A new way of thinking about the child took hold around 1900 – one that questioned the mind-numbing traditional methods of learning by rote and treated children as active, rather than passive, learners. Inspired by early nineteenth-century educational theorists, above all Friedrich Froebel in Germany, progressive teachers of young children embraced singing, dancing, direct observation of nature, and, most importantly, open-ended play with real objects and materials. This symposium, organized in conjunction with the exhibition, Century of the Child: Growing by Design, 1900-2000 (on view at MoMA through November 5, 2012), explores the ramifications of new ideas about childhood, play, and progressive design at particular moments in the twentieth century. The first two papers examine examples of the creative exchange between theories of early childhood education and avant-garde design practice in European centers during the first part of the century, while the session after the break focuses on postwar approaches to play, creativity, and toy design on either side of the Cold War divide.

Peter N. Miller
Bard Graduate Center
Juliet Kinchin
Architecture and Design, The Museum of Modern Art

Juliet Kinchin
Architecture and Design, The Museum of Modern Art
Pioneering Design Through Children: Franz Cižek, Francesco Randone, and Marion Richardson

An examination of three pioneers of design education for children and their interaction with avant-garde design in the early twentieth century.

Jeffrey Saletnik
History of Art, Amherst College
Color, Paper, Collage: Early Childhood Educational Methods in the Context of the Bauhaus

An assessment of Josef Albers’s kindergarten-related exercises and their manifestation in the material culture of the Bauhaus and Black Mountain College.

Amy Ogata
Bard Graduate Center
Designing the Creative Child: Playthings and Places in Postwar America

The “creative child” was an idealized figure in postwar America that psychological research, specially designed toys, school buildings, museums, and art education programs helped to shape and sustain.

Film screening: Toys (Zabawki)
Director, Andrzej Wolski, 2011; produced by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute, Warsaw.

This documentary examines the anthropological ties between Poland’s creativity today and the toy shortages in the childhood years, and takes a look at the reality of life in communist Poland through the eyes of children and their toys.

Concluding Discussion
Aidan O’Connor, Moderator
Architecture and Design, The Museum of Modern Art