Theorist that made an impact on early childhood education



There are many theorist that laid the blue-print for the early childhood profession, they promoted childhood development and various learning styles that are used in today's contemporary classroom.This WebQuest will highlight the theories and contributions of Friedrich Froebel, Maria Montessori and John Dewey.

                                         Early Childhood Theorists and their effects on education

Friedrich Froebel established the first kindergarten in the United States which started the building block of the modern education system (Bruce, 2015). Frobel believed that the early years of a child are crucial for overall development.  He characterize children as small plants that need natural environment and care to grow properly (Zuckerman, 2010).  Froebel developed a series of gifts that could be provided to children for completing a task or as a gift of development.  The "gifts" were actually the learning tools that were relevant to the specific age of the children, which could help in their self-development and actualization.  The contemporary classroom is greatly influenced by Frobel's concept of self-activity through organized planned curriculum based on gifts, occupations, songs and educational games (Morrison, 2014).


Froebel Kindergarten gifts early childhood history of toys:



Maria Montessori was a physician and an educator that devised a method where children were provided learning materials and an environment to support their natural desires to acquire skills and knowledge.  Montessori developed a system that focused on the natural interest and curiosity of children. Montessori understood the importance of pediatrics and psychology which influenced her belief in the child centered approach to learning.  Montessori believed that the child should have full autonomy during the learning process.  The classroom in the Montessori education system are set up to encourage the children for productive playing.  If you walk into a  Montessori inspired classroom today, you will find puzzles, art supplies and educational games.  The Montessori theory is still in place in the contemporary classroom.  A Montessori inspired classroom is a prepared  enviornment that inspires a sense of curiosity in student's mind while encouraging discovery-based learning.  Educators are trained in certified in Montessori framework to assist children increase their curiosity in learning. Today, a vast amount of "public and private Montessori schools utilize her methods and approach" (Morrison, 2014)


Montessori School Education:




John Dewey a proponet of child-centered approach, believed that the student curriculum should be based on their interest over subject matter (Morrison, 2014).

John Dewey theory is based on the progressive approach.  The progressive approach emphasize on learning by doing.  Dewey believed that human beings are capable of learning anything through the hands-on- approach or pragmatism (Schmidt, 2010).  Pragmatists believe that reality must be experienced if we want to learn and students must interact with their environment to learn.   Dewey's theory have a great impact on contemporary education, in fact, he is known as the father of progressive education, which is one of the building blocks of contemporary education system.  Dewey's learning approaches are still used to promote student engagement in the classrooms, with the help of technology.


 Dewey theory on education:





The following are the main tasks of this WebQuest

1.  Students will learn about three theorists in early childhood education and their beliefs.

2.  The student will learn how these theories affect today's contemporary classroom.

3.  The student will learn how these theories impact the role of an early childhood educator.



                               Theorists That Made an Impact On Early Childhood


    Frederick Froebel (1782-1852) origionally created the concept of kindergarten and coined the term. Froebel is said to have laid down the foundation for modern education. Froebel studied under Pestalozzi and this work helped him to develop his own theories. Also, Froebel created and developed educational toys to promote his ideas of learning through play.


    Frobel advocated the idea that children learn through play and play is essentially work for children. Children flourish in a play environment according to Froebel's theory on learning through play. He believed in promoting crucial developmental growth through problem solving, learning, and play. Also, he believed that self-learning was most beneficial to the child to help them comprehend and retain the information to the best of their abilities. Froebel also designed children's toys to promote learning through play. Crafting items such as balls, wooden blocks, tiles, and stick and ring set, his goal of promoting play was achieved.


     Froebel created the learning environment of kindergarten for children in which children should learn through play. He also supported the idea that teachers should be trained and educated in order to work with children. His work helped to inform people of the importance of an educational foundation based upon learning through play.


"Play is the highest expression of human development in childhood for it alone is the free expression of what is in a child's soul"

~Frederick Froebel

Frederick Froebel  

The Developmental Theory- John Dewey


Maria Montessori  

The Developmental Theory- Maria Montessori


    Maria Montessori (1870-1952) studied educational philosophy. She was an Italian physician and she was also an educator who attended many universities and a technical institue after completing her secondary education, following in the footsteps of her father who was considered to be an intellect of the time period. She was mentored by her mother and had a close, positive realtionship with her. Commonly, she studied children with mental disabilities, impairment, or some form of retardation.  


