Day Nurseries Between Social Welfare and Self-Determination

Since the poor performance of German educational institutions became known through OECD studies, discussions have taken place about new educational measures, which should start with children of preschool age. Politicians of almost all parties have come to recognize that well-organized childcare is conducive to productivity in society. One insight is increasingly gaining ground, namely that the relevant space and the atmosphere it evokes are like a third pedagogic dimension – in addition to the teachers and the child community. For a long time, the act of design and the realization of spaces for childcare stood in the foreground – alongside the social concepts of people like Friedrich Fröbel, Johannes Heinrich Pestalozzi and others. Rudolf Steiner was the only person to describe a link between the built environment and the wellbeing of the people who occupy it. Nevertheless, building for children was not something individual and distinct. The underlying aim of early nursery schools was to provide a protected place for children who were not able to stay at home with their parents because the latter had to go about their daily work (ill. 1). Enlightenment and industrialization set the parameters for this in equal measure. The view of children as non-adults (not simply as young people in their own right) and the humanist demand that they should be provided with appropriate spaces coincided with the philosophical ideas of Robert Owen, Charles Fourier and Jean-Baptist André Godin. As early as 1870, “Familistère”, which Godin himself built in accordance with the social- reform ideas of Fourier, incorporated spaces in which the children of his workers would be cared for and brought up. This freed both parents to go to work, while allowing the children an opportunity for personal development and education.
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