Froebel and the Occupation of Woodwork

Froebel and Woodwork

The Froebelian Occupation of Woodwork: A symbolic language of shape, form and space


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    The Froebelian Occupation of Woodwork

A symbolic language of shape, form and space                                      Pete Moorhouse

Woodwork = wood ‘play’ –  serious play

‘Play.. is not trivial,  it is highly serious
and of deep significance’

Woodwork as an Occupation builds on core Froebelian principles, embracing the holistic nature of the development of children and the integrity of childhood. Woodwork embraces play and creativity as central integrating elements in development and learning. Woodwork engages the ‘whole’ child developing core dispositions and especially well-being and confidence.

Froebel’s Occupations are powerful. As children work with their hands, heart and minds it gives them a sense of agency, a ‘can-do’ spirit which develops as they put their ideas into action.

‘Through woodwork children will be learning skills that will help them shape their world’
Learning Through Woodwork 2018 P179


Constructions of knowledge, life and beauty

Links to Froebelian Pedagogy


Play and first-hand experiences with open-ended natural resources are essential for healthy development. This principle is central to Froebelian pedagogy and woodwork provides a material through which children can play, explore and express their imagination. Essentially children will be ‘tinkering’ – which involves both play and first-hand experience and is defined as playful exploration with tools. This exploration of materials in an unpressured way leads to deeper kinds of learning that are achieved through play. Froebel emphasised the process of ‘becoming’ through play.

Connectedness/ Unity

This concept is central to Froebel’s thinking: Wholeness and connectedness – everything links.
Woodwork provides interaction with the natural material of wood, connecting us with the natural world and develops a sensitivity to the material. With woodwork learning is meaningful and connects to the children’s interests and experiences.:

The smell and feel of wood, using real tools, working with a natural material, the sounds of hammering and sawing, hands and minds working together to express their imagination and to solve problems, the use of strength and coordination: all go together to captivate young children’s interest. Learning Through Woodwork,2018,P2

Woodwork helps develop:
Children to make the links between everyday life knowledge and beauty.
Appreciation of the beauty of the natural world/ respect for nature / knowledge of trees/ sustainability
Knowledge that we can make and repair – developing agency – and the importance of making and fixing as opposed to consuming and disposing – becoming mindful of resources
First hand authentic experiences – real world tools/materials
Experience of the forms of life, knowledge and beauty

Freedom with guidance

Woodwork should be open-ended allowing children to be the protagonists in their own learning. Children should be at the centre making their own choices and decisions. They will be constantly developing skills and building on previous learning and woodwork provides much opportunity for rich multi-layered progression. Free-choice and self-activity are important Froebelian concepts, with guidance from the adult.

– Woodwork draws in curiosity – the spirit of enquiry
– Provides first hand experiences
– Builds on intrinsic motivation
– Sustained engagement – no time limits – flow
– Child initiated choices- and option be become part of continuous provision
– Taking risks in controlled conditions/ self-care
– Feeling trusted and respected/ empowerment with tool use
– Graduated challenge – with wood/ tools – progression as competence and confidence grow
– Freedom to resolve their work, time and space to problem solve
– Self-regulation


The teacher should serve as a guide. Teachers should not be viewed as the keepers of knowledge, but instead as guides who can help lead a child to understanding. Clearly with woodwork we need to guide the children as to how to use the tools safely, but also at times to nurture their creative and critical thinking skills as they problem solve to resolve their work

– Respect for children who are viewed as powerful learners, who are curious about the world.
– Introduction to tools and techniques. Respect for tools and materials.
– Highlighting and discussing safety, hazards and risk.
– Ensuring continued safe use
– Being available as an extra hand
– Reciprocal relationship – the resonating teacher
– Interacting when useful to extend thinking – open ended questions/ recall previous experience
– Facilitating reflection and evaluation, sharing with others
– Suggesting other dynamics – such as paper to express initial ideas
– Constant overview of area – in line of vision
– Freedom with structure – balance to enable rich explorations
– Focus on processes not final product

The individual and the community

Choice of ergonomic tools and soft woods to facilitate independent learning
Group projects to facilitate communication and co-operation and collaboration
Empathy and respect
Share thinking and ideas with others
Reflect on their work together

There is great emphasis on being part of a learning community of adults and children together. Froebel used the phrase ‘Let us live with and through our children’. He created community schools, making parents welcome.


