It turns out what you do in kindergarten and preschool really does matter.

Early childhood is about laying down the structure of the brain, as well as emotional response, and expectations for living.

A Froebel® Gift assortment including multiple “gifts”, block sizes and shapes. (Froebel USA®)

Revisiting the origins of Kindergarten

Kindergarten (which loosely means 3-7 years olds) was invented by German crystallographer Friederich Froebel in the 19thC, and based around observing natural forms of plants, animals and rocks. His specific sets of blocks and other manipulatives were introduced in the USA not long after.

FroebelUSA®’s Scott Bultman hosted a fantastic conference at Lesley College in September, with experts on how related philosophies of “making” early on are key to playing with ideas to understand how they work. This “thinking/making” axis can repair those fractured early childhood programs which have devolved into workbooks about letters and numbers. Early language and math ideally rest, and flourish, on a strong spatial play base, so no play = no base. Increasingly poor results in reading and math hint at the disintegration of those key skills when spatial play is eviscerated.

Froebel’s influence on art and design

Designers and educators argue that early 20thC modernism movement in art and design came from minds educated in the Froebel K — Frank Lloyd Wright, Buckminster Fuller, artists like Paul Klee et al of the Bauhaus, and artists at Black Mountain College, many of whom also taught.

More and more in the 21stC, early childhood leaders believe design in education is part of learning to think, something more wholistic and with deeper roots in seeing than just “design thinking”, based in making, and using “design toys” like Froebel, Montessori, Reggio Emilia and Waldorf. It’s no coincidence that all the systems listed have roots in learning from nature through observation, and hence how these are a great fit for na2ure’s designs.

We’ve been invited to speak at FroebelUSA 2020, and bring not just the Pattern ABC but our research into spatial learning, and early eye-hand brain development. See more on Froebel in Design education for preschool and undergrads (with a great segment from MIT Architecture School), in this trailer.

Pattern ABC cards scattered in the UNICEF ECD Kit as we looked at spatial play

UNICEF ECD Kits for children in emergencies

Research makes na2ure strong, and the role of how Vijal as a psychiatrist, and myself as an artist, work together is baked in to how we design for play. In November, we joined UNICEF and their partners to look at the Early Childhood Development Kits they make for kids who lose access to school and early learning in refugee camps and emergency shelters. We hope the Pattern ABC finds a home in those settings with children who need creative play time not just for development, but for real stress relief to still the disquiet in their hearts and minds.

In a few weeks we will share the results of our pilot in Tanzania on the Pattern ABC activities for spatial skill learning. 

We continue to investigate funding opportunities to pursue our research to help teachers learn more about spatial through professional development that we could design and implement, and to further develop Pattern ABC materials.

Play = spatial, and spatial = early STEAM.

Thanks for following us,

Alex and Vijal