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Lange, an architecture critic, shows that the desire to foster children's creativity is not always served by the increased sophistication of playthings . . . [She] details the transformation of homes, schools, and cities to include space for play (New Yorker)
[A] captivating design history. (Nature)
As expected, the book contains chapters devoted to charting the history of important toys, such as wood blocks and Lego. But Design of Childhood casts a wider, more ambitious net, looking at the ways in which attention to children and their needs has helped shape design at large . . . Lange's work brings together topics that are generally covered in isolation. You'll find plenty of books on playground design, school design or toy design. It's much harder to find anything that weaves those strands together for a broader view of how design has contended with evolving ideas of childhood . . . In this regard, her book is essential. (LA Times)
Lange skillfully explores how the design of children's toys and built environments reflects evolving philosophies of child-rearing and development . . . Powerfully remind[s] readers of the importance of constructing spaces that make all people, including children, feel both welcomed and independent. (Publishers Weekly)
An informative road map for those who want to maximize their children's material environment . . . Parents and educators will discover a wealth of information to inspire and help 'make childhood a better place.' (Kirkus Reviews)
[Lange] might be the most influential design critic writing now. She brings her considerable powers, both as an observer of objects and spaces and as a writer of sentences, to The Design of Childhood, which provides history and commentary on toys, houses, schools, playgrounds, and cities . . . [and] reveals some significant social inequities . . . We all survived our childhoods. I think the real lesson of the book is that it's possible to do more than that. Here, Lange seems to argue. This. These are the tools--no, the toys--that we can use to grow up into the people we most want to be. (Los Angeles Review of Books)
[A] fascinating look at how our surroundings shape our childhoods, both today and in the past. (BookPage)
[Lange] writes with both an academic's expertise and a journalist's hooks and accessibility . . . Lange's survey shows how kids learn to be creative, social citizens in these different spaces." (Booklist)
A fascinating and sobering story . . . With Lange's historical perspective, though, solutions emerge. Most fundamental, perhaps, is that children should be considered citizens, not consumers. (Scientific American, Mind Matters blog)
[W]e are lucky to have a writer like Lange putting children's environments into context, to help us see the responsibility we bear, and to make better decisions about what and how we build for children in the future. (Metropolis Magazine)
From building blocks to city blocks, an eye-opening exploration of how children's playthings and physical surroundings affect their development.
Parents obsess over their children's playdates, kindergarten curriculum, and every bump and bruise, but the toys, classrooms, playgrounds, and neighborhoods little ones engage with are just as important. These objects and spaces encode decades, even centuries of changing ideas about what makes for good child-rearing--and what does not. Do you choose wooden toys, or plastic, or, increasingly, digital? What do youngsters lose when seesaws are deemed too dangerous and slides are designed primarily for safety? How can the built environment help children cultivate self-reliance? In these debates, parents, educators, and kids themselves are often caught in the middle.
Now, prominent design critic Alexandra Lange reveals the surprising histories behind the human-made elements of our children's pint-size landscape. Her fascinating investigation shows how the seemingly innocuous universe of stuff affects kids' behavior, values, and health, often in subtle ways. And she reveals how years of decisions by toymakers, architects, and urban planners have helped--and hindered--American youngsters' journeys toward independence. Seen through Lange's eyes, everything from the sandbox to the street becomes vibrant with buried meaning. The Design of Childhood will change the way you view your children's world--and your own.
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