Kindergarten: Definitions, history, aim, objectives and characteristics of kindergarten and top signs of a quality kindergarten

Kindergarten is a preschool educational approach based on playing, singing, practical activities such as drawing, and social interaction as part of the transition from home to school.

Table of Contents

What is Kindergarten?

Kindergarten is a school or class for young children, usually aged three to six years old, that prepares them for first grade or primary education by developing basic skills and social behavior through games, exercises, music, simple handicrafts, and so on.

Kindergarten in Amsterdam in 1880 | Illustrated by Max Liebermann
Kindergarten in Amsterdam in 1880 | Illustrated by Max Liebermann


The term 'kindergarten' was coined by the German Friedrich Froebel or Fröbel, whose approach globally influenced early-years education. Today, the term is used in many countries to describe a variety of educational institutions and learning spaces for children ranging from 2 to 6 years of age, based on a variety of teaching methods. In countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Denmark and Germany, kindergarten education is usually provided to children under 5 years of age. Normally the age of admission in kindergarten is 4 years but sometimes 3-year or 4-year children go to kindergarten.

Some of the definitions of kindergarten is mentioned below—

  1. Kindergarten is a preschool educational approach that emphasizes play, singing, practical activities like drawing, and social interaction as part of the transition from home to school.

  2. According to Oxford Language—  Kindergarten is an establishment where children below the age of compulsory education play and learn.

  3. According to Collin's dictionary, “A kindergarten is an informal kind of school for very young children, where they learn things by playing.”

  4. According to the Department of Education and Training, State of Victoria, Australia— "Kindergarten is a program for young children delivered by a qualified early childhood teacher."

  5. According to Lexico, "Kindergarten is an establishment where children below the age of compulsory education play and learn; a nursery school."

  6. Merriam-Webster's Dictionary mentions, "Kindergarten is a school or class for children usually from four to six years old."

History of Kindergarten

Kindergarten term

The term 'kindergarten' is derived from German. The German word 'Kinder' refers to children, and 'garten' refers to a garden; so the meaning of kindergarten is 'garden of children'. The 'kindergarten' term was coined in the nineteenth century by a famous German child educator Friedrich Wilhelm August Froebel or Fröbel.


Friedrich Wilhelm August Froebel
Friedrich Wilhelm August Froebel

German educator Friedrich Wilhelm August Froebel and  Establishment of kindergarten 

Friedrich Wilhelm August Froebel was born in Germany in 1782. Friedrich's mother died when he was nine months old, and his father took over the care of him and his two brothers. His father, on the other hand, was careless with his children and had little time for them. To compensate for the neglect, little Friedrich spent a lot of time alone in the gardens around his house. This activity marked the beginning of his passion for nature, and it would go on to influence the institution for which he is best known.

Froebel began his career as a teacher at the Frankfurt Model School in 1805. This school strictly adhered to the teachings and philosophy of Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi, a well-known German educator at the time. Johann's philosophy advocated for children to participate actively in their education.

When Froebel left the school in 1806, he took this approach with him to become a private teacher to three sons of a Frankfurt noble family. Parents of the children he taught gave him a small plot of land to use as a garden. Between 1808 and 1810, Froebel held numerous teaching sessions with children in his garden.

All of his findings convinced him that the best way to get results from children's education is to employ Pestalozzi's direct observation and action approach. This realization inspired him to create a plan for toddler education based on the philosophy of both Pestalozzi and the French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

Froebel founded his educational institution in 1817, but it was not well organised. In 1837, Froebel established the first-ever school for toddlers in Bad Blankenburg, which he initially called the 'Play and Activity Institute'.

In 1840, Friedrich Froebel established the first kindergarten, Garden of Children. Froebel invented the term kindergarten to represent his vision for early childhood education: "Children are like tiny flowers; they are varied and require care, but each is beautiful on its own and glorious when seen in the community of peers." 

Actually Forebel renamed his previous school 'Play and Activity Institute' to 'Kindergarten'.

Friedrich Froebel is called the father of kindergarten and his approach influenced early childhood education around the world. 

It should be noted that the German citizen Friedrich Wilhelm August Froebel was an intern educator at Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi founded Swiss school and met with other educational thinkers of the time. Froebel dedicated his life to educating children and developing methods to maximize human potential for the next 35 years, until his death in 1852.

What are the aim and objectives of kindergarten?

The aim of kindergarten

Kindergarten is a place where children will learn to play. The aim of kindergarten is to teach children through play.

The purposes or objectives of kindergarten

  1. One of the major objectives of kindergarten is teaching children how to maintain interaction.

  2. For kindergartens, making children able to interact with one another, play games and participate in activities that are comfortable with others are important objectives.

