Friday, July 13, 2007

Unit blocks & Froebel Gift #6

Among the Froebel Gifts, the blocks in the Sixth Gift show the most promise for being fun to play with. But this hasn't seemed to necessarily translate well into print. I think the biggest problem is the Froebel rule that all blocks in the gift be used in each construction. I do much better in free play when I allow some to lay on the table, and better still when I have a few extra to supplement here & there.

The secret here is probably to build something from a design sheet, but when it is finished - or even before - break loose and build freestyle, using the starting design simply as inspiration.

The design in the photo is from Bauen nach Fröbel - Vorlagen und Anweisung, by Friederich Seidel, Vienna, 1890. I downloaded the source image at right in January, 2005, from - I believe - a Japanese site which doesn't seem to be there any longer, so I can't request permission to share more of the 10 pages of diagrams for Gift #6 (source corrections or updates welcome). Though they tend to be repetitive and with many artist errors, they are still interesting and potentially useful.

The image at left is from Royal Gifts for the Kindergarten, by Frances Post van Norstrand, Chicago, 1888. You may recognize design number 7 from an earlier post here, though it in fact was done from a different book - the Royal Gifts designs are a subset of those in the Wiebe book cited in my recent Gift 4 post, albeit with new art.

Compare the Gift 4 designs in the Royal Gifts scan at lower right to those in Wiebe to see the similarities. I include this scan not just to illustrate my point, but so that those wanting a compact and simple set of inspirations can print out the two single-page Royal Gifts sheets (click on the images for a higher resolution version for printing), perhaps laminated back to back for durability and convenience.

For building to the Gift 6 designs, as well as Gift 4 and a good deal of freestyle fun, I suggest IQ Preschool's "Buncha Blocks." The sets come with nice canvas carrying bags, and I divide my two sets so that all the Gift 6 style blocks go in one bag, all the other blocks (arches, dowels, planks, triangles, semicircles) go in the other - they come out almost exactly even in bulk. While this means 16 of each of the three shapes are in the Gift 6 bag, instead of the 18 + 12 + 6 of the formal Gift 6, only the strictest Froebelian formalists will suffer much. Since two of one or the other of the alternate shapes can always be made to substitute for the "oblong block" (Froebelian terminology) or "unit block" (unit block terminology), there is no constraint on building by being two short in this shape.

Whatever the blocks, whatever their size, Froebel's Sixth Gift is a fine entry point to Good Block Play.

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