kindergarten [Ger., = garden of children], system of preschool education. Friedrich Froebel designed (1837) the kindergarten to provide an educational situation less formal than that of the elementary school but one in which children's creative play instincts would be organized constructively. Through the use of songs, stories, games, simple manual materials, and group activities for which the furnishings of a kindergarten are adapted, children develop habits of cooperation and application, and the transition from home to school is thought to be made less formidable.
The theory implicit in the kindergarten system, that education develops through expression and social cooperation, has greatly influenced elementary education and parent education, especially in the United States, where kindergartens are generally a part of public school systems. The first kindergarten in America was founded (1856) at Watertown, Wis., by Margaretta Schurz, wife of Carl Schurz. It was followed by a school opened (1861) by Elizabeth Peabody in Boston and by a public kindergarten established (1873) in St. Louis by Susan Blow.
See also nursery school.
See C. Goode, World of Kindergarten (1970); W. Barbe, Basic Skills in Kindergarten (1980); S. Stuart, Teaching and Reaching (1983); B. Spodek, Today's Kindergarten (1986); N. Brosterman, Inventing Kindergarten (1997).