Kindergarten Means “Garden of Children”

My garden is a new venture every year.  We bought an older home with an established flower garden in 2002.  When summer arrived I couldn’t wait to see what  would bloom.  It was a joy to discover new flowers.  Since then, we have watched and learned, occasionally adding new flowers to the garden.  Yet, the changes every year are often drastic, thanks to nature.


These daisies were never there.  And now they are prolific.  Yet, no two are alike.  Big, tall, just budding, small… they’re all different.  

Flowers are much like young children.  They grow at different rates, have their own agenda, fight for the sun, take a backseat to other flowers… some are strong, some are weak.  I have watched our flowers grow and change for many years, like I have watched children grow and change over decades.

What have I learned?  Give them plenty of care, but don’t force changes.  Accept their beauty.  Be ready to help.

What children need and what flowers need to grow hasn’t changed.  I keep that in crystal clear focus.  Times might change, but children and flowers have not.  Kindergarten means “garden of children.”  They are nourished with stories, music, nature, and dramatic play.  The Arts are the roots to grow children.  Providing opportunities for unbounded creativity is the fire to want to learn.  I know this firsthand.  I pay attention to every child, nourishing them like I do my flowers.  Some need hugs, some need academic challenges.

The point is, every child is different.  Friedrich Froebel understood children and what they needed.  He established the first kindergarten in Germany in 1837.  It was radical at the time.

A Brief History of Kindergarten
Published by Redleaf Press, 2010

Friedrich Froebel, a German educator, opened the first kindergarten in Blankenburg, Germany, in 1837. During the 1830s and 1840s he developed his vision for kindergarten based on the ideas of the French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the later Swiss educator Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi. These progressive education reformers introduced the concept that children were naturally good and active learners. At the time, this thinking was quite radical. The common belief until then had been that children were little creatures who needed stern handling to become good adults. Play was seen as a waste of time and proof that children should be tamed so they could be more productive.

Undaunted, Froebel argued that teachers should use music, nature study, stories, and dramatic play to teach children. He encouraged the use of crafts and manipulatives, such as small building blocks or puzzles. He also promoted the idea of circle time for children to learn in a group. Froebel proposed that children acquire cognitive and social skills by us- ing their natural curiosity and desire to learn. He believed women had the best sensitivity and qualities to work with young children in developing their emotional skills. Consequently, Froebel opened a training school just for women.

Froebel’s ideas were so new that the Prussian government closed all kindergartens in 1851, fearing a socialist revolutionary movement. Nevertheless, the concept spread quickly throughout the rest of the world, and by the end of the nineteenth century, many countries had started kindergartens for middle-class children. Then, between 1900 and the start of World War I, England and France began to establish free kindergartens for poor children. Kindergartens also reopened in Germany at the end of the nineteenth century, and they still serve children who are three to six years old.

The word kindergarten means “garden of children,” a beautiful metaphor for what happens there—children growing like flowers and plants, nurtured by a positive environment with good soil, rain, and sun, as well as an attentive gardener.

Today, Froebel’s words and findings are still spot on.  Yet, schools are more concerned with academics; they forget (or don’t understand) that young children need to experience – touch, build, experiment – before real learning can happen.  Frank Lloyd Wright attributes his success in architecture to the blocks he had as a child.  Yes, building with blocks.

I will forever champion children, give them opportunities to explore and ask questions, challenge them to do more when they’re excited, and give them support and love along the way.  They’re my garden of children.


About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It's the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That's what I write about. I am highlighted in the the new edition of Jim Trelease's bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at both the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, and the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital.
This entry was posted in Early Education, Expressing words and feelings, Inspiration, Mother Nature, Nature, preschool, self esteem, Teaching young children, The Arts, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

96 Responses to Kindergarten Means “Garden of Children”

  1. Ritu says:

    This is fascinating, and I love the meaning if Kindergarten 🥰

  2. beetleypete says:

    You make a convincing comparison between tending a garden, and looking after the education of children. It has to be remembered that while flowers might all look the same, each one is different in itself.
    Best wishes, Pete.

  3. barbtaub says:

    I have a grandchild about to start kindergarten. My greatest hope and prayer is that she’ll get a teacher like you!

  4. jenanita01 says:

    Too many parents these days seem to think all they need to do is provide toys and tv, and the children will be fine. I suspect they treat their gardens the same way too…

  5. Thank you for providing the history and origial philosophy for kindergarten. Maria Montessori must have been influenced by Froebel’s work?

