love and value the playthings and playmates of former days.

[29] "The giving of a new play by no means precludes the further use of the preceding and earlier plays. But, on the contrary, the use of the preceding play for some time longer with the new play, and alternating with it, makes the application of the new play so much the easier and more widely significant."—Froebel's Pedagogics, page 145.

Second Gift Forms in Architecture and Cube in Ancient Times.

These three objects, the sphere, cylinder, and cube, constitute a triad of forms united in architecture and sculpture producing the column, which is made up of the pedestal or base (the cube), the shaft (the cylinder), and the capital (the sphere).

In a book on Egyptian antiquities we find that, in the beginning of the culture of that country, the three Graces, or goddesses of beauty, were represented by three cubes leaning upon each other. The Egyptians did not, of course, know that it was the first regular form of solid bodies in nature or crystallization; but the significant fact again brings us to the thought expressed in the first lecture: "It would seem, indeed, as though Froebel, in selecting his gifts, looked far back into the past of humanity, and there sought the thread which from the beginning connects all times and leads to the farthest future."

Froebel's Monument.

And here we leave the second gift, that trinity of forms which, wrought in marble, marks the place dear and sacred to all kindergartners, the grave of Froebel,—a simple monument to one so great, yet so connected with our study and the child's experience that with all its simplicity it is strangely effective. A still more enduring monument he has in the millions of happy children who have found their way to knowledge through the door which he opened to them; indeed, if half the children he has benefited could build a tower of these tiny blocks to commemorate his life and death, its point would reach higher than St. Peter's dome and draw the thoughts of men to heaven.

Suggestions of the Gift.

This gift can hardly be studied but that an inner unity, born of these reconciled contrasts, suggests itself to the imagination.

The cube seems to stand as the symbol of the inorganic, the mineral kingdom, with its wonderful crystals; the cylinder as the type of vegetable life, suggesting the roots, stems, and branches, with their rounded sides, and forming a beautiful connection between the cube, that emblem of "things in the earth beneath," and the sphere which completes the trinity and speaks to us of a never-ending and perfect whole having "Unity for its centre, Diversity for its circumference."

The cube seems to suggest rest, immobility; the cylinder, in this connection, growth; and the sphere, perfection, completeness,—so delicately poised it is,—only kept in its proper place by the most exquisite adjustment. And so to us, sometimes, the things that are visible become luminous with suggestions of greater realities which are yet unseen; and in the least we discern a faint radiance of the greatest.

Things that are small mirror things that are mighty. The tiny sphere is an emblem of the "big round world" and the planetary systems. The cube recalls the wonderful crystals, and shows the form that men reflect in architecture and sculpture. As for the cylinder it is Nature's special form, and God has taught man through Nature to use it in a thousand ways, and indeed has himself fashioned man more or less in its shape.

Mr. Hailmann says: "The second gift presents types of the principal phases of human development; from the easy mobility of infancy and childhood,—the ball,—we pass through the half-steady stages of boyhood and girlhood, represented in the cylinder, to the firm character of manhood and womanhood for which the cube furnishes the formula."

Bishop Brooks, speaking from the words, "The length and the breadth of it are equal," in his sermon on Symmetry of Life, uses the cube as a symbol of perfect character: The personal push of a life forward, its outreach laterally or the going out in sympathy to others, the upward reach toward God,—these he considers the three life dimensions. But such building must be done without nervous haste; the foundation must hint solidly of the threefold purpose; length, breadth, and thickness must be kept in proportion, if the perfect cube of life is ever to be found.

NOTE ON SECOND GIFT. [30] "The second gift, even in the nursery, calls for modifications from the form in which it comes to us from Froebel. It is incomparable in its rich symbolism for illustrating Froebel's thought to mature minds, and answers quite a useful purpose in the nursery, where it may help mamma tell her stories. But in the kindergarten the child wants to build with blocks. Hence, the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth gifts are indicated; the second gift, as such, is, to say the least, an anachronism. Only in the form of the beads, or some similar expedient which gives many of these things for control, will it satisfy the kindergarten child. When he is expected to study the cube, as an object lesson, to count the squares and corners and tell where they are, it is wholly unpalatable to him and entirely foreign to his plans."

