150 anniversary of the death of Friedrich Froebel
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second Froebel gift

The Sphere and the Cube

give more pleasure than the ball during the second half of the first year, when children begin to employ themselves in more definite ways. The sphere and cube belong together in play because they are opposite and alike. While they are both solid forms, the sphere can be considered as the material expression of movement and the cube as the material expression of complete rest. The restless child strives for definite and satisfactory outward activity, which naturally brings the child to rest. Both the movement of the moveable and the repose of the stationary are perceived by the child's senses.

The free constantly circling movement of the sphere gives the child pleasure.

The sphere can be made to move in the palm of one hand, or in both hands held together to form a plate, or in a saucer. The mother sings to her child, giving voice to the sphere as if it were an actual living being.

Around, around:
How happy now am I!
Around, around;
I now turn full of glee,
Be happy you, like me.

The sphere hangs by a double string in the left hand and is quickly turned around its own axis by the fingers of the right hand. As the sphere turns the double string twists tightly together. By slowing drawing them apart the sphere now spins in the opposite direction. In this way the sphere is kept in a constantly alternating movement. The sphere expresses itself to the child visibly through its appearance and audibly through the mouth of the mother; this audible expression arouses more thoroughly the senses and life of the child.

I turn and wind, and as I go,
The sphere in form I always show.

These two simple movements not only make a striking impression on the child but also joyously attract the attention and rouse the life of the child.

It is important for the child to perceive the difference between the sphere and the cube.

In all positions and with the most various movements, the sphere always appears as a sphere. The cube makes an entirely different and always changing impression in different positions and with different movement. The sphere needs only a point for its support, the cube requires a surface. The sphere can be easily moved by the slightest touch, the cube stands firm.

The mother places the cube in front of the child and says to the cube:

There, now, stand firm!
Stand firm! stand firm!

The mother now takes one of the child's fingers or hands and tries by slight gradual pressure to push the cube away, but so that the cube does not move. The mother says to the child:

The cube will do just what we say,
And in its place will quietly stay

With more pressure the mother pushes the cube away with the child's hand and says

Too long in one place do not stay,
But let us now push you away.

As much as possible and wherever possible the strength of the child is drawn into play.

Mother places the cube on the flattened palm of the child's hand and sings:

Cube presses down on your hand, my dear;
Press it, or it will fall, I fear.

Clasping the child's hand round the cube (or sphere) and holding it firmly, the mother raises the child's little arm so that the closed hand is turned downward.

Your hand is closed the cube around,
And so it falls not to the ground.

As the child's hand opens, the cube drops from it.

The cube will surely fall,
If not held up at all

If we try to place the cube on one of its edges, it will sink to rest on one of its surfaces. This play will make a wholly different impression on the child.

It totters here, it totters there
Too heavy to stand anywhere.

It is difficult, but not impossible, to balance a cube on one edge with an external support. Even a child too young to speak will notice this and remove the support. As the cube comes to rest on on eof its surfaces, the child turns to their mother with face and body as in joyous triumph.

The mother can stand the cube on a corner by placing the forefinger of her left hand on the upturned corner of the cube. With a finger of her right hand she spins the cube on its axis.

Copyright 2001 Bruce Watson

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second Froebel Gift
Peace and joy, health and fullness of life accure to the child, whose play and general development is in harmony.
The soft ball is a unifying form for the sphere and the cube, which can also be compared to heart and intellect.
The child will also retain uninterrupted affection for the ball as a beloved plaything.
If the mother enlists the feeble activity of the child with her own in the play, she will soon see how the child enjoys the work, though only for a moment. Later the work will please the child for a longer time.

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