Schema: Many examples of schematic repetition regularly occur at the workbench. Allow children the freedom to repeat and gain confidence and security.  Rotational, Banging, Connecting/ Disconnection, Orientation, Envelopment, Positioning.

Observation helps adults notice what children do, and then act in the light of these observations.  This might be to support what child is doing, or the child might appreciate the learning being extended. Chris Athey and Tina Bruce both write extensively about this.

Life at the woodwork bench provides practitioners rich opportunities to make observations of development and learning, especially as children shape their thinking skills. Froebel very much valued observation, which in turn informed his pedagogical ideas.

Law of Opposites

Froebel’s pedagogy was based on natural laws.  The law of opposites and the connection or synthesis of opposites formed part of this. This was about the reconciliation of opposites emphasising the unity.

Reversible and irreversible
Pushing/ pulling; failure/success
Connecting/ disconnecting; screwing/unscrewing; hammering/levering out nail
dividing/making whole
Rough/ smooth; Hard/soft; Heavy/ light; long/ short etc

Inner/ Outer

Wood provides another material with which to express imagination and emotion thus ‘Making’ the inner outer.  Wood and tools arouse interest and curiosity in children, stimulating them to express their inner thoughts.  It is a unique mode of expression – combining construction with tools and three dimensional design thinking. The outer process of making stimulates children to develop new inner feelings, create ideas and narratives, questions and solutions, fostering contentment and well-being. The outer influences and stimuli become inner.

Learning through the senses, with the emergence of the symbolic life – multi-modality.

Combine with other languages and modes expression
Combine with wide variety of other materials such as fabric, wire, string etc. making connections with other areas of learning and previous experience
Emerging models can form the starting point for new narratives and role play
Regularly with children engaged in ‘flow’ they are seen singing/humming – a sign of contentment

Environment and movement

Froebelian early childhood settings are designed for free play, but they are also carefully prepared. Providing a wide range of experience and opportunities is important. With woodwork presenting children with the most suitable tools and materials that are optimal for their current level of development is important not to introduce frustration and to allow them to build their confidence and competence. Froebel appreciated the importance in movement for active learning. Movement is imperative for young learners and woodwork is so rich in many aspects physical development such as fine, gross motor skills, hand-eye coordination and self-care etc.

The whole child, Unity and Expression

Creativity nourishes the human soul – it elevates our spirits and transcends the mundane. Friedrich Froebel believed that humans are essentially productive and creative and fulfilment comes through developing these in harmony with the world. As a result, Froebel sought to encourage the creation of educational environments that involved practical work and the direct use of materials. Through engaging with the world, understanding unfolds. Play is both a creative activity and through it children become aware of their place in the world. Developing creativity – children are given the opportunity to play, express their imagination and symbolically represent. They are able to make connections and explore ideas, thoughts and feelings.

– Creative thinking
– Critical thinking
– Problem solving
– Link always link
– Forms of life: creating a house, table, mobile phone, car…
– Merges into pretend play
– Symbolic Play – representations of daily life, objects etc.
– Creative play- with materials available (representational / fantasy/ abstract/ narrative)
– Imitative Play – freely recreates

Woodwork is a difficult material to work with and it is constantly providing problems – it is extraordinary how powerful it is for developing children’s creative and critical thinking as they problem-solve and express their imagination. As they work with materials, they gain perseverance as they resolve them to create the output they want. The Froebelian approach encourages independence and since children are used to solving problems that arise during their play, they feel confident in their ability to handle issues as they arise.