[30] W. N. Hailmann.


"Mind starts from Discrimination. The consciousness of difference is the beginning of every intellectual exercise."

"Our intelligence is, therefore, absolutely limited by our power of discrimination; the other functions of intellect, the retentive power, for instance, are not called into play until we have first discriminated a number of things."

"The minuteness or delicacy of the feeling of difference is the measure of the variety and multitude of our primary impressions and therefore of our stored-up recollections."

"Bear in mind the fact that until a difference is felt between two things, intelligence has not yet made the first step."

"The higher arts of comparison to impress difference are best illustrated when both differences and agreements have to be noted, i. e., similarities and dissimilarities."

"Discrimination is the necessary prelude of every intellectual impression as the basis of our stored-up knowledge or memory."

Definition of the state of mind significantly named Indifference,—"the state where differing impressions fail to be recognized as distinct."

"The retentive power works up to the height of the discriminative power; it can do no more." ALEX. BAIN.

"The most delightful and fruitful of all the intellectual energies is the perception of similarity and agreement, by which we rise from the individual to the general, trace sameness in diversity, and master instead of being mastered by the multiplicity of nature." FRIEDRICH FROEBEL.

"It is by comparisons that we ascertain the difference which exists between things, and it is by comparisons, also, that we ascertain the general features of things, and it is by comparisons that we reach general propositions. In fact, comparisons are at the bottom of all philosophy." LOUIS AGASSIZ.


From Cradle to School. Bertha Meyer. Pages 132, 133. The Kindergarten. Emily Shirreff. 11, 12. Lectures on Child-Culture. W. N. Hailmann. 26, 27. Froebel and Education by Self-Activity. H. Courthope Bowen. 138-40. Kindergarten Guide. J. and B. Ronge. 3-5. Koehler's Kindergarten Practice. Tr. by Mary Gurney. 47-49. Kindergarten at Home. Emily Shirreff. 47-49. Kindergarten Culture. W. N. Hailmann. 46, 51, 54. Childhood's Poetry and Studies. E. Marwedel. Part II. 16-42. Pedagogics of the Kindergarten. Fr. Froebel. 69-107. Paradise of Childhood. Edward Wiebe. 9-11. Law of Childhood. W. N. Hailmann. 33-35. Kindergarten Guide. Kraus-Boelte. 15-27. Education of Man. Fr. Froebel. 107-10. Kindergarten Toys. H. Hoffmann. 12-17. Architecture, Mysticism, and Myth. W. K. Lethaby. 50, 65. Stories of Industry. Vols. i. and ii. A. Chase and E. Clow. Ethics of the Dust. John Ruskin. Mme. A. de Portugall's Synoptical Table, as given in "Essays on the Kindergarten."


The Building Gifts meet two very strongly marked tendencies in the child. a. The tendency to investigate. b. The tendency to transform.

The first and second gifts consist of undivided units, each one of which stands in relation to a larger whole, or to a class of objects.

The third, fourth, fifth, and sixth gifts are divided units, and their significance lies in the relationship of the parts to one another, and to the whole of which they are the parts.

The effect of the Building Gifts is to develop the constructive powers of the child. Their secondary importance lies in the fact that they afford striking fundamental perceptions of Form, Size, Number, Relation, and Position.

The following rules should govern the dictation exercises:—


1. Use all material in order to keep the idea of relation of parts to a whole, and because all unused material is wasted material.[31]

[31] "In each construction the whole of the materials must be used; or at least each separate piece must be arranged so as to stand in some actual relation to the whole. While this awakens the thinking spirit, it also strengthens and elevates the imagination; because amidst so much variety, the underlying unity is made visibly apparent."—Froebel's Letters, tr. by Michaelis and Moore, page 72.

