20Play To Learn
In 1837 Fröbel founded his “care, playing and activity institute for small children,” a place which he later came to call the kindergarten.
The first playgrounds were built in Germany in the mid-1800’s by the educator Friedrich Fröbel. Fröbel was the first to recognize that children had different learning needs and capabilities and he suggested playgrounds as a developmental aid, a place where children could learn to play nicely together and
become better citizens. These first play areas were all attached to schools and “playtime” was part of the daily timetable, a lesson in how to play correctly.
When these kindergartens became popular, they spread across Germany with their attached play areas. The young children attending the school were encouraged to sing, dance, garden, and indulge in self-directed play, something that was revolutionary at the time.
However, these play areas are not what we might traditionally think of as playgrounds today. As you can see from the photograph above, which was taken at a Fröbel kindergarten in the late 1800’s, they were mostly glorified garden areas with enough space to run about and play. There were no swings, or slides, or climbing frames, in fact, there was no equipment at all. The ground was cleared, and a garden area was set out in such a way that the children could participate in gardening but the playgrounds were only accessible to children attending the school.