MOMA’s Exhibit of a Century of Design for Kids

Tomorrow is the opening of MOMA’s exhibit, Century of the Child: Growing by Design, 1900–2000. It is all about design for kids for that hundred years. How can I finagle a trip to NYC before it closes on November 5?


wooden blocks
Ladislav Sutnar. Prototype for Build the Town Building Blocks. 1940–43. Painted wood, large block: 1 3/4 x 2 3/4 x 2 3/4″ (4.4 x 7 x 7 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Ctislav Sutnar and Radoslav Sutnar


This makes me giddy. Why? Because it’s all sorts of smarty pants museum people putting together an exhibit that focuses on exactly what I’m trying to write about on my blog. (Even though I use more words like totally and awesome, and I haven’t noticed museum folks using those words too often.) In this case the smarty pants museum people are curator Juliet Kinchin and curatorial assistant Aidan O’Connor, both from the Architecture & Design Department at the Museum of Modern Art.


skippy scooter
The Americans John Rideout and Harold Van Doren designed the painted steel Skippy-Racer scooter around 1933

The show doesn’t merely focus on kids’ toys, but reaches into playgrounds, schools, and furniture, amongst other elements. It explores the importance placed on nurturing our children’s creativity and well-being, and how design directly influences children.

plastic modular chairs
Chica modular plastic children’s chairs of 1971, by Jonathan De Pas, Donato D’Urbino, Giorgio DeCurso, and Paolo Lomazzi for BBB Bonacnia


Two ideas come into play with this exhibit that fascinate me, as they are at work simultaneously: design for children, based on making an object or space specifically for children, and the idea that many designers were influenced by how children acted and interacted with their environments, which in turn influenced how the designers worked. The exhibit shows us just how closely children and design have been interwoven over the last century.


century of the child book
Century of the Child book from


If you are planning to go, there is a PDF to download for a family activity guide, and they have a number of gallery talks and related events as well.

Further reading:

New York Times Review of the show

New York Times Magazine article of the show

Newsweek article on the show in The Daily Beast

What do you think?


Leave a Reply
  1. I’m going to NYC this week for Blogher – if I dare to miss anything – too rule girl- I will go to this!

  2. This exhibit is sooo up your alley. Come to BlogHer and sneak out to see the exhibit! You must!

    My son found this really old fashioned wooden toy rifle in Plymouth and made me buy it for him. The owner of the store said that he made it himself based on a toy in a museum, maybe around the 1800s. It just has this simple wooden mechanism that you pull back and when you “fire” the gun, it makes a popping sound. Now, all the boys that my son plays with are envious. Funny how a toy during Colonial Times still fascinates little boys! I’ll try to post on it so you can see a picture. Has about 7 wooden parts.

  3. I would LOVE to go to this and Blogher too! I like how you mentioned the designers were inspired by how kids interact with their environment.

    I wonder if this would drive the kids crazy – they would be wanting to play with everything!

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