Kindergarten comes from the German words “kinder,” meaning child, and “garten,” or garden. The word for “children’s garden” was coined by Frederick Froebel to match his concept of nurturing young children in a way that would prepare them for the long school years ahead, as you would fruit-bearing flowers.

Kindergarten Comes to America

Elizabeth Palmer Peabody imported Froebel’s concept for a playful “garden” of children to America by opening the first kindergarten in 1860. Peabody's kindergarten was a separate, free school where children younger than 7 could learn prereading skills along with animal rearing, gardening, music, art and games. She promoted Froebel's concept that children should learn to get along with each other and with nature as a way of kick-starting their formal education in a nurturing manner. Within a few years, Peabody persuaded Boston to add public kindergarten to all of its existing grade schools on a trial basis. She spearheaded the movement that within 20 years saw kindergarten classrooms in over 400 public schools throughout the country.