11-3 | The Design of Childhood: How the Material World Shapes Independent Kids

Book Review

The Design of Childhood: How the Material World Shapes Independent Kids

Alexandra Lange
New York: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2018. Introduction, photographs, acknowledgments, notes, bibliography, and index. 416 pp. $30.00 cloth. ISBN: 9781632866356

by Howard Chudacoff

First Paragraph:

Alexandra Lange packs a lot into this engaging, informative, and provocative book. At various points throughout, one can find insights into architectural history, social history, child development, environmental history, urban planning, material science, even autobiography. A design critic married to an architect, Lange has built a highly respected career assessing things and places, especially those involving domestic life. And when she had her first child—she dedicates the book to her two children—she became especially fascinated by children’s stuff (her italics), not just commercial toys but what, how, and where kids used stuff beyond the home, in school, in playgrounds, and in their larger community. If designed and used properly, Lange concludes—and she does not
take an entirely uncritical stance—these things and places have high educational value: a child’s environment, she argues, can be what educational philosopher Loris Malaguzzi has called “the third teacher,” as important to learning as the home and the school.