Children can only learn what they are ready for. Children develop differently and should be allowed to learn at their own developmental pace. By keeping woodwork open-ended children will naturally gravitate the developmental stage that is right for them – be it unpressured exploration, following their fascinations, schematic repetition, or construction with a purpose in mind (representational, abstract/ narrative etc)

Forms of Knowledge
Forms of knowledge are interconnected and function together with the other Forms.

Knowledge of wood as material, properties, trees, uses of wood
Knowledge of tools and techniques
Mathematical knowledge and mathematical thinking
Scientific knowledge and understanding
Ecology/ sustainability – Learning how to make and repair as opposed to consume and dispose
Technological understanding
STEAM – cross curricular knowledge
Design thinking processes

Gifts to Occupations

There is a natural progression from the gifts to the occupations – from wooden block play to constructing with wood – playing with possibilities. Children enjoy doing things with care, and through increasing mastery, precision and problem solving take great pride in their achievements. But always remember woodwork is not about what children make – what is made in woodwork are new neural pathways as children develop their confidence, self-esteem, creative and critical thinking skills, mathematical problem solving skills, and so on. You can literally see children grow taller at the woodwork bench!

Historical Context

The earliest records of woodwork in early childhood education emerged following the pioneering work of Friedrich Froebel (1782–1852), the founder of the kindergarten movement. His view was of children as holistic learners who learned most effectively by being active with their hands and minds. Froebel emphasised giving children hands-on involvement in practical learning and believed in combining imagination and physical movement when exploring interests.


‘To learn a thing in life and through doing is much more developing, cultivating and strengthening than to learn it merely through the verbal communication of ideas’.

(Froebel 1826) The Education of Man


I have not been able to find evidence that Froebel himself actually provided woodwork within his kindergarten provision, but it rapidly became adopted as an additional occupation as Froebel’s kindergarten ideas spread around the world. Froebel introduced woodwork with older children at his previous school in Keilhau and involved them in many larger construction projects at the school. At the time of Froebel’s original kindergarten in Bad Blankenburg the tools that were then available would perhaps have been difficult to manage for the young children with as only large tools were available.

Froebel himself seemed to have a natural affinity with wood. Perhaps the experience of growing up in the rural countryside of eastern Germany, living in a beautifully constructed wooden house, and spending much of his childhood playing in the woods or in the large wooden attic, all had their impact. Froebel’s teachings emphasised play and learning through connection with natural materials and experiences with nature which he saw as both being nurturing for the soul and essential for children’s holistic development.


Froebel initially introduced wooden ‘gifts’ to children: sets of three-dimensional tangible objects that would stimulate curiosity and could be manipulated, encouraging exploration, making connections, and especially developing spatial thinking.


Froebel then introduced ‘Occupations’ that expanded on the gifts, providing a greater diversity of materials and providing greater possibilities for exploration. This practical work was seen to develop life skills and was in part seen as preparation for later manual training and future work as well as for allowing children to reconstruct their experiences through play, and moving from concrete to more abstract thinking. Occupations included working with paper, parquetry, sewing, paint, weaving, clay and wood became a later addition somewhere around 1860-1880.

‘The Occupations incorporate activities such as exploring clay, woodwork, collage, cooking, parquetry, sewing, weaving, drawing, painting and building with construction kits. More specifically, they relate to explorations of solid and flat shapes (3D and 2D), lines and points through the provision of open-ended resources’.

Professor Tina Bruce and Jane Dyke – NW, February 20, 2017

Wood became incorporated into the group of Occupations that included solid forms – which also included work with clay and construction kits.  Whilst not included in the initial set of occupations, woodwork became a very popular later addition dating back to circa 1860. Before inventing his kindergarten in Bad Blankenburg in 1937 Froebel had co-founded a school in Keilhau. This school still has the original workshop and continues to embrace woodwork to this very day. Older children were very much involved in the actual construction of the school and over the years children have worked on a great number of woodworking projects such as building a cabin in the woods.

