• The Design of Childhood: How Material Culture Shapes Independent Kids
    Alexandra Lange
    Bloomsbury, 2018
    Alexandra Lange

Isamu Noguchi, Moerenuma Koen, 1988-2005, Sapporo, Japan. Photo: Alexandra Lange.

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.

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 is currently the architecture critic for Curbed. 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 (Princeton Architectural Press, 2012), the e-book The Dot-Com City: Silicon Valley Urbanism (Strelka Press, 2012), and coauthor of Design Research: The Story that Brought Modern Living to American Homes (Chronicle Books, 2010). She has taught architecture criticism at New York University and the School of Visual Arts; in 2014 she was a Loeb Fellow at Harvard University's Graduate School of Design.