2. Build on the squares of the table in order to develop accuracy and symmetry.

3. "Induce the child to form other wholes gradually and systematically from the various parts of the cube. In doing this the laws of contrast and development must be your guide." KOEHLER.

4. Give names to each object constructed, thereby bringing it into relation with the child's experience; for the miniature model serves to interpret more clearly to him the object which it represents.

5. Connect with the child's life and sympathy in order to increase his interest and develop the tendency to view things in their right relations.

6. "The younger the child, the more you should talk about the thing which you intend to construct. You should intersperse passing observations or short songs. As the children gain intelligence, this conversation will be replaced by more formal descriptions of the things represented." KOEHLER.

7. Begin with Life forms and proceed from these to forms of Beauty and Knowledge.

8. Allow no child to rely upon the blocks of his playmates in his building,—thus he will learn economy, self-reliance, and independence of action.

This should not be carried too far, or rather the necessity and beauty of interdependence should also be taught. Herein, indeed, lies more than at first appears. To make the most out of little is the great work of life; to be contented with what one has, and to make the best of it with happiness and contentment is surely no small lesson, and one which is constantly, though indirectly, taught in the kindergarten work and plays and lessons.

9. Group work, or united building, should frequently be introduced. "Every direction given by the kindergartner should be followed by spontaneous work (either in word or deed) by the child. This must not only be individual, but synthesized for the community."

10. Often encourage the class to imitate some specially attractive form which has been produced by a child, and named according to his fancy.

11. Accustom the child to develop figures or forms by slight changes rather than by rudely destroying each single one preparatory to constructing another. From learning to be strictly methodical in his actions, he will become so in his later reasoning.

12. "Let the child, if possible, correct his own mistakes, and do not constantly interfere with his work. Whatever he is able to do for himself, no one should do for him." KOEHLER.


"All children have the building instinct, and 'to make a house' is a universal form of unguided play."

"It is not a mere pastime, but a key with which to open the outer world, and a means of awakening the inner world."

"This gift includes in itself more outward manifoldness, and, at the same time, makes the inward manifoldness yet more perceptible and manifest."

"The plaything shows also the ultimate type of structures put together by human hand which stand in their substantiality around the child." FRIEDRICH FROEBEL.

"The definitely productive exercises begin with the third gift." SUSAN E. BLOW.

1. The third gift is a wooden cube measuring two inches in each of its dimensions. It is divided once in its height, breadth, and thickness, according to the three dimensions which define a solid, and thus eight smaller cubes are produced.

2. We pass from the undivided to the divided unit, emphasizing the fact that unity still exists, though divisibility enters as a new factor.

3. The most important characteristics of the gift are contrasts of size resulting in the abstraction of form from size; increase of material as a whole, decrease of size in parts; increase of facilities in illustrating form and number.

The new experience to be found in this first divided body is the idea of relativity; of the whole in its relation to the parts (each an embryo whole), and of the parts in relation to the whole.

The form of the parts is like the form of the whole, but, in shape alike, the dissimilarity is in size; the fact becoming more apparent by a variety of combinations of a different number of parts: thus the relations of numbers are introduced to the observation of the child together with those of form and magnitude.

4. The third gift was intended by Froebel to meet the necessities of the child at a period when, no longer satisfied with the external appearances of things, he strives to penetrate their internal conditions, and begins to realize the many different possibilities of the same element.

5. The geometrical forms illustrated in this gift are:—

{Cube. Solids. {Square Prism. {Rectangular Parallelopiped.

Planes. {Square. {Oblong.

6. Froebel intends the building exercise to be carried on in a certain way with a view of establishing a law to regulate the child's activity. The upper and lower parts of the figure—the contrasts—are first brought into position, and the balance is established by the intermediates—right and left.

The cube itself is divided according to the law of Mediation of Contrasts. The contrasts of exterior and interior, whole and parts, analysis and synthesis, are also brought into relation with each other.

* * * * *

Hailmann on Third Gift.

Mr. W. N. Hailmann says that the third gift marks an important step in the mental life of the child. Heretofore, he has had to do with playthings indivisible, whole, complete in themselves. Every impression, or, rather, every fact, came to him as a unit, a one, an indivisible whole.

