Started in Germany by Friedrich Frobel as a preschool educational institution for children for a play and activity institute that he created in 1837 as a social experience for children in their transition from home to school. His goal was that children should be taken care of and nourished in "children's gardens" like plants in a garden. (from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kindergarten)
I was watching a show the other day and they were teaching children in kindergarten multiplication facts. I thought that was odd. And that was back in the 1980s. I wonder if they did not cram so much into the heads of children so young, that maybe, just maybe, they would not have so much trouble being distracted in school later. It seems they stopped letting it be a transition and made it 1st grade ... or 2nd grade ... Just my pondering.
The reason I looked this up, was I wanted to see the history of it ... when I was in Germany and tried to learn German, my German friend asked me what was English for kindergarten. I said, 'kindergarten'. She thought that odd, and that it should be children-garden being kinder is children and garten is garden. I told her that it must be one of those words from our German ancestors.