Froebelian Ethos

We provide opportunities for children’s learning through a Froebelian approach. Friedrich Froebel, 1782-1852 was a German educator whose observations and insights about supporting young children’s learning have influenced mainstream education worldwide. View Lian Higgins talking about the Froebelian influence on Cowgate Under 5s Centre

Children learn best through play

Play, as Froebel recognised, is young children’s instinctive way to learn with enjoyment and challenge. It is crucial that children direct their own play and for this they need time and space in order to become deeply involved in their learning. Sometimes children’s play will be busy, sometimes quiet and reflective. Sometimes it will be contained in a small space, sometimes it will require space and movement. Members of staff work together with the children to plan and develop the environment and resources for indoor and outdoor play. Experiences at Nature Kindergarten are a crucial part of planning for long and uninterrupted, rich and sensory play. A range of open ended materials are freely available to enable independent and active learning.  Staff work alongside children whilst they play, observing, supporting and extending the learning.

Independent child

A Froebelian approach recognises the uniqueness of each child’s capacity and potential; takes a holistic view of each child’s development and an ecological view of mankind in the natural world. Central to a Froebelian approach is a recognition of the integrity of childhood in its own right and a focus on the child as part of the community. Our approach to learning encourages children to become problem solvers, decision-makers and to be independent.  This enables children to organise and carry out their own play experiences in consultation with adults and other children. Children can only become independent if they are able to make decisions without referring to adults.  We enable children to achieve independence by allowing them choice with adult support rather than adult direction.


Children are usually interested in the process of doing or making something rather than an end product. Children are individuals, so what they do or make will be individual. And of course, because we are all different, some may be very focused on completing a particular creation or artwork. In practice this means that children are unlikely to be taking home identical creations (such as Christmas or Mother’s day cards), unless they themselves have chosen to do the same as someone else. Adults do not lead activities that create identical products, but instead support children carry out their plans by observing and listening to them, making resources available and by encouraging children to extend their ideas and complete their plans if they wish. It is important for staff to observe and record what children are doing (we use online ‘learning journals’) because these observations help us make judgements about how to support children with their interests, preferences, learning and development.  Staff use this information to provide experiences appropriate to individual children’s needs.

About Friedrich Froebel

Friedrich Froebel was a German educator who pioneered new ways of thinking about provision for very young children and is most famous as the creator of the first ‘kindergarten’ – a child garden. One of his key insights was recognizing the importance of children leading their learning through their own play.

If you’d like to find out more about Froebel please visit the Frobel Network: or read about Edinburgh University’s Froebel Course

Please have a look at our display of Froebel’s wooden shape and block toys – Froebel’s ‘Gifts’ – at the Centre’s reception.


Lian Higgins was interviewed about Froebel for a student’s dissertation, read the interview as a Q&A for more insight into our Froebelian approach.