The Century of the Children

Freehand drawing exercise, 1899

'As reproduced in New Methods in Education: Art, Real Manual 

Training, Nature Study' (1899) by James Liberty Tadd, Tadd emphasised 
freehand  blackboard drawing as combining physical and intellectual exercise 
in a way that reflected children’s natural tendency to express themselves  through 
movement. He described this method as ‘a process that unfolds the capacities 
of children as unfold the leaves and flowers; a system that teaches the 
pupils that they are in the plan and part of life…’

MoMA, Century of the Children 

Primary Class studying plants, 1899-1900
by Frances Benjamin Johnston (1864–1952)