Impact of freedom with guidance

Project author:

Project summary:

An observational study of the impact of “freedom with guidance” and how staff effectively, plan, support and facilitate this principle in our setting. To build the confidence of our practitioners for better practice. Ensuring children are leaders of their own learning.



The project looks at the Froebelian principle “Freedom with Guidance” as it links with our planning process and will be hugely beneficial for the staff to make them more aware and improve their practice and in turn create a more enabling child led environment.

It considers methods used for planning, taking into account children’s interests and next steps. The importance of observation and how staff must work with the children and observe, to build on their interests and ongoing development, that will generate fresh ideas for a better more inclusive child led environment.


Some staff are setting up experiences that only have one outcome or they are not fulfilling the child’s development with the experience set up. Staff are lacking in setting up rich meaningful provocations that have come from the children and will develop the child’s knowledge and understanding further in something they choose.


To carry out this project we had to ask permission from the parents of the children we wanted to observe. I had a brief conversation with each parent to facilitate what my intentions of the project was, and they were all happy to oblige. We also had a meeting with all staff to make them aware of our intentions and purpose of our project.

The staff’s enthusiasm was not as good as we had expected, we tried to advocate some of Froebel’s principles and promote this practice inquiry course.

We plan to feedback our findings from observations and questionnaires and all information gathered to staff and parents through media, newsletters, charts etc.

“Freedom with Guidance is showing the child where to look but not telling them what to see.”

Practitioner Sadie age 36


I learned that not everyone has heard of Froebel’s pedagogy approaches, and that our staff team is very varied in their way of working.

I observed firsthand that our practitioners are so quick to throw out an activity on the table or space, but they don’t always have a reason why, or they don’t take time to talk to the children about their morning before then setting up a provocation to support the spark the child has come to nursery and wants to learn about. For example there was a lamb jigsaw out with other shape jigsaws, the child was encouraged to do the jigsaw, and move on to a harder one. The child got excited about the lamb, although nothing was said or taken forward to support this. I wondered if adding more props, spring books, farm animals or the smart board could have taken this child’s learning further. I felt the main focus was whether the child could complete the jigsaw and yes that is an achievement, but we must consider how we take our children’s interests forward by observing them in their play.

Froebel believed that educators gain insight into children by observing, when they are engaging in child led play, these observations allow us to get to know the child, where they are at and how to further educate them.

Our practitioners are confidently able to observe our children and all staff really know all the children very well, especially their key group. It is what our practitioners do with that observation which we need to develop,. Staff require more training in being able to meet our children’s needs through sensitive interactions and how the staff set up provocations.

I think some useful new questions are:

  • What is a rich open-ended provocation?
  • How does this sit alongside the term “freedom with guidance?
  • How can we develop this and create a more enabling child centred establishment for our children to grow?


The overall lesson is it is amazing how few practitioners are aware of how Friedrich Froebel has such an influence of the work we do today.  Staff need reminded to observe and tune into the child and support their learning, making the connections that are observation-based assessment of each child, this informs our planning and informs children’s next steps building on knowledge of their own child led learning.

In a Froebelian environment it is the role of the adult to observe and offer careful intervention or guidance only if the child requires this to fulfil learning and move on.

Research implications

The team/setting as a whole

This research project has highlighted that the staff team have varied levels of understanding in relation to Froebelian practice. The staff questionnaires evidenced that the principle “Freedom with Guidance” is mainly considered by practitioners as children having the right to choose what and where they play. There are low numbers of practitioners trained in Froebel currently within our establishment and some have not completed their training. This has a major impact on how practitioners interpret the principle and how they embed it in their practice. To have the whole setting invest in Froebelian principles their will need to be more continued professional development through staff training opportunities.


The setting would also benefit from working together to devise new visions, values and aims that will support service users to understand and support our Froebelian journey. This project on “Freedom with Guidance” has reinforced that within our establishment we are at the very early stages of our Froebelian Journey.



There is limited understanding of the role of the adult within this principle and how to extend and scaffold learning whilst developing curiosities. Practitioners require further training on sensitive interactions, open ended questions and setting up learning provocations based on children’s needs and interests. Practitioners can confidently set up the environment with invitations to play, however these experiences lack the factors needed to become learning provocations that will engage the children, develop their problem solving and encourage them to extend their interests. Staff can observe and discuss children’s interests, however, require support to facilitate this appropriately. Children can make choices and select resources/ spaces to play and learn, the implications of the research project for practitioners are that they require more training on the role of the adult in play pedagogy.


Planning works well and supports following children’s lead using floorbooks and focus child observations. Practitioners are continuing to build confidence with this.


Resourcing & Policy

The playroom environments are well resourced with a wide variety of resources to support literacy, numeracy, health and wellbeing and other areas of the curriculum. We promote learning through real life and natural materials and have a wide variety of resources to support children making choices with guidance and support from practitioners. Budget within the nursery has been focused on supporting Froebelian practices and principles through new resourced block play areas and outdoor organisation for example wellie stands and outdoor suit pegs within the playroom to support more freedom with guidance. Implications from this research on resourcing should be on creating space for parents and staff to collaborate and develop their understanding of “Freedom with Guidance” and how this supports the children attending the establishment.


Development points taken from the project show that the nursery policies and procedures require to be updated to support children, staff, and parents with our Froebelian journey.


Early Years Sector & Our Networks

The balance of training within the early years sector appears to be unbalanced as some establishments have many trained practitioners and some have only a few. The training due to covid has also been online, for many staff this has not been as successful as face to face having professional dialogue and building a shared understanding of what the Froebelian principles mean and look like in practice. This was evident through staff questionnaires and observations within the playroom. The overriding implication of this project is further training and building deeper understanding of “Freedom with Guidance” as well as all other principles.


Practitioner enquiry

Practitioner research and inquiry is incredibly beneficial as it supports the development of knowledge and understanding of all service users. The impact of this on practitioners is that it gives an insight into levels of knowledge within the discussed topic and identifies areas of improvement needed.


Management is able to use the practitioner-research to evaluate how far along the Froebelian journey we are and would find it invaluable in supporting self-evaluation in relation to Froebel creating a more collaborative approach involving all our children, families and practitioners.

Leadership learning


Through supporting this research I have learnt that all staff have different levels of knowledge and are at different stages of our Froebelian journey. Leaders and trained Froebelian practitioners need to work more collaboratively with other staff to support their understanding and knowledge in relation to the principles and practice that we are promoting within our establishment.


I have also learnt that the playroom environment does lend itself to “Freedom with Guidance” however practitioners require more training, role modelling and support from a management level. Leading on from this project I will be working more collaboratively to implement Froebelian principles at our establishment.

Author and role

Staci Black, Deputy head of centre

Comments from other network members

What did you appreciate about this research? What forward-looking questions did it raise for you?

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