Gift Seven: Parquetry Tablets
Seventh in the series of Froebel Gifts, this set of parquetry tablets contains a variety of geometric shapes, made from either wood, plastic or paper.
Square (1″ and 2″)
Equilateral triangle (1″ and 2″)
Right-angled isosceles triangle (1″ and 2″)
Right-angled scalene triangle
Obtuse isosceles triangle
Half circle (2″)
Each shape comes in a pair of complementary colors (orange/blue, red/green, yellow/purple, etc.). Jumbo versions of the Circle, Square and Triangles are provided for younger children (ages 3 and 4).
There is not space enough here to fully describe the uses of this Gift. It is hoped that these instructions will serve as a guide and a brief introduction to Froebel’s methodology. Once you understand Froebel’s playful approach, the possibilities of this Gift are nearly limitless.
The shapes of Froebel’s Gift 7 parquetry tablets are derived from the surfaces of the first six Gifts. Up to now, the child understood surface as part of the solids. Now the flat tablets introduce the concept of surface or plane as a separate object.
This Gift signifies a move from the solid to the flat surface. The first six Gifts allowed a child to create a three-dimensional miniature of objects in their world. Gift 7 allows the child to represent these objects in two-dimensional form. From this work comes an important developmental step. The child is able to utilize what might be abstract thought by playing with these concrete objects The shift from concrete to abstract comprehension should not happen abruptly, but build gradually through play.
All knowledge is built on previous knowledge. To build on previous Gift play, you may introduce the new tablet shape along with the solid Gift piece it was derived from. Let the child discover that she can place a 2″ square on the side of the 2″ cube from Gift 2 or place a 1″ squares on the sides of the cube from Gift 3. The child begins to see the connection between the solid form and its surfaces.
Introduce each shape one at a time. Begin with one piece. In this way, the child may focus on the unique qualities of the shape. Gradually add more pieces of a shape until the child is ready for the next shape, then start with one piece of that shape. Once the child is familiar with a shape’s possibilities, move to a new shape, in order from square, right-angle, equilateral, obtuse and scalene.
Froebel divided Gift play into three categories: Forms of Knowledge (math/science), Forms of Life (relating to objects found in a child’s life/world) and Forms of Beauty (abstract patterns and designs). In keeping with the spirit of play, it is usually best to introduce a Gift with Forms of Life and then later explore Forms of Knowledge or Forms of Beauty. Suggestions for the latter two are given at the end. Children always like to build things from their own world. Representing whatever is familiar is a wonderful experience for young children.
FORMS OF KNOWLEDGE
The variety of shapes and angles make Gift 7 a natural tool for expressing geometry. Concepts of fractions, symmetry, opposites, proportion, etc. can be discovered by older children. The math possibilities for children six and older are endless. The tablet shapes can be combined to form a variety of geometric shapes, including: Pentagon, Hexagon, Heptagon, Octagon, Trapezoid, Trapezium, Rhombus, Rhomboid.M
Give the child one square to begin with (you may use the 2″ square with younger children). Once they have formed an impression of the tablet, use questions to start the dialogue: How many sides does this shape have? Are all the sides the same length? How many corners (or points) does it have? How many angles? Does this shape have a special name?
Through conversation you will guide the child to truly observe the square. The child will not learn through talking, but by doing. You will also discover what the child is perceiving. This is a window into the child’s mind, helping you understand what impressions the child is forming. This dialogue will also engage a child in thinking for himself and provide the correct terminology for each discovery.
Have the child rotate the tablet and ask the same questions again. Does it matter which way the tablet is pointing (or what color the square), or are the answers always the same?
You can relate these ideas of angle and corners, etc. to the larger world. Ask the child if they see angles anywhere else in the room. This exercise will reinforce the concepts and help the child to see horizontal, vertical, and parallel lines in his everyday world. What is important to the child is the play – seeing what can be made. Be conversational about what the child is making.
Once the child has exhausted the potential of one square, begin work with two. The two pieces can be put together in a variety of ways (side to side, side to corner, corner to corner, etc.). Once the possibilities of two pieces are exhausted move to three, then four, on up to eight, or more pieces. You may mix the two colors of each shape together.
RIGHT-ANGLED ISOCELES TRIANGLE
Again, give the child one piece. This shape is different than the square. How many sides does it have? How many angles? Introduce the idea of “acute” versus “right” angles. Introduce a second right-angle triangle. Just like the two prisms in Gift 5 combined to form a cube, the two triangles can form a square. What kind of line divides the square? How many angles does the triangle have? Are all the sides the same length? Are all the angles the same?
RIGHT-ANGLED SCALENE TRIANGLE
Compare this right-angled triangle to the last. How is it the same or different? Combine two pieces. What does it form?
The two previous triangles were right-angled. Have the child compare this new triangle. How is it the same or different? You might mention the word equilateral (meaning “equal-sided”), but it is not necessary for the child to repeat it. The experience with the shape is more important than the terminology. Combining two of these triangles does not make a rectangular form as the two other triangles did.
Again, compare this shape to the other triangles. What make it different or unusual? Have the child combine two pieces. What can be made by connecting two pieces? Does this shape have a name?
Once the child has been introduced to each shape, you may increase the number of pieces. This offers more possibilities for creative play. You may then proceed with the normal sequence of Forms.
FORMS OF LIFE
The children represent objects in their lives in two dimensions. Begin with a reasonably small number of pieces (four or six) of one shape. Later you can increase the number of pieces to eight or twelve. Once the child has become familiar with the forms of each shape, try combining a few shapes at a time. Remember to limit the number of each shape so as not to overwhelm the child. Examples of these forms are illustrated on the back of this booklet.
FORMS OF BEAUTY
This Gift allows for wonderful designs with color. The variety of angles and shapes can produce intricate mosaics and patterns, offering an interesting challenge to children ages six and older.
Made from an even number of pieces of the same shape (usually eight), these creations are symmetrical forms that are constantly modified. The primary idea of this Form is that a creation is never destroyed — only transformed. Froebel perceived this as one of the Four Laws of Unity — nothing in nature is ever destroyed, but rather it is transformed into something else.
Starting with a solid form, the activity usually proceeds from the inner pieces to the outer. The forms have a windmill-like quality, with the outer pieces appearing to spin about the periphery. Examples of a series of these forms are pictured on the back. Not coincidentally, many of Frank Lloyd Wright’s work features this windmill symmetry.