The postwar American stereotypes of suburban sameness, traditional
gender roles, and educational conservatism have masked an alternate
self-image tailor-made for the Cold War. The creative child, an
idealized future citizen, was the darling of baby boom parents,
psychologists, marketers, and designers who saw in the next
generation promise that appeared to answer the most pressing
worries of the age.
Designing the Creative Child reveals how a postwar cult
of childhood creativity developed and continues to this day.
Exploring how the idea of children as imaginative and naturally
creative was constructed, disseminated, and consumed in the United
States after World War II, Amy F. Ogata argues that educational
toys, playgrounds, small middle-class houses, new schools, and
children's museums were designed to cultivate imagination in a
growing cohort of baby boom children. Enthusiasm for encouraging
creativity in children countered Cold War fears of failing
competitiveness and the postwar critique of social conformity,
making creativity an emblem of national revitalization.
Ogata describes how a historically rooted belief in children's
capacity for independent thinking was transformed from an elite
concern of the interwar years to a fully consumable and
aspirational ideal that persists today. From building blocks to
Gumby, playhouses to Playskool trains, Creative Playthings to the
Eames House of Cards, Crayola fingerpaint to children's museums,
material goods and spaces shaped a popular understanding of
creativity, and Designing the Creative Child demonstrates
how this notion has been woven into the fabric of American
Subjects: Architecture and Architectural History, History, Sociology
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