The analyses and syntheses that are presented to him in the first and second gifts come ready-made as it were, so that the joyous exercise of his instinctive activity, guided and directed by the judicious, loving mother, is sufficient to give him control of them; indeed, the first and second gifts hold to his mental development the same relation that the mother's milk holds to his physical growth.

But the third gift satisfies the growing desire for independent activity, for the exercise of his own power of analysis and synthesis, of taking apart and putting together.[32]

[32] "The idea of separation gained here in concrete form becomes typical of that condition which must always exist in any growth—the seed breaks through its coverings, and seems to divide itself into distinct parts, each having its function in the growth of the whole plant." (Alice H. Putnam.)

Simplicity but Adaptability of the Gifts.

Simple as this first building gift appears, it is capable of great things. It lends itself to a hundred practical lessons and a hundred charming transformations, but if it is not thoroughly comprehended it will never be well or effectively used by the kindergartner, and will be nothing more to her than to uninterested observers, who see in it nothing more than eight commonplace little blocks in a wooden box.

Froebel says if his educational materials are found useful it cannot be because of their exterior, which is as plain as possible and contains nothing new, but that their worth is to be found exclusively in their application.

How Children are to be reached.

Therefore these simple devices with which we carry on our education should never seem trifling, for we are compelled in teaching very young children to put forth all gentle allurements to the gaining of knowledge.

They are to be reached chiefly by the charms of sense, novelty, and variety, and consequently, to please such active and imaginative little critics, our lessons must be fresh, vivid, vigorous, and to the point.

What is Necessary on Part of Kindergartner.

To accomplish this, we can see that not only is absolute knowledge necessary, but that a well developed sensibility and imagination are needed in leading the child from the indefinite to the definite, from universal to particular, and from concrete to abstract. The worth of the gifts then, we repeat, lies exclusively in their application; the rude little forms must be used so that the child's imagination and sympathy will be reached.

Imagination in Child and Kindergartner.

We may be thankful that this heaven-born imaginative faculty is the heritage of every child,—that it is hard to kill and lives on very short rations. The little boy ties a string around a stone and drags it through dust and mire with happy conviction that it is a go-cart. The little girl wraps up a stocking or a towel with tender hands, winds her shawl about it, and at once the God-given maternal instinct leaps into life,—in an instant she has it in her arms. She kisses its cotton head and sings it to sleep in divine unconsciousness of any incompleteness, for love supplies many deficiencies. So let us cherish the child heart in ourselves and never look with scorn upon the rude suggestions of the forms the child has built, but rather enter into the play, enriching it with our own imaginative power. The children will rarely perceive any incongruities, and surely we need not hint them, any more than we would remind a child needlessly that her doll is stuffed with sawdust and has a plaster head, when she thinks it a responsive and affectionate little daughter.

Middendorf said, "This is like a fresh bath for the human soul, when we dare to be children again with children.[33] The burdens of life could not be borne were it not for real gayety of heart."

[33] "If we want to educate children, we must be children with them ourselves." (Martin Luther.)

"If it were only the play and the mere outward apparatus," says the Baroness von Marenholtz-Buelow, "we might indeed find our daily teaching monotonous, but the idea at the foundation of it and the contemplation of the being of man and its development in the child is an inexhaustible mine of interesting discovery."

Reasons for Choice of Third Gift.

This third gift satisfies the child's craving to take things to pieces. Froebel did not choose it arbitrarily, for Nature, human and physical, was an open handbook to him, and if we study deeply and sympathetically the reasons for his choice they will always be comprehended.[34] Fenelon says, "The curiosity of children is a natural tendency, which goes in the van of instruction." Destruction after all is only constructive faculty turned back upon itself. The child, having no legitimate outlet for his creative instinct, pulls his playthings to pieces, to see what is inside,—what they are made of and how they are put together;[35] but to his chagrin he finds it not so easy to reunite the tattered fragments.

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