150 anniversary of the death of Friedrich Froebel
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second Froebel gift

A ball

is the first and most important plaything of childhood. The child first seeks to contemplate, to grasp and to possess objects as a whole. A ball supplies exactly what the child seeks, and so the child likes to play with the ball. The extraordinary charm of a ball exterts a constant attraction both in early childhood and later youth.

All other shapes can be logically developed from the sphere, which therefore represents the source or foundation of all solids. The sphere can also be thought of as a seed which grows, evolves or is transformed into other forms. The sphere can represent to the child particular objects such as an apple, or any other spherical object.

A ball provides everything needed for the expression of the child's life and activity from the earliest beginning and through the later course of development.

The value and significance of play is derived from how the play is imagined and begun, how the plaything is treated and the attitude of the players. The needs of the child and the nature of the ball guide our thinking about how the ball may be used for the first exercise of the child's powers, the development of limbs and senses, as well as arousing and nourishing attention and free independent action.

We see how a little child likes so much to seize and grasp everything, even its own thumb or its other hand or fist if it has nothing else. We also see, which is certainly worth serious consideration, how each hand by itelf is well adapted to enclose a ball, as are also both hands together.

Therefore a ball is early given into the child's little hand. At first the child grasps it in order to comprehend its roundness and eventually comes to possess it and hold it firmly.

Even this clasping will soon strengthen the muscles of the child's fingers, hand, and arm, and also develop hand and fingers so as to fit them first of all for voluntary handling of the ball, and later for the right handling of other things. The proper grasping and the right handling of each thing is important for adults as well as children. This is true in both the actual as well as in the figurative sense.

A string

to fasten to the ball is the next stage. You pull on the string gently as if to lift the ball out of the child's hand. The child will hold firmly onto the ball, the arm will rise as you lift the ball. Then lower your hand and allow the child's hand and arm to sink back from their own weight. The child is delighted by the repetition of this movement, which develops a feeling of the utternace of force and alternation of movement. The use of the arm in this activity gives dexterity to the arm and strengthens the arm and hand.

From this soon springs a quite new play and something new to the child. By a suitable drawing and lifting by the string, the ball escapes from the child's hand and then quietly moves freely in front of the child as an individual object. This play develops in the child a new feeling and perception of the object as a thing now clasped, grasped and handled and now a freely active opposite thing.

Repeating this activity is important because it develops the child's perception of union and separation. The feeling and perception of oneness and individuality, and of disjunction and separateness is important to the development of humanity.

These activities develop in the child's mind the three great perceptions of object, space, and time, which were originally one collective perception. Perceptions of being, having and becoming are also developed into perceptions of past, present and future.

The constant play of the child with a single ball is this way most clearly unfolds these perceptions which open to the child the portals of a new objective life.


can be included in play with the ball, when the child's first capacity for speech begins to develop. The child imitates sounds associated with movement and so sounds from the mother's mouth indicate the movement of the ball, when by a slow and constant pull on the string, the ball escapes from the child's hand;

  • and swings freely, "bim, bom, bim, bom; tic, tac, tic, tac; here, there, here, there".
  • slowly raising and lowering the ball by the string, "up, down"
  • swinging the ball slowly in a circle, "around, around"
  • letting the ball fall on a table, "tap, tap, tap"
  • letting the ball fall quickly and rebound, "jump ball, jump!"
  • pulling a ball across a surface, "pull, pull ,pull"

This simple play can be developed in variety of ways, by connecting the movement of the ball with different tones and words.

Copyright 2001 Bruce Watson

Copyright © 2001 Froebel Web. All rights reserved. info@froebelweb.com

Dear Mother here is the beginning of your play with your dear Child through the mediation of the Ball.
First Froebel Gift
It is exceedingly important for the child, that those responsible for the child's development should not only perceive but should also suitably foster the awakening individual power and individual activity and the awakening spirit of the child.
The traces and slightest expressions found in the almost imperceptible beginning provide the opportunity for the developemnt of these qualities and this spirit. Accidental, arbitrary and disconnected exercices will not achieve this.
It is essential to observe the progressive development of the strength of the child as well as the child's mastery of the activities.
The natural feeling of the mother often hits on the right thing to do. By clearly recognising and constantly fostering what the natural motherly feeling correctly and unconsciously suggests, the life of the child may be consciously and progresslively formed.

These edited extracts from the words of Friedrich Froebel about the first gift are inspired by and derived from the English translation by Josephine Jarvis of the original German text.