A Child’s Work: Freedom and Guidance in Froebel’s Educational Theory and Practise

By Joachim Liebschner

An illuminating study of the great German educationalist’s philosophy that guided play is the most important learning tool for young children.

ISBN: 9780718830687


This book considers Friedrich Froebel’s work and ideas in the light of the continuing debate over methods of primary education, raising the old conflict between child-centred and traditional education; concern about the role of teacher in the classroom; and the renewed challenge of ‘play’ as a tool of education.

To Froebel, play provided the means for a child’s intellectual, social, emotional and physical development. Froebel believed that the education of a child began at birth, and that parents and teachers played a crucial role in helping children in this activity. “Play is a mirror of life”, he wrote, leading to self discipline and respect for law and order.

The events of Froebel’s life are carefully documented in A Child’s Work, together with their influence on his ideas and their spread. The author shows how the early death of Froebel’s mother and a home lacking in love were to provide the impetus behind one of Froebel’s overriding aims: the fostering of family life. The shaping of his educational thought and philosophy through contact with the ideas of other educators, especially his ‘spiritual father’ Pestalozzi, and philosophers such as Kant, Hegel and Krause, is examined.

Froebel’s continuous reassessment of the function of play in a child’s life came to fruition in the concept of the Kindergarten and the creations with which he peopled it. Illustrations from original sources complement the thorough explanations of these educational innovations in the book. From the soft ball on a spring, the simplest of the Gifts, to the unravelling of more complex ideas in the Mother Songs, Froebel incorporated the various facets that he saw as important in play: the notion of the symbolic and the surmise, the tension between the known and the unknown, the development of physical dexterity and care for the environment.

As we continue to shift towards an emphasis on a more formal, more restrictive and less creative mode of education, it is an appropriate time to re-examine Froebel’s contribution to educational thinking, which was revolutionised by his ideas. His respect for a child as an independent, searching and creative person learning through his own actions, and for the teacher as facilitator and guide, led to monumental changes. Froebel’s legacy challenges us to examine the assumptions underlying current trends in education, and our attitude towards educating young children.

Additional information

Dimensions 234 × 156 mm
Pages 168

Trade Information LPOD

About the Author

Joachim Liebschner has been working in the field of education for over 40 years, and has taught in primary schools and universities. He has been an external examiner for the theory and practice of education for London University and Froebel College, University of Dublin. He has lectured on Froebel in the USA, Ireland and Malta, has been involved in the National Froebel Foundation of which he is a Trustee.



1. Froebel’s Life
2. The Origins of Froebel’s Philosophical and Educational Ideas
3. How Froebel’s Ideas of Play Changed in his Life-time and
     How They Compare with those of Other Educators and Philosophers
4. Freedom and Sensitivity in Education
5.The Gifts
6. The Movement Games and Occupations
7. The Mother Songs
8. Criticisms of Froebel’s Work, Then and Now
9. Froebel’s Greatest Contribution to Educational Thinking