Four of the Froebel gifts are a box containing blocks of various shapes. When the box is lifted above the blocks, the child sees a cube. The first experience of the gift is a perception of unity.
As the child becomes aware that the cube is assembled from a number of component blocks, the natural desire of the child is to remove blocks. As the cube is dismantled many different shapes are seen by the child.
Traditionally block play was done on a surface with a one inch square grid. On this surface the individual blocks could be arranged by the child to form patterns, or assembled to make models, or later be used to discover mathematical concepts
Finally, the blocks were reassembled to form a cube. The child thus creating the whole from the parts. The box was then lowered onto the cube, concealing the blocks from view. For Fröbel even packing up was part of the play.
In this process, the natural inclination of the child to perceive, investigate, and reassemble is the driving force of the play.
Fröbel intended this play to be open ended as each of the block gifts presents endless possibilities for creativity and discovery. The trained teacher assisted the process by encouraging the child to talk about their experience. As the nineteenth century progressed the early pictures intended to illustrate some of the possibilities of the blocks were often used a patterns for the child to imitiate. This application was both contrary to Fröbel's intention and contributed to the gifts falling into disuse.
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