‘Unlike the Gifts, the Occupations cannot return to their original forms once they are used. This gives the child a sense of permanence. Also, Occupation work, no matter the materials used, teach not only to be creative and patient, but also many of the art forms are life skills for the future’.   Froebel Today

The materials were carefully chosen to help develop the child’s understanding of two and three-dimensional form, for developing problem-solving skills, supporting physical development, creative expression and for communicating and representing ideas. Froebel hoped that through connecting with these carefully chosen natural materials they would gain a greater understanding of their connection to nature and life as a whole.

The Occupations really encouraged a cross-curricular approach to learning encompassing all areas of learning and facilitated making connections between areas. They encourage creativity and individual expression in a number of ways and are particularly good for building a child’s self-confidence and self-esteem.

‘My educational method offers to its pupils from the beginning the opportunity to collect their own experiences from things themselves, to look with their own eyes and to learn to know by their own experiments, things and the relations of things to each other, and also the real life of the world of humanity.’                                                                         Friedrich Froebel                                                                                                                                                   

Gustav Kalb, who was very much inspired by Froebel, wrote The First Lessons in Hand and Eye Training in 1895 which developed and elaborated on Froebel’s occupations to include wood as an occupation as well as developing woodworking manual training for older children.

The influence of Froebel’s work with wood spread internationally, initially in Scandinavia, through the sloyd education movement. In Finland, Uno Cygnaeus (1810–1888) was very much inspired by Froebel’s ideas and through his work it became mandatory to introduce craftwork into folk schools in 1866. Cygnaeus’s intent was to develop children’s hands on practical knowledge and skills, aesthetic sense and develop children’s thinking through the craft process. He saw his work as being a natural development of Froebel’s kindergarten.

Sloyd aimed to develop practical knowledge, the ability to solve practical problems through knowledge of different working processes, and to learn how to evaluate and refine work through experimentation. Woodwork was at the forefront but other crafts such as paper folding and work with fabrics were included. Working with the hands was thought to enhance cognitive development and give greater relevance to learning, and was seen to build confidence and instil a respect for the dignity of labour.

In 1872 Sloyd was then introduced to Sweden by Otto Salomon (1849–1907), who was a passionate advocate of woodwork and was strongly influenced by Cygnaeus and Froebel. In 1875 Otto Salomon started a School of Crafts at Nääs near Gothenburg, where he worked to popularise the educational Sloyd movement and trained teachers from all over the world in woodwork, very much embracing Froebelian principles. The Nääs School’s educational methods made sure all students who trained there gained a solid grounding in knowledge and theory of Sloyd as well as learning practical skills, and returning teachers very much put this into practice in their respective countries.



The Nääs School was extremely successful and it gained a far-reaching reputation, being attended by many hundreds of international teachers including a number of pioneering early English educators. At one time 19 different nationalities took part in one of the courses. It continued to deliver training right through until the late 1960s. Solomon’s book The Teacher’s Handbook of Sloyd was translated into English in 1891. The Sloyd movement was embraced across all the Scandinavian countries; Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Iceland, where the pedagogy still plays an important part in education today.

Both Froebel’s ideas about occupations and Sloyd practice made a significant impact to the early development of woodwork in both elementary schools and nurseries in the UK. At the time, Froebelian pedagogy was strongly prevalent as was the related influence of Sloyd with many training sessions, summer schools and journals available.

Joseph Judd a teacher trainer for the National Froebel Union in the UK wrote in 1906:

Of the many and varied schemes of practical work devised with the object of training the hand to deftness and the eye to accuracy in observation, none has met with so widespread acceptance as woodwork. The required material, being a direct and universal product of nature, is readily obtainable, cheap, and easily worked into forms of beauty, either in its natural or prepared state. Its ready adaptability to a course of handwork is a continuation of the gifts and occupations.

Woodwork as an occupation is designed to cultivate the active and creative instincts; to give practice in failure and success; to test the ability to concentrate the mind whilst doing a definite thing; to provide means of communication between the teacher and the child, whereby the latter can render observant information, from which the teacher can impart more exact knowledge; to open up an avenue of research for the student of child life, and to give to the teacher full scope for individualism in the attainment of educational ideals.

