play Guide to third gift by Friedrich Froebel
Third Froebel Gift
a wooden cube, divided once in each direction to create eight smaller cubes
To provide for a child's material needs is not enough; the child is soon aware of the demands of the heart and mind, and he responds quickly when we do things with him, talk with him and care for his inner life. (By inner life Froebel means a child's thinking, feeling, expectations, desires and perceptions.) The child soon notices when we show genuine concern for him. His inner world, finds expression in his play; if we share his world, we must play with him.
The child at this stage in his development (aged about one to three) strives to separate things, to take them apart, to change their form, but also to reassemble them. The child is intent on discovering inner properties of things and having discovered them, on recreating the whole. Nothing is more suited to this activity than the cube, subdivided into eight equal sized smaller cubes.
It is important that the cube be presented as a whole unit first, for the child has to be made aware of the wholeness of things. He will soon take it apart, move the smaller cubes, put them on top of each other and thus begin to build. The watching mother encourages by using words which refer to the child's actions - eg. up, down, onto - and also suggesting what the child might have built. What kind of objects may such a child represent? We have to remember that a child's paradise is his bedroom, mother's kitchen. Most probably he will be building a stool, a table, a chair, a bed, a house. But a chair does not exist in isolation, it might be chair on which grandmother sits to tell a story. Or grandmother might get up for the chair to fetch the soup from the stove. Where is the stove? The accompanying word is essential not only to describe, but to stimulate recall and perception. Rhymes can be made up and sung as play progresses. A conversation between adult and child may soon follow. No object is to exist in isolation, words will help our imagination to connect them. All these forms and shapes the child has been building are taken from life, we can therefore call them Forms of Life.
But there will be other forms; forms which we cannot recognise as representing particular objects. We may like the forms, we may think that such a form looks like a star, or an opening flower, but whatever interpretation we may give these forms, they are beautiful. We can call them Forms of Beauty. Froebel then suggested several of such forms. Every form (shape) must be developed from the previous one. Patterns are created which are symmetrical and pleasing to the eye. Cubes are displaced in rotation and each is moved to the same degree. Each change carries within it the change to come until the series is completed by arriving at the starting position.
There will be forms which are neither recognisable as Forms of Life nor as Forms of Beauty. The cubes may have been arranged in such a way that they constitute two equal parts of the whole. These forms deal with mathematical concepts of the cube, its halves, quarters and eighths and the different ways of dividing fractions. Froebel calls them Forms of Knowledge. Here he puts the emphasis on the conservation of quantity - whatever the shape of the fractions constructed, whichever way they are divided, a half always remains a half. Questions of quantity, volume and size, like number, are closely linked with those of conservation. The basis of correct measurement is the understanding that an object remains constant in size, volume and quantity whatever its position or arrangement in relation to other things.
Is it possible to use Forms of Knowledge with a three year old? Froebel believed that in its most elementary forms, is was and he produced rhymes which can be used with the actions to demonstate equal parts and halves.
Froebel concludes by insisting again that though the child may be playing with inanimate objects language can change this. The child must perceive life in his play, life's meaning and its harmony.
extracts from A Child's Work: Freedom and Guidance in Froebel's Educational Theory and Practice by Joachim Liebschner
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The box is raised to reveal a cube, which a child can easily pull part to discover eight, identical, smaller cubes.