Whilst many people at the time viewed play as a form of idleness that bordered on disorder, Froebel claimed that “Play is the highest expression of human development in childhood” and that the focus of educators should shift to teaching young children through play.
He went on to establish the idea of playgrounds that were built adjoining schools, where children could play freely. He believed that allowing children to play together in a supervised setting would help them to develop social skills such as taking turns, agreeing on common laws, and following rules.
As the idea gained popularity, more and more schools created outdoor spaces with the specific aim of allowing children to play in order to learn.
Froebel meanwhile, went on to also pioneer educational settings for younger children, which he named ‘Childs Garden’ or Kindergarten. He championed outdoor activity in learning and designed popular developmental toys such as shaped wooden blocks.
Without his work and influence it could have taken much longer for the importance of play as a learning tool to be recognised. Today playgrounds are seen as a necessity, both for child development and education, as well as in the battle against modern problems such as childhood obesity.
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