  6. Love your daisies and the comparison of flowers to children is spot on!

  7. Who did it? Germans! Lol
    Thank you for mentioning the history of the Kindergarten. Honestly we care for em til now, but we have a great leak in pre-schooling, and the Kindergarten’s most times – at least until the re-unification of the two German states BRD and GDR – are only managed by one of the big churches. As a friend of mine always says, there they are “programming the Catholic Chip” for further life as a good church member. 😉 Michael

  8. beth says:

    I love this very natural comparison, Jennie. it is so accurate. funny, I wrote about my garden today and how the landscapers ‘cleaned up’ my garden by weeding, but in reality they had pulled many of my wildflower mix that I had been nurturing and waiting to see them bloom. they may have seemed to be weeds to them, because they were all different, and they only left the ones they recognized as flowers behind, but as you and I both know, sometimes the unique ones bloom a little later, and take some time to reveal their beauty to all.

    • Jennie says:

      It really is a natural comparison. And your story- oh, no! I do hope some of the sturdy wildflowers will somehow remain. They can be pretty hearty, like children. And you are so right about how the unique ones (children and flowers) bloom later. I was a late bloomer. 🙂 Thank you, Beth. I knew you would understand and feel the same way. 🥰

  9. Dan Antion says:

    The results show that you care for both gardens very well, Jennie. We have our entire lives to learn, but the period of time we have to really play keeps getting shorter.

  10. Darlene says:

    I love this comparison of children to flowers. The idea of a garden of children is so perfect as children, like flowers, need the right amount of tending, sunshine, and water. You do all of that and more.

  11. Interesting history, Jennie! As a kindergarten teacher, I was sometimes frustrated by the new push to make sure all the students could read before going on to first grade. In many cases, they just needed to learn those skills when they were ready!

    • Jennie says:

      Well said, Becky. The push is still there, and as a child who struggled with reading, I can remember how terrible that felt. Children will learn when they’re ready.

  12. I’m not surprised that you wait for your garden to tell you what it wants to be. Just like your students. Everyone thinks we should mold our children into what we want but you said it so well; they come in with their own agenda and capabilities. I have been fascinated at watching my own develop into adults. We may have some influence but we really have to let a daisy be a daisy, not a rose. Wouldn’t you know it was a German that thought up kindergarten. 🙂 And then another that tried to make everyone a rose. Lots of food for thought here. I’m certain your garden is just plain happy. Hugs. M

    • Jennie says:

      You give so much wonderful food for thought, Marlene. Yes, so many think they have the perfect mold for their child, without ever paying attention to to what the child likes. It truly is fascinating to watch them grow and help along the way. I was actually surprised that a German thought up kindergarten. Not sure why. My garden is happy, I need to feed it tomorrow. Many thanks, Marlene! I just love how you say what you say. You always have a delightful and intuitive way with words!

  13. What a wonderful comparison! Your daisies look wonderful. I hope my Grandsons get teachers like you!

  14. An outstanding post for educators, parents, grandparents and anyone who cares about children! ❤

  15. jane tims says:

    I am doing a writing project to consider what happens to abandoned gardens ( when a home is abandoned for example) … depending on the species, a plant will persist ( thrive in place), die out or escape to another, more suitable location.

    • Jennie says:

      I think that’s exactly what will happen. Interestingly, neglected children will react in the same way. Thank you, Jane. Good luck with your writing project.

  16. I love your comparison of children to flowers, Jennie. That is true, children do bloom if you provide them with the right tools to do so.

  17. I love this history, Jennie. Thanks.

  18. Ellen says:

    Unfortunately, in March due to Covid-19, Benjamin’s kindergarten classes were shuttered and became online learning. His beautiful “Garden of Children” dwindled down to a solitary plant! This caused the loss of interaction with other children which, among other things, is so important in the development of social skills. Thankfully, he had already experienced two years of preschool and spent most of the kindergarten year in the classroom. What September will bring is fraught with problems and unease, but you are aware of this as well. In Benjamin’s first year of preschool, the teacher had a poster with these words that I took a picture of in order to remember them : “Every child is a different kind of flower and all together make this world a beautiful garden.” – Unknown. Thank-you for this lovely post!

    • Jennie says:

      Hi Ellen! Yes, the shutdown took away all the flowers in my garden of children. It was sad. School did distance learning with Zooms and YouTube. I read aloud twice a day, continued with music and morning meeting math, etc. Still it was not the same thing as the garden of children at school where social and emotional development was a part of everyday. Thank goodness Benjamin had two years of preschool! And I dearly LOVE his preschool teacher’s poster!! My fingers are crossed for September.🤞 Many thanks, Ellen.

  19. What a beautiful, heartfelt post, Jennie. Thank you so much just for being you. I loved seeing the daisies too. Hugs on the wing.

  20. I love your posts, Jennie. May you continue caring for children, and your garden, during these difficult times. Hugs! and may you keep safe and well.

  21. petespringerauthor says:

    The flower’s and children’s analogy is perfect. Froebel was a man before his time. I’m pretty sure this is universal, but perhaps the most discussed issue about kindergarten by the kindergarten teachers at my school was how frustrated they had become by the constant academic push.