Judd 1906 – Learn by Doing

Froebel’s ideas and those of the Sloyd movement both influenced the introduction of woodwork in the UK and many other countries. The implementation was adapted responding to the styles of tools available and the existing techniques. This resulted in slightly different approaches to woodwork from country to country whilst still retaining a strong common core.

In the UK, from the 1850s onwards there are examples of individual elementary and nursery settings including woodwork in their provision. Interest grew rapidly in the 1880s and 1890s. The Froebel Society (1874), The National Froebel Union (1887), and the Sloyd Association (1888), all based in London, played a significant role in disseminating information. Many UK teachers returning from the Nääs training college helped spread the word and teachers also participated in Sloyd summer schools throughout the UK.



For 20 years, between 1882 and 1902 Hand and Eye Journal: Sloyd, kindergarten and all forms of manual training was published monthly to support hand and eye training with the ambition to promote Sloyd within the Froebel movement.


Teacher trainer and Froebelian Joseph Judd wrote:

‘Tools have a strange fascination upon all children, they love to hammer, to cut, to make, and under trained guidance simple woodwork undoubtedly stimulates latent inventive talents more quickly than any other known medium’.                                                                             Judd 1906 – Learning by Doing

In many countries this was a similar picture. As Froebel’s pedagogy spread around the world there are many examples of woodwork being included as an occupation from the onset as nursery provision was formally established, such as in New Zealand, Japan and the United States.

In the subsequent years it was almost unheard of to come across an early childhood setting not offering woodwork – all owing a debt to Froebel’s early work developing occupations for young children.

Woodwork lost favour in the 50’s and 60’s, with the improving world economy, making was seen to be ‘old fashioned’ and deemed more suited to less academic children. It was then practically eradicated during the risk averse 80’s and 90’s due to the emerging litigation and compensation culture.

Currently we are beginning to see a changing tide – starting from the early childhood sector – in nursery settings and reception classes. A noisy revolution is taking place! It’s wonderful to see this renewed and growing interest. Many are surprised by the idea of young children working with real tools. Fortunately the current thinking around risk has become more balanced.  This turn-around started with Lord Young’s review of Health and Safety (Common Sense, Common Safety) in 2010 and since then the HSE, Departments of Education and Inspectorates have all advocated a more balanced attitude to risk. The prevailing current thought is that children need opportunities to experience risk, learning to self-risk assess rather than be over-protected and wrapped in cotton wool. Children need to learn to make decisions and judgements in order to be able to better protect themselves in new situations.  Now, once again Froebel’s ideas are being embraced and currently there is a surge of interest in woodworking and establishing workshop areas in early childhood settings.


The majority of books on Froebel include woodwork as an integral occupation such as:

Friedrich Froebel – Authored by: Tina Bruce in The Routledge International Handbook of
Philosophies and Theories of Early Childhood Education and Care 2015

Tovey, H. (2013) Bringing the Froebel Approach to your Early Years Practice

Bruce, T. (2020 In Press) Friedrich Froebel: A Critical Introduction to Key Themes and
Debates, London: New York: Bloomsbury.

Friedrich Froebel and English Education Evelyn Lawrence 1952 University of London Press

‘Woodwork is active learning at its best’

Tina Bruce, CBE (Learning through Play)


Helen Tovey writes in ‘Bringing the Froebel Approach to your Early Years Practice’ 2013:

A woodwork workshop area, indoors or outdoors is an everyday resource in a Froebelian setting for children over 3. Children have access to saws, hammers, nails, screwdrivers and screws, and a child height woodwork bench with a vice to hold the wood stable and a plentiful supply of offcuts of softwood. Accessories such as bottle tops, cotton reels and cardboard wheels are added. The woodwork area is carefully planned and so that all the tools have their own storage space and can be found and safely returned. Clear rules are established and safe use of the tools is taught.

