play building blocks of the fourth gift
The cube divided into eight building blocks
The Nature of the Blocks
Plaything and play receive a quite new significance by the above alteration, which is not only simple but even almost insignificant - namely, that the inner difference, intimated in the three perpendicular axes of the cube (and the sphere), now becomes externally visible and abiding in each of its building blocks as a difference in size.
While the forms produced with the preceding gift were massive and space-filing, those produced with the fourth gift incline toward surface forms, may be given either a horizontal or vertical position, and are space bounding and inclosing.
These forms are also divided into forms of life, of beauty and of knowledge. Especially in comparison with the forms of the preceding play, the later have the peculiarity that they show more the extension of surface and length; yet all forms - a few square surfaces excepted - are confined to rectangles. Thus the relations of form and size of the square and rectangle especially are here presented to the perception. In addition to these, two more new phenomena come forth with this play: these are equilibrium and self-propagating movement.
Use of the Play
Necessity, accident, or in short, free play as such, receives here also its due. The only requirement is that a name be quickly given to what has arisen under the hand of the child. The name defines the object produced by connecting it with something familiar. Thus the first forms are often a small house, a room, a table, chairs and benches etc. But pleasure is given even by merely building up the blocks so that the form may be kept in place by equilibrium and gravity; and it is then a high tower, or perhaps even a staircase, which pleases the child. He is also pleased by the fact that what is built up separates easily into its parts again. Let no one doubt that the child's inner development is furthered by these building exercises, though no abiding result in the way of outward representation is obtained. By this building the child comprehends the form and use of the single part just in proportion as he receives into himself an abundance of perceptions and conceptions. We must, however, never forget to talk with the child about what he does, or at least designate the result clearly and precisely, with suitable words, so that through the name the child's thought may be aroused, and he may never play heedlessly even when he plays alone. In other words, let us, form such habits of attention that the child will never play without precisely grasping and comprehending inwardly what he has outwardly represented.
by Friedrich Froebel, translated by Josephine Jarvis
Copyright © 2001 Bruce Watson
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The box is raised to reveal a cube, which a child can easily pull part to discover eight, identical, building blocks.