    • Jennie says:

      He truly was ahead of his time. Everything he says is exactly right. I would side with the kindergarten teachers at your school, as the academic push is definitely there, and it’s not always developmentally appropriate. If teachers could design the curriculum… well, you know how awesome that would be for children.

      There is a strong interest in nature based schools here in New England. My assistant teacher was ‘done’ with the technology push and left to teach at a school that is all outdoors, rain or shine, heat or snow. She loves it, and she’s not the first teacher I know who has done this.

      Schools here want preschoolers to use iPads!!! Sigh! Froebel would roll over in his grave. Best to you, Pete. And thank you.

      • petespringerauthor says:

        The same things seem to be hoist upon us everywhere. I’ve got nothing against technology (well, that’s not entirely true), but let’s remember it is only one tool. When children feel safe, nurtured, and loved, that’s when the real learning takes place.

      • Jennie says:

        That’s true, Pete. Some technology is okay for the very young. And it’s only one tool. Thank you for reminding me of that. The love and nurturing is the real key.

  22. TanGental says:

    Ah delightful. And i love your roguish gardening. We like our plants to explore trying their seeds in different areas. Foxgloves in cracks in the pointing on walls, lady’s mantle in the gaps between paviers.

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, Geoff. Glad you enjoyed it. Roguish is an excellent word here! I was thinking about succulent cacti among the rocks. I will have to look up lady’s mantle, as something in my paver cracks is a great idea.

  23. Opher says:

    You surely nurture your garden of children Jennie. They must surely blossom.
    I love the philosophy of Froebel and I can see why some would think it a threat. They wouldn’t want children to think or question and they have the mistaken idea that education should mean discipline – not growth.

    • Jennie says:

      I think his philosophy is timeless, as he truly understands child development. Questioning means real thinking and learning. Thanks, Opher!

  24. srbottch says:

    Wonderful metaphor, the garden and children, Jennie. I’m glad you discussed ‘play’ as an important element. I think ‘play’ gets pushed aside in favor of structure when ‘play’ teaches many skills useful in life. By the way, in my wife’s garden, if a plant is not succeeding, she digs it out and replaces it but we can overlook that for purposes of this story. Keep nurturing, Jennie!

    • Jennie says:

      Glad you liked the metaphor, Steve. Play is a young child’s work. That’s how they learn and discover. It often gets pushed aside in favor of structure, which is sad. Tell your wife I occasionally dig up the half dead plant, but I plant it in a pot or different location. It just might need something different. I’m off to do that with my snapdragons today, as they need more room to grow and are looking poorly. I underestimated their size. I will keep nurturing, Steve. Thank you!

  25. swamiyesudas says:

    Thank You for Your Enthusiastic sharing, my Dear Jennie. …At least in India, I find children in classes at least upto 12 being crammed with so called knowledge. This needs change too. Hope some good Soul like You will take this up. …Love n Regards. 🙂

  26. Thank you for the history if kindergarten, i had no clue

  27. Thanks for the brief history, Jennie, and for the lovely analogy. It never ceases to amaze me how nature provides the wisdom for most things in our lives. We are certainly creatures of this planet and there are mirrors everywhere. A beautiful post, my friend.

  28. A. L. Kaplan says:

    Reblogged this on alkaplan and commented:
    Lovely post about Kindergarten.

  29. and you tend your garden well. x Michele

  30. sjhigbee says:

    What a lovely article, Jennie – so very true!

  31. The Reynolds' Rap says:

    Beautiful! ❤️

  32. Hello Jennie! Hope that you are have an exceptionally love filled week. How interesting the word ‘kindergarten’. The name and meaning has never come to mind. The name seems to have come out of the 1950s and during the Eisenhower administration.🤔

  33. Sheri Libby says:

    Wow never knew the meaning of kindergarten. Thanks

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  35. Whitney says:

    Wow this is so amazing to learn and to see the comparison to flowers! My son is going into kindergarten this year and my heart is excited at times, but other times feels sad that the last 5 years are over. Where did they go? But with your comparison my heart rejoices! I’m excited to think more on it and hopefully express myself in a post of my own! Thank you!! ❤️

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  38. Janet says:

    finding this blog has re-gilded my view on the word “kindergarten”, my little nursery is celebrating 35 years in September and during 12 weeks of lockdown, a “positive” blooms in a strange way.
    Giving me a chance to stop and truly reflect on times past and why we as practitioners do what we do and so passionately. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing the delight and excitement, the freedom to engage and discover when children are given the opportunity to immerse themselves in the great outdoors.

  39. denise421win says:

    Awesome, I am so glad that the children are learning new skills

  40. Excellent insight. Children today are more fortunate to be schooled in such a way. I also love your garden and how you nuture your plants as you have nurtured the growth of young minds.

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