Gift Eight: Sticks & Rings

Froebel’s Gift 8 signifies a move from the surface to “the line.” Gift 7 shapes allowed the child to represent objects in two-dimensional form. Gift 8 represents the edges or outlines of these objects. This continues the cycle of abstraction – from solid to surface to line, etc. For the child, the shift from concrete to abstract comprehension should not happen abruptly, but build gradually from previous Gift play. It’s important to note that, although Froebel used these items in his Kindergarten, he did not establish the sequence of the Gifts after Gift 7. This was done by his followers after his death and several numbering schemes developed over the years.

Traditionally this set was divided into two sets, straight lines and curved lines (rings). Most sets include some or all of the following pieces: 1″, 2″, 3″, 4″ and 5″ sticks and 1″, 1.5″, and 2″ diameter rings, plus 1″, 1.5″, and 2″ diameter half rings.

Gift Eight - Sticks & Rings

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). Suggestions for these may be used as appropriate for the child.

Children explore the world through play. A young child should always begin play with a Gift using Forms of Life. Children always enjoy building things from their own world and representing whatever is familiar is a wonderful experience for young children. The knowledge (one-to-one correspondence, arithmetic, etc.) can be drawn from what the child has made.

As with all the Gifts, it is important to remember not to give the child too many pieces at once, or allow the child to leave them scattered. Froebel believed that nothing in the world is ever destroyed – only modified. To keep with that idea, the child should keep changing a creation rather than starting over. The enclosed grid should be used when appropriate.

Gift Eight - Sticks & Rings

All knowledge is built on previous knowledge. To build on previous play, introduce the sticks with a tablet. Have the child lay the 2″ sticks along each side of the 2″ square tablet from Gift 7. Perhaps he/she could also form a solid square by lying many 2″ sticks side-by-side.

Traditionally, the 2″ sticks are used first because these are a comfortable size for children. For this reason, the set includes more of the 2″ length. After the child is familiar with the line form you may introduce the other sizes. Begin with a small number of sticks (6 or 12) and gradually increase the number as the child’s play requires.

Start with a reasonably small number of pieces (6 to 12) of the 2″ stick. You may increase the number of pieces as needed. Ask the child to create something. Participate in the play by making your own creations.

The children will represent objects in their lives in two dimensions. Although examples of Forms of Life are pictured on the back of this booklet, you should not try to reproduce them. Each child will create from his/her own world.

In this play, the adult can “peer into” the mind of the child and perceive how the child understands and interacts with his/her world by asking the child about his/her creation. Through the attention and dialogue, the child will build self-esteem and understanding of relationships. Through the act of creating, the child will develop self-confidence and become more familiar with the physical properties of the universe.

You may also start a dialogue regarding the metal of the sticks. Have you seen this type of thing before? What else is made of metal? Where does metal come from? This is a wonderful launching point for a conversation with the child.

Useful for concretely demonstrating arithmetic (adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing, greater than/less than, etc.), the sticks allow the child to experience the ideas of top/middle/bottom, right/left, toward/away from, vertical/horizontal, plus various kinds of slants and angles. A variety of geometric shapes (from Gift 7 play) may be formed with the sticks. The child may also use the sticks as a unit of measure.

Again, start with fewer pieces so that the child can explore the possibilities of each amount. The sticks allow for wonderful symmetrical shapes and patterns. The parent or teacher playing with the child may demonstrate the technique of modifying each part of symmetrical shape in turn. In this way, the progression of variations happens through a series of simple, repeated modifications. Many of Frank Lloyd Wright’s designs have this “windmill” effect.

Later, you may introduce a larger number and wider variety of lengths to create more elaborate designs.

The rings introduce the circle and the curved line. You may choose to start with the largest ring, especially with younger children. Since all knowledge is built on previous knowledge, you may perhaps introduce the 2″ ring by having the child place the ring on the 2″ cylinder from Gift 2. Begin with a one ring, then add two, etc. Allow the child time to form impressions about the ring. Beautiful designs can be made with the rings. You might introduce the half ring with a stick and allow the child to note the similarities and differences.

The children again represent objects in their lives. Starting with a reasonably small number of pieces (6 to 12) of one ring or two half rings, increase the quantity or variety as needed. Focus the child’s attention through a dialogue. What objects are circles? What does this half circle look like? (e.g. a bowl, a smile, etc.) Can you see any other circle or curves around you? Always raise their eyes to the world around them. Emphasize the connections.

After the impressions of each form are made, include both the sticks and the rings to allow play with both straight and curved lines.

The rings allow the child to discover whole/half, diameter/circumference, inside/outside and the concept of curve direction (or orientation). How many sides does a circle have? Does it have angles?

Elaborate patterns of curved lines are quite beautiful and soothing. Give the child a few pieces to start and add more as needed. For symmetrical patterning, it is advisable to start with a central form and modify the peripheral pieces.