Friedrich Froebel, who created the concept of the kindergarten, was a nineteenth-century German educator whose greatest gift was his ability to view life through a child’s eyes. That is why, almost two hundred years later, his educational philosophy makes sense to anyone who loves children. When he coined the name “kindergarten,” he meant it literally—“a garden of children”—where each child is nurtured with the same love and care given to a seedling. He knew that humans are essentially creative and compassionate beings, and that education must involve the development of these traits.

Froebel objected to every system that magnified knowledge at the expense of the child, and his whole life was a protest against the “stamping and molding” processes of teachers/schools who failed to recognize the sacredness of the child’s individuality.

Unstructured, child-centered play has enormous benefits for young children, and those benefits cannot be tested by benchmark testing. (Excerpted from Their Name Is Today: Reclaiming Childhood in a Hostile World by Johann Christoph Arnold.)

“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning,” said Mr. Rogers. “But for children, play is serious learning.”  Imaginary play it turns out, helps children develop some necessary survival skills.

Play activities are essential to healthy development for children and adolescents. Research shows that 75% of brain development occurs after birth. The activities engaged in by children both stimulate and influence the pattern of the connections made between the nerve cells. This process influences the development of fine and gross motor skills, language, socialization, personal awareness, emotional well-being, creativity, problem solving and learning ability.

The most important role that play can have is to help children to be active, make choices and practice actions to mastery. They should have experience with a wide variety of content (art, music, language, science, math, social relations) because each is important for the development of a complex and integrated brain. Play that links sensory-motor, cognitive, and social-emotional experiences provides an ideal setting for brain development.


If play is the work of the child, toys are the tools. Through toys, children learn about their world, themselves, and others. Toys teach children to:

Figure out how things work                                Pick up new ideas

Build muscle control and strength                      Use their imagination

Solve problems                                                  Learn to cooperate with others


When you play with your child, remember to talk, listen and describe details to them as well!

Submitted by Connie L Fields, ECI Coordinator of Douglas County