Children might start off hammering nails or sawing wood for the sake of it practicing the skills of using tools. As they develop more competence they begin to join and connect pieces of wood, and saw wood for a particular purpose. They are involved in problem-solving, estimating, measuring, and talk about how wood is too long, too short, too thick, and so on. The woodwork bench is rich in potential for creativity, problem-solving, reasoning and numeracy, as well as physical coordination, social responsibility and learning how to manage risk safely.




‘Play is not trivial – it is highly serious’  Froebel


Today, teachers who provide woodwork, regularly observe exceptional levels of engagement; deep focus and concentration accompanied with persistence and perseverance with challenging tasks – especially with complex problem solving. It can be central to learning being a truly cross curricular activity, encompassing all areas of learning and development. Woodwork is exceptional for developing children’s creative and critical thinking skills as children tinker and experiment with the possibilities of wood and tools, and then go on to express ideas and resolve their work. Woodwork it is not about what children make – it is all about the changes that are happening within the child. Woodwork is seen to have a significant impact on children’s self-esteem and confidence and it develops their sense of agency – that “can-do” mind-set.

Big bang…….  Small hands…… Big ideas!
highest form of development through play


In our increasing digital world having children experience making with real tools is becoming more important than ever and for the majority of children, experience in early years could be the only time in their whole education that they will work practically with tools. This is clearly a disservice to children as so many will go on to work with tools in a variety of contexts later in life. Fortunately the experience of working with tools leaves a deep memory so the experience of woodwork in early years can have a significant long-lasting impact. Woodwork also gives children the experience of making and repairing, countering the prevalent culture today of consuming and disposing. Values to which Froebel himself would have adhered to.

Woodwork is a symbolic language of shape, form and space. It encompasses a way of working that develops over time as children express their ideas with increasing fluency and complexity. As children tinker and experiment with wood and tools, as they construct, create and explore narratives, these experiences will all contribute to building rich foundations for children’s healthy social, emotional, physical and cognitive development.  Let’s continue Froebel’s work on occupations to make these rich experiential experiences available to all children!

 ‘Woodwork it is not about what children make – it is all about the changes that are happening within the child’ Learning Through Woodwork 2018



Case Studies

Case Study 1: Woodburn Early Learning & Childcare Centre – Queen Street Early Learning & Childcare Centre
Implementing Woodwork in an Early Years Setting funded by The Froebel Trust

Building on Froebel’s approach to woodwork and using real tools: Understanding the huge benefits that woodworking can have for children’s learning and its long-term impact, this project aims to create an outdoor woodworking area complete with a variety of tools.

 As a team we researched and began to implement some of Froebel’s approaches into our Early Years setting.  One such approach was the implementation of woodwork and using real tools.  At the same time I began to undertake a development project in Introducing Woodwork in an Early Years Setting, as part of the Froebel in Childhood Practice course.  Through research we quickly realised the huge benefits that woodwork can have for children’s learning and development and we began to purchase resources and tools to begin to implement our project.

In our setting we have seen our children become excited about trying something new and they have been approaching new situations with confidence.  We have also observed children’s increasing confidence in using real tools and have noticed deeper levels of concentration, often observing this in children who sometimes struggle to persevere with certain activities.  We have observed children asking for the tools as soon as they arrive in the morning and have seen children spend long periods of time problem solving and making their own creations.  Children have often been so engaged that they revisit the woodwork area to continue adding to their creations for several days.  We have seen children’s self-esteem grow as they proudly share their creations with friends and family.

Tracy Grieve, Early Years Practitioner, Falkirk


Case study 2: Callum, St Werburgh’s Park Nursery School, Bristol
Woodwork works wonders! Engaging children from more disadvantaged backgrounds.
(Name/image changed)

Teachers at St Werburgh’s Park Nursery have been offering woodwork to all children for many years. One aspect that consistently stands out is the uncanny ability of woodwork to engage children who typically find it hard to focus.

