Twenty years ago, as an early childhood teacher, I was fortunate to attend a professional development day conference led by the inimitable Professor Tina Bruce. At the conference, Tina asked we early childhood teachers: ‘What one thing would you put your back to the wall for in your job?’ In other words, Tina wanted us to share with one another the values that guide our daily work with young children and their families. An avowed Froebelian, Tina herself subscribes to a very particular set of values (Bruce 2015) and she is not alone. Many early childhood educators over two centuries have been influenced by the principles and philosophy developed by Froebel, the original kindergarten practitioner (Froebel Trust 2018). Indeed, as for so many others, my own initial teacher education was strongly influenced by Froebelian principles which have continued to guide my work in the field for thirty-five years. We live in an era of unprecedented global focus on early childhood development (UNESCO 2017; WHO 2018), in this editorial I revisit Froebel’s principles and I argue that we would be wise to continue to regard them as relevant and valuable touchstones for early childhood education in the twenty-first century.