Froebel's Occupations

"My educational method offers to its pupils from from the beginning the opportunity to collect their own experiences from things themselves, to look with their own eyes and to learn to know by their own experiments, things and the relations of things to each other, and also the real life of the world of humanity."

~ Friedrich Froebel

Occupations Using Materials based upon the point: perforating paper, beadwork and peas work: for children ages 4 to 13 and beyond.

The Occupations have now reduced their size to the smallest area; the point. The point in Occupation work is represented by the perforated hole on paper, generally punched with a sewing needle or a special perforating needle. At first the paper is graphed. This allows for the image to be sewn out, reflecting the previous line occupation. Free-hand designs on plain paper are created by older children with skilled hands.

Beadwork can be introduced to children as young as two years old in the form of large wooden stringing beads that reflect the shapes of Froebel's Gift Two and the colors of Gift One. As the child grows into their hands smaller beads and intricate pattern work can be accomplished.

Peas work or construction with moistened peas or garbanzo beans and toothpicks is a very rewarding and engrossing Occupation. Children of theKindergarten age enjoy this activity and older children create amazing constructions that defy gravity. The most sanguine of children are able to focus with this Occupation. Peas work is directly related to the natural world of the garden and forest and teaching unifying lessons is an important part of a Froebel education.

Occupations Using Surface Materials: painting, paper folding, paper cutting and design, paper toys, large and small scale cardboard construction and woodworking for children ages 2 to 13 and beyond.

The Froebel Occupations gradually break down in forms from solids, to surfaces, to lines, and points. This is how the Froebel Gifts were formated. Many educators thought that it should be a reversal of the concepts learned: that the Occupation should begin with the point and reverse to the solid. As Froebel did not leave specific instructions the pattern established in the Gifts will continue with the Occupations. Keep in mind though, that the Occupations are taught alongside the Gifts to unite the subject being learned.

After the solid materials come the surface materials. Paper is the medium most used with wood coming afterwards. Painting in watercolors in the wet-on-wet method can be done from toddlerhood through adulthood. Other types of painting can be introduced after the kindergarten age.

Simple paper folding, paper cutting and design and making simple toys from paper are creative ways to work with the hands and use ones imagination. Coordination, listening to instructions, following directions, and patience are taught. The results are a beautiful work of art, a useful object or a fun toy. Working with cardboard and other recyclable materials while creating both large and small scale constructions is rewarding for a child. Large creations that a child can crawl inside of bring the world into their scale making even a box the most magical place. Woodworking is a satisfying trade and life skill. From making a birdhouse to a toy box to building a play house the child soon realizes that playing with their wooden Froebel Building Gifts is a preparation for the adult world.

Occupations Using Materials based upon the Line: drawing, thread games, finger knitting, knitting on needles, crochet, weaving, embroidery, slat weaving, interlacing and braiding: for children ages 2 to 13 and beyond.

The Froebel Occupations continue to progress from solid materials, to surfaces, and now to lines. Any activity based upon the line can be made into an Occupation as long as the child sees and understands its unity.

Drawing is one of the simplest and most rewarding art forms. Children as young as two are happy with a large sheet of paper and a good set of beeswax block crayons. No pictures per say will be created that an adult will recognize. The importance is in the free movements of the hand, playing with color and being lost in the moment. Something young children do very well. Drawing develops as the child does; as they grow different materials can be explored such as pencil, chalks, and pastels. Indoor and outdoor sketching excursions expand a child's world and help them to see and respect the details of their surroundings. Thread games have been around for centuries. Children everywhere are simply enchanted by a ball of yarn and what can be done with it. A ball of yarn is really a long line. Games, finger knitting, and eventually knitting on needles and crochet can be taught. These Occupations prove that Froebel knew that children's play turned into an adults work, trade or hobby. Sewing on graph paper, on printed cards, or on embroidery cloth is another line based Occupation. The simplest designs begin with the Kindergarten age group of 4 to 7 year olds. Children in the Connecting School and Academy create more detailed work. Paper is explored as a line when the surface is divided into long strips. With this new form many Occupations can be learned. Weaving paper strips onto a mat can lead to weaving on a loom. Interlacing paper strips can create Froebel Stars and other decorative items. Braiding yarn and braiding paper teaches coordination and math patterns. Weaving thin wooden slats into geometric forms continues the math concepts for an older child.  

Occupations Using Solid Materials: wool, beeswax, clay, mud, sand, and snow for children 2 to 13 and beyond.

Most children are born sculptors; they represent, imitate, create, and transform. It is the child's greatest enjoyment. They desire to produce forms with any type of pliable material. They knead it and mold it till it represents something to them. This fact did not go unnoticed by Froebel when he made the Occupations part of his educational philosophy.

The Occupations reflect the series of Gifts; recapitulating them as creative expression for the child. Solid materials are explored at first. These can be handled by the youngest of learners; toddlers. Damp sand, moist mud, snow when in season; these are tactile materials that engage the hands and senses. As the hand develops clay and beeswax modeling and wool are added.

The Occupations are not taught in a specific order, but as they complement the work with the Gifts. Unlike the Gifts, the Occupations cannot return to their original forms once they are used. This gives the child a sense of permanence. Also, Occupation work, no matter the materials used, teach not only to be creative and patient, but also many of the art forms are life skills for the future.