In an age of helicopter parenting and over-scheduling, it doesn’t seem like the concept of childhood is anything new. But in reality, it kind of is. A new exhibit at MoMA follows the recent course of history in children’s psychology and subsequent design.
“Century of the Child: Growing by Design, 1900–2000” takes you through a 100-year timeline, analyzing everything from playground and toy design (especially the ubiquitous Walt Disney) to nurseries and safety equipment. (Trust us, we’ve come a long way with our furniture.) But of all the segmented eras, we’re particularly interested in the 1960s to 1990s period dubbed “Power Play,” when playtime was heavily influenced by vehicles, robots and space exploration.
This is far from a typically exhausting trip to Babies ‘R’ Us, though. Instead it’s a thoughtful retrospective on how a Swedish book published in 1900 (The Century of the Child by Ellen Key) was able to foreshadow the way society would view children in the coming century, and how that in turn would persuade design and art.
Regardless of whether you have kids of your own, the historical comparison of how we treat children from the past to the present is quite the eye-opener.
“Century of the Child: Growing by Design, 1900–2000” is on display through November 5 at MoMA, 11 W. 53rd St. (between Fifth and Sixth aves.); 212-708-9400 or moma.org