In 1779, an establishment for caring for pre-school children was set up in Germany for those children whose parents were working outside the home. Soon, similar establishments started coming up in the rest of Germany and Europe. But these pre-schools were not called kindergartens until 1837.

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In that year, Friedrich Frobel started a play and activity institute for preschoolers as a social experiment. He named his school Kindergarten, German for 'garden of children'. In German, kinder means children and garten means garden. He chose this name because he noted that a teacher’s role is quite similar to that of a gardener tending to their plants. Each plant has its own requirements and demands. One likes bright sunlight, another likes shade, one likes a lot of water, another likes sparse watering. Not only do plants demand different kinds of care, but they also produce different kinds of results. While some are known for their expansive leaves and beautiful flowers, others could be known for their delicious fruits and medicinal properties.

The word kindergarten originated in Germany. But did you know that many everyday English words originated from India? Click here to discover some surprisingly desi English words.

The plants are like Frobel’s children. They need different kinds of care, they also have different skills, talents, and abilities. And the teachers at Frobel’s kindergarten were supposed to take on the role of a gardener, tending and caring for individual children after understanding their needs, requirements, and abilities. A garden or outside space is often attached to kindergartens to allow children to explore, discover and observe. At Frobel’s school, the children, like plants, could flourish and develop freely under the guidance of their teachers.

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Frobel’s vision became popular and was adopted by the rest of the world. A kindergarten is sometimes referred to as a kindergarden in English. Other languages also adopted the same meaning and translated it into their own languages. For example, in Modern Hebrew, a kindergarten is called a gan yeladim, which literally means ‘garden of children’.