    Montessori founded the Montessori Approach. She said that students learn the best through self-guided learning and can naturally correct themselves. Assignments should be created independently, for the child to receive the most out of that learning experience, according to Montessori. Emphasizing practical skills such as cleaning and caring for themselves, Montessori taught student things they needed for life rather than focusing on what it considered a 'core' subject in America today. She believed that children each developed at their own individual paces. Children learn actively by using there sense. In her observations, she concluded that children were bored rather than unruly.  


    Montessori's approach impacted early childhood education by the formation of Montessori Schools. In Montessori schools students are given self-directed learning tools and teachers serve more of a facilitator, rather than educator, role. Also, she established that child sized furniture should be used, especially in the classroom environment. 


"The child, making use of all things he finds around himself, shapes himself for the

~Maria Montessori

John Dewey

The Developmental Theory- John Dewey

    John Dewey (1859-1952) studied educational philosophy and psychology. Dewey was an American philosopher, psychologist, and educational reformer. He was also an author, best known for his literary works in relation to childhood development and learning. Dewey was also a major advocate for democracy, though he focused most of his literary works on childrens psychology and building connections and relations with materials as a way of learning.


Dewey's theory of the progressive approach said that students learn best when they can relate content to thier lives or some other real world application. His theories simply promoted connections between the material that is being learned and taught to the student and the real world. The real world accoriding to his theory consisted of things that childrennare farmilliar with and encounter regulary, therefore, giving them a personal realtion to the material, and allowing for them to be able to retain and recall the information easily. Dewey believed that building connections further enhanced the learning experience.


Dewey's ideas promoted laboratory schools in the 1920s. He also believed there should be comprehensive schools with applicable curriculum available to students for them to get the most out of their education. Dewey believed that there should be career focused courses available to students to promote applicable learning and real world uses for concepts learned.


"Education, therefore, is a process of living and not a preparation for future living"

~John Dewey






Students should be able to answer the following review questions:




1.  What concept did Friedrich Froebel contribute to the contemporary classroom?


2.  What learning activities would you find in a Montessori inspired classroom?


3.  What is John Dewey's theoretical approach to learning?


4.  How could his approach promote student engagement?


5.  How would you apply his theory in a contemporary classroom setting?




This WebQuest reflects on the contributions that Friedrich Froebel, Maria Monessori and John Dewey made to the teaching profession, the contemporary classroom and early childhood development.

Frobel's Theory: Playing is how children learn/Children learn through playing

  • Developed gifts and occupations to help children learn
  • Believed children can and should learn through play (Morrison, 2014)
  • Children should have specific materials to learn concepts and skills (Morrison, 2014)

The concept gifts and occupation that Froebel developed is the curriculum that is used in contemporary kindergarten classrooms today. 

 Montessori Theory:  Sensory learning, student's learn through their senses

  • Believed that knowledge derives from intrinsic and sensory experiences (Morrison, 2014).
  • Sensory based material should be self-correcting (Morrison, 2014)
  • Learning materials should accommodate each student's  specific needs 
  • It is essential that the classroom enviornment is prepared for learning (Morrison, 2014)


Dewey's Theory: Children's interest form the basis of the curriculum

  • Promoted progressive education
  • Child centered education
  • Educate children for today not tomorrow (Morrison, 2014)

Froebel, Montessor and Dewey theoretical framework are prevelant and utilized in today's contemporary classroom. Their methods are used to assess learning and promote healthy early childhood development. 





        Bruce, T. (2015). Friedrich Froebel and his theories of education.  The Routledge International Handbook of Philosophies and Theories of Early Childhood Education and Care, 1(7), 43-46.

        Hargreaves, D.J. Robson, S., Greenfield, S., & Fumoto, H.(2014).  Ownership and autonomy in early learning:  The Froebel research fellowship project.  Journal of Early Childhood Research, 12(3), 308-321.

       Lillard, A.S. (2013).  Playful learning and Montessori education. NAMTA Journal, 38(2), 137-174.

       Morrison, G.S. (2014) Fundamentals of Early Childhood Education (7th ed) Upper Saddle, NJ

       Schmidt, M. (2010). Learning from teaching experience:  Dewey's theory and pre-service teachers' learning.  Journal of Research in music education, 58(2), 131-146.

       Zuckerman, O. (2010).  Designing digital objects for learning: lessons from Froebel and Montessori. International Journal of Arts and Technology, 3(1), 124-135.