The Building Gifts
Gifts Three and Four: from ages 4 to 13 years; or children in Kindergarten, Connecting School & Academy.
Gifts Three and Four are the beginning of the Building Gifts. The solid shape of the cube from Gift Two is now divided. This contrast intrigues the child who plays easily with it. They take it apart, arrange it many different ways and put it back together again. Froebel said that, "all children have the desire to build, and to build a house is a universal form of unguided play".
"Prominent features of this Gift are the likeness of each part of the cube to the whole, and the contrast of size between the cube and its parts. The chief object of the Gift is to develop the creative power of the child; so that he is encouraged to follow his instinctive wish to see the construction of things, and begins his investigation of particular phenomena. He divides the cube to find its component parts and examines the pieces. He finds that each part is like a whole, only smaller, so that the impression of this particular form is deepened; he can create many forms and by re-arranging discover new qualities and uses.
The material allows the child to express outwardly his inner conceptions, which is one of the first demands of life. The desire to look at the interior of things is the germ of the fullest development, the beginning of the formation of the scientific mind." Quoted from: Paradise of Childhood by: Edward Wiebe, pg. 104.
Gift Three consists of eight one inch wooden cubes in a box. Froebel chose this amount of blocks, "because of their suitability for mathematics, eight being the cube of the first integer greater than one." Quoted from: Intimate Triangle: Architecture of Crystals, Frank Lloyd Wright, and the Froebel Kindergarten By: Jeanne Spielman Rubin pg. 98.
Gift Four: from ages 4 to 13 years; or children in Kindergarten, Connecting School and Academy.
"From a child's point of view, it is important that the next Gift presented is recognized by him as 'the new in the old' so that he becomes aware of the developmental processes which are to be found in the world and in life." Quoted from: A Child's Work By: Joachim Liebschner pg. 89.
Gift Four has several key considerations that Froebel emphasized when he designed the set of eight oblong wooden blocks in a box. They are:
1. Whatever has occured before in a Gift must be the basis of the new one. This emphasizes the concepts on the child's level of comprehension.
2. Every new Gift that is introduced the child must be a complete whole unto itself and at the same time part of even a larger whole.
3. Education is a matter of expressing what is known, by internalizing what is new and externalizing these thoughts through repeated play.
Gift Four is introduced to the child as their old friend cube, but this cube is different. New shapes, new math concepts, vocabulary, and designs are introduced. When Gifts Three and Four are combined, even more elaborate building can occur.
With the Building Gifts, Froebel introduced his divisions of forms. After free-play has occured, children in the kindergarten phase of 4 to 7 years old, learn different concepts. They begin with what is known and move onto what is unknown. They are: Forms of Life, Forms of Beauty, and Forms of Knowledge.
Forms of Life represent tangible objects in the child's world, such as buildings, furniture etc. It is social studies for young children.
Forms of Beauty lead the child to observe and be aware of their beautiful surroundings. Patterns, running forms, and symmetrical designs are found in the built and natural world and are replicated by the child on this small scale.
Forms of Knowledge introduce the child to the worlds of math and science. Following directions, counting, experimenting with weight and heights are all explored.
Gift Six: from ages 8 to 13; or children in the Connecting School & Academy.
Gift Six is another recapitulation of a previous gift; this time it is of Gift Four. Again the difference is in the amount of pieces and two new shapes. Friedrich Froebel left notes on this Gift, but never saw them come to fruition. The men and women that followed his teachings developed this gift.
As in the previous study of the Gifts, Forms of Life, Forms of Beauty, and Forms of Knowledge are undertaken after free play. Where the Forms of Knowledge were the most important feature of Gift Five, Forms of Life are to Gift Six. The oblong blocks, the columns and the caps introduce the child to architecture's fundamental forms. The idea that architecture is useful, beautiful and math/science based is understood by the child and nourishes their mind while replicating their world. Therefore the history of architecture is studied and coincides with the age of the child when their world is expanding and they are curious about the past.
Forms of Beauty that are developed on a multiple numbered base such as fours & fives are created upon the table. Forms with closed and open centers and ones that resemble weaving expand the child's artistic thoughts.
Forms of Knowledge with Gift Six bring the understanding of measurement in length, breadth, and height to a child's level of comprehension. This is used when building both the Forms of Life and Forms of Beauty. With the older child's hand being more flexible and able to achieve fine motor skills without much frustration, the Occupations that compliment this Gift become more and more prevalent in a Froebel based education.
Gift Five: from ages 8 to 13; or children in the Connecting School & Academy.
Gift Five is a recapitulation of Gift Three with several new changes. The most noticeable is the size of the box and the cube within. Quantity is also noticed, as there are now many more blocks. Old shapes remind the child of what has been learned and two new shapes excites them towards fresh possibilities.
The triangular prism introduces halves & quarters to the child. Inclined planes, acute angles, slanted lines, and the axis are learned. Dexterity and delicacy of the hand are needed in manipulating the many parts of this Gift.
More realistic Forms of Life can be built. The slanted roof, a Gothic window, a monmemt, a bridge, an arch, and the study of historical architecture can be understood by the child in showing them "that real beauty can only be produced when one opposite balances another, if the proportions of all parts are equally regulated by uniting them with one common center". Forms with open centers, closed centers, triangular based and on a vertical and horizontal and angled axis are discovered. Forms of Knowledge are Gift Fives strongest feature. Addition and subtraction with larger numbers are learned. Multiplication, division, fractions and geometry are accomplished not by memorizing facts only, but by manipulating visible shapes. This produces the "best means of exercising the child's power of observation, reasoning, and judging. The child builds, forms, sees, observes, compares, and then expresses the truth it has ascertained. By repetition, these truths, acquired by the observation of facts, become the child's mental property". Quoted from: Paradise of Childhood By: Edward Weibe pg. 124.