Kindergarten Block Set Gift No. 6 by Milton Bradley


Kindergarten as a concept was developed in Germany by Friedrich Froebel (1782-1852), a student of Swiss educator Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi. Froebel’s German kindergartens encouraged children to enjoy natural studies, music, stories, play with manipulative learning toys. He recommended teachers use geometric shapes and crafts for teaching and advocated the use of ‘gifts’ or playthings in the form of geometric shapes to promote learning and occupations or activities. Froebel also incorporated learning through expression, systematized play and social imitation. The first kindergarten opened in Germany in 1837; the first in the US was opened by Margarethe Schurz to a German speaking community in Wisconsin in 1856. In 1860, Elizabeth Peabody opened the first English speaking kindergarten in Boston. Over time, kindergarten was introduced into public schools with the changed purpose of providing an early academic foundation for 5 and 6-year old children preparing for 1st grade.

This set of blocks is the sixth “gift” in the series manufactured by the Milton Bradley Company. The blocks are in a square cherry wood box with a removable sliding top and a faded green label on one side. The box contains thirty-six wood blocks of three standard sizes: sixteen long, wide rectangular blocks; six long, thin rectangular blocks; and fourteen short, wide rectangular blocks.

Milton Bradley Company was established by Milton Bradley (1836-1911) in 1860. A mechanical draughtsman and patent agent interested in lithography, board games and puzzles, Milton Bradley became interested in the kindergarten movement after he attended a lecture by Elizabeth Peabody in 1869. Elizabeth and her sister Mary, who was by then the widow of educator Horace Mann, were devoted to promoting Froebel’s philosophy of creative play for pre-school children and helped spread of the Kindergarten Movement to America’s cities. These “gift boxes” are examples of school equipment made by Milton Bradley sometime between 1880 to 1900 for use in kindergartens. Milton Bradley produced educational materials free of charge for the kindergartens in his hometown of Springfield, Massachusetts and was committed to developing kindergarten educational materials such as these gifts, colored papers and paints.

Date Made: ca 1880-1900

Maker: Milton Bradley Company

Location: Currently not on view

Place Made: United States: Massachusetts, Springfield

Used: EducationKindergarten


See more items in: Home and Community Life: Education, Women Teaching Math


Exhibition Location:

Credit Line: Gift of Dr. Richard Lodish American School Collection

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: 2014.0244.379Accession Number: 2014.0244Catalog Number: 2014.0244.379

Object Name: kindergarten block set

Physical Description: wood (blocks material)paper (label material)ink (label material)wood, cherry (container material)Measurements: overall: 9.1 cm x 9.5 cm x 9 19/32 in; 3 19/32 in x 3 3/4 in x 24.384 cm


Record Id: nmah_1825929

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