  3. Building children’s communication skills, especially in listening and having conversations.

  4. Kindergarten focuses on the idea of ​​socializing.

  5. With the help of kindergarten teachers or instructors, children will be able to acquire appropriate language skills, acquire vocabulary and be able to apply it to a great extent.

  6. In kindergarten children will acquire basic ideas about culture, customs, religion, etc.

  7. Hygiene and children will learn from kindergarten how to take care of themselves.

  8. One of the main purposes of kindergarten is to make children able to read, read and do arithmetic.

  9. Kindergartens are determined to make children suitable for the next stage (primary education) of their learning.

  10. Kindergarten's take challenges to express children's creativity, for example, through dance, movement and art.

  11. Developing the skills of children that they need for reading, writing and mathematics.

A kindergarten classroom
A kindergarten classroom

What are the main features or characteristics of the kindergarten system?

Kindergarten is for 5-year-old children, but sometimes includes 4-to-6-year-olds, and provides developmentally appropriate learning opportunities to build the child's social and academic skills and prepare them for the transition into first grade and school in general. The main characteristics of a kindergarten system are listed below—

  1. Safe, preserved, healthy, child-friendly and joyful environment

  2. Presence of child-friendly content for children's entertainment

  3. Presence of suitable sports equipment for children

  4. Full-time attendance of teachers and instructors

  5. Presence of child-friendly teaching materials

  6. Presence of basic elements of general schools

  7. Presence of sincerity of all including teachers, instructors, staff

  8. Teaching is not textbook based but sports or tendency based

  9. Not to put pressure on children etc.

Top Ten Signs of a Quality Kindergarten

There are some specific characteristics of a kindergarten that tell you which of the kindergartens are really quality kindergartens. The following signs are adapted from, The Truth about Kindergarten published by Presented by the New Jersey Department of Education, the United States.

  1. Kindergarten encourages children to play with materials and collaborate with other children. They are not aimlessly wandering or forced to sit quietly for long periods of time.

  2. Throughout the day, children can participate in a variety of activities. Children are not all doing the same thing at the same time.

  3. At various times throughout the day, teachers work with individual children, small groups, and the entire class. They do not only spend time with the entire group.

  4. The classroom is decorated with original artwork by the students, their own writing with invented spelling, and stories dictated by the students.

  5. Children learn numbers and the alphabet through their everyday experiences.

  6. Children work on projects while having ample time to play and explore. Worksheet completion should not be their primary activity.

  7. Every day,  if the weather permits, children have the opportunity to play outside. This game is never sacrificed in order to gain more instructional time.

  8. Teachers read to students throughout the day, not just during group story time.

  9. The curriculum is tailored to those who are ahead of schedule as well as those who require extra assistance. Children do not learn the same things at the same time or in the same way because their experiences and backgrounds differ.

  10. Children and their parents look forward to school. Parents feel safe sending their child to kindergarten. Children are happy; they are not crying or regularly sick.

Kindergarten | Illustrated by Johann Sperl, circa in 1885
Kindergarten | Illustrated by Johann Sperl, circa in 1885

What does the kindergarten curriculum look like?

  1. Kindergarten curriculum focuses on the tendencies and abilities of children.

  2. In a kindergarten curriculum, there should be appropriate opportunities for reading and writing, as Froebel's theory suggests.

  3. Curriculum for kindergarten should be designed to develop children's creativity and aesthetics.

  4. Kindergarten should design a curriculum that helps in inculcating religious feelings in children. In Froebel's kindergarten theory, he emphasized on God, and nature.

  5. According to Froebel, moral barriers need to be inculcated in children through various ethical stories. He believed that the child's morality was also developed through nature lessons. From this it is understood that there should be an opportunity to acquire knowledge of ethics in kindergarten curriculum.

  6. Mathematics is one of the most important and essential parts of kindergarten. Adequate and appropriate opportunities for learning mathematics should be included in the kindergarten curriculum.

  7. The language of instruction in kindergarten will be mother tongue centered; The curriculum will be the same.

  8. Recitation, dance, song, etc. should be included in the kindergarten curriculum for the development of the child's aesthetics.

  9. Froebel recommends incorporating physical labor into the kindergarten curriculum through play and work.

Acknowledgement

  • The New Jersey Department of Education, USA

  • Victoria State University, Australia

  • Froebel USA (froebelgifts.com)

  • Britannica (britannica.com)

  • Kevin Zoromski, Michigan State University, USA

  • Bishleshon (bishleshon.com)

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