Kindergarten, conceived by Friedrich Froebel in 19th-century Germany, refers to a program of education of 4- and 5-year-old children. Although Canada's first public-school kindergartens were established in Berlin [Kitchener], Ont (1882), Toronto (1883) and Hamilton (1885), kindergarten programs in public schools are not yet available to all Canadian children. Whether public or private, kindergartens continue to reflect Froebel's belief that education must be attuned to the child's level of development and his belief in play as an avenue for learning.
Recently, however, the extent to which kindergarten should emphasize the preparation of children for the school's academic program has become an issue. Some educators see such emphasis as desirable; others believe it would detract from kindergarten's historic concern with the development of the "whole child."