A Multi-layered Dialogue

Exploring Froebel’s Influence on Pedagogies of Care with 1-year-olds across Four Cultures


  • Maria Cooper
  • Carrey Tik-Sze Siu The Education University of Hong Kong
  • Mary Benson McMullen School of Education, University of Indiana-Bloomington
  • Jean Rockel Faculty of Education and Social Work, University of Auckland
  • Sacha Powell Froebel Trust London


autonomy, culture, early childhood care and education, freedom with guidance, Froebel, infants and toddlers, pedagogy


Infant and toddler pedagogy has flourished as a specialized area of practice in early childhood care and education settings, yet it remains an under-researched area. There is also limited empirical research internationally that explores cultural meanings of meaningful provision for this young age group. This ethnographic study explored pedagogies of care with 1-year olds in four cultures—England, United States, New Zealand and Hong Kong—guided by Froebel’s education philosophy and a view of pedagogies of care as embodiments of culture. The researchers employed sociocultural and ecological theoretical perspectives (Darling, 2016) to attend to cultural meanings at the micro, macro and temporal levels in relation to people, contexts and processes. This lens enabled the researchers to resist the positivist tendency to normalize and unify all children’s experiences and maintain the integrity of diverse interpretations. Inspired by Tobin et al.’s (1989, 2009) cross-national research on preschool in three cultures, the researchers utilized a video-cued multivocal and layered interpretation approach to elicit the “voices” of 1-year-olds, their teachers/practitioners and families. This paper focuses on each researcher’s discussion of the ways Froebel’s principles of autonomy in learning and freedom with guidance were seen to unfold. The nuances of how these principles were manifested in pedagogies for infants and toddlers is explored in relation to each country’s curriculum and cultural ideals.