Callum generally found it difficult to focus and concentrate with many activities or provocations – often spending more time wondering between areas. He found it hard to participate in group time, quickly losing interest. He found it hard to communicate his feelings and was regularly aggressive with other children. This was not surprising as he lived within a home environment of significant unpredictability, he was often fearful and had little quality adult interaction.

The transformation at the woodwork bench was extraordinary. Callum was captivated by the tools, he seemed to grow taller simply by being trusted to use the real tools. His engagement right from day one was profound, remaining at the bench for nearly an hour, and he continued to return regularly building on previous skills and knowledge. Woodwork became the key that unlocked his learning and we could visibly see Callum’s self-esteem and confidence flourish. He took great pride in his work, and persisted with quite challenging tasks for extended periods of time. He became more communicative as he talked about his work and problems he was trying to solve. Callum had shown little desire to mark make but took great delight in detailed mark making on his wooden models. At the woodwork bench his behaviour was exemplary – he was focused and engaged, and importantly, he was happy. The experience of making and creating with wood and tools was having a noticeable impact on all his core dispositions to learning. After some weeks Callum was heard to be humming to himself as he worked away on his model. Woodwork had worked its magic – the intoxicating mixture of wood, nails/screws and real tools had captured his curiosity and engaged him with so many aspects of learning. But most importantly, it had given him confidence and agency by giving him something to be proud of.

‘Play is the purest, most spiritual activity of man at this stage, and, at the sametime, typical of human life as a whole – of the inner hidden natural life in man and all things. It gives, therefore, joy, freedom, contentment, inner and outer rest, peace with the world.’                                                                Friedrich Froebel


Further reading:


Tovey, H. (2013) Bringing the Froebel Approach to your Early Years Practice, London: Routledge

Whinnett, J. (2012) Gifts and Occupations: Froebel’s Gifts (wooden block play) and Occupations (construction and workshop experiences) today. In Bruce, T. (ed) Early Childhood Practice: Froebel Today, London: Sage

Judd, Joseph Henry (1906) ‘Learn by doing’: A Scheme of Simple Woodwork Designed on Froebelian Principles, Manchester: Clarkson & Griffiths.

Solly, K. (2015) Risk Challenge and Adventure in the Early Years. London: David Fulton

Gill, T. (2012) No Fear: Growing up in a Risk Averse Society. London: Calouste

Lilley, I. (1967) Friedrich Froebel: A Selection from his Writings. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Brosterman, N. (1997) Inventing Kindergarten. New York: Abrams

Bruce T, Dyke J (2017) ‘Learning from Froebel’; in Nursery World. Six-part series starting in the April17-30, 2017

Hanschmann A (1875) Friedrich Froebel. Der Entwicklung seiner Ezziehungsedee in seinen Leben, Einsenach. Published by Bacmeister Verlag: Germany

Brehony K (2001) The Origins of Nursery Education, Friedrich Froebel and the English System: Mother Songs. Routledge: London

Bruce T (Ed) (2012) Early Childhood Practice: Froebel Today. London: Sage.

Liebschner J (1992) A Child’s Work – Freedom and Guidance in Froebel’s Educational Theory and Practice. The Lutterworth Press: Cambridge

Brehony, Kevin (1998) Even far distant Japan is showing interest in the English Froebel movement’s turn to sloyd, History of Education, 27(3): 279–295.

Louis, Stella (2013) Schemas and the Characteristics of Effective Learning, London: British Association for Early Childhood Education.

Kalb, Gustav (2009 [1895]) The First Lessons in Hand and Eye Training; Or Manual Work for Boys and Girls, Chicago, IL: W.M. Welch. Translated by W.G. Field.

Clapp, Edward P., Jessica Ross, Jennifer O. Ryan, and Shari Tishman (2016) Maker-centered Learning: Empowering Young People to Shape Their Worlds, San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Bruce, Tina (2001/2011) Learning Through Play, London: Hodder Education.

