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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. In her new book, The Design of Childhood: How the Material World Shapes Independent Kids, design critic Alexandra Lange reveals the surprising histories behind the human-made elements of our children’s pint-size landscape.
Alexandra Lange is an architecture and design critic whose essays, reviews, and features have appeared in design journals, New York magazine, the New Yorker, the New York Times, Curbed, Design Observer, Dezeen, and many other publications. She received a PhD in twentieth-century architecture history from the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University. She is the author of Writing about Architecture: Mastering the Language of Buildings and Cities, the e-book The Dot-Com City: Silicon Valley Urbanism, and co-author of Design Research: The Story that Brought Modern Living to American Homes.