Brehony, Kevin J. (2000) The kindergarten in England 1851–1918, in Roberta Wollons (ed.)

Kindergartens and Cultures: The Global Diffusion of an Idea (pp. 59–86), New Haven, CT: Yale
University Press.

Bruce, T. (2020 In Press) Friedrich Froebel: A Critical Introduction to Key Themes and Debates, London: New York: Bloomsbury.


Specific reading material on woodwork:


Pete Moorhouse Woodwork in the early years – Pete Moorhouse – Community Playthings 2019 – Second Edition

Gwaith coed mewn addysg plentyndod cynnar 2019 Pete Moorhouse Mudiad Meithrin, Wales

Learning Through Woodwork: Introducing creative woodwork in the early years, Pete Moorhouse Routledge 2018

Holzarbeiten im Vorschulalter 2017 Pete Moorhouse Community Playthings Deutschland GmbH

Pete Moorhouse Woodwork in the early years Pete Moorhouse Community Playthings 2015

Woodwork in Early Years Education  Pete Moorhouse Unavailable/ out of print 2012


Holzarbeit – by Pete Moorhouse – Kinder – Berlin, Germany 2019

The Wonder of Woodwork Pete Moorhouse NSEAD National Society for Education in Art and Design 2018 Issue 23

Woodwork – The Space, Childspace, Early Childhood Institute, New Zealand 2019

Under the hammer: How can settings provide woodwork in a developmentally beneficial and safe way Pete Moorhouse Nursery World Spring 2018

Woodwork in Early Childhood Education Pete Moorhouse Tomorrow’s Child Montessori Foundation USA 2018 Vol 26 No1

Tooled up! Pete Moorhouse Nursery World April 2018

The Art of Woodwork in early years education 2018 Early Childhood ecArtnz Aotearoa New Zealand

Mathematical development: Woodwork providing skills for life Pete Moorhouse Small talk Wales Issue 129 2018

The Wonderful Rise of Woodwork in Early Years Parenta Magazine 2017 Issues 38 and 39

Woodwork in the Early Years Pete Moorhouse Small talk- Wales PPA 2015

Wonderful Woodwork Pete Moorhouse Early Years Educator Volume – Vol 13 No. 11 March 2012

Introducing young children to working with wood Pete Moorhouse Early Years Update – Issue 97 April 2012

All about woodwork Nursery World Pete Moorhouse– 14-27 May 2012

Woodworking wonders Pete Moorhouse Early Years Educator Volume 13 No11 March 2012




 Do you provide woodwork as part of your provision?


If you do please complete ‘The Big Bang Project’ research survey. This research project, supported by the University of Bristol and The Early Childhood Woodwork Association, is looking to evaluate the impact of woodwork on children’s learning and development in early childhood education (3-7 years). We are gathering data from as many settings as possible, both within the UK and around the world. The idea is to provide empirical quantitative evidence for the value of woodwork with the aim to use the findings to further encourage woodwork in all early childhood settings and advocate for adoption within the sector. The survey can be downloaded here: or contact Pete Moorhouse . The survey takes about 15 mins to complete. Your support would be very much appreciated. Thank you.


Pete Moorhouse 

Pete Moorhouse is an artist educator and early years creative consultant. He is an associate trainer for Early Education and is an honorary research fellow at The Graduate School of Education, University of Bristol researching creative and critical thinking in early years. He is the author of several journal articles and books, including ‘Learning Through Woodwork’. Pete won the national award (2019) from the Creative Learning Guild for his work promoting creativity in education. He was awarded a Churchill Fellowship researching woodwork provision around the world and is a Follow of the Royal Society of Arts. He is currently training to become a Froebel Trust endorsed Froebel Travelling Tutor. Books by Pete:




More info and resources are available at:

Articles on the value of woodwork:

International research:

This resource is dedicated to the late Kevin Brehony and Tina Bruce, who both encouraged me to promote the occupation of woodwork within early childhood education


Email me if you need a printer friendly version or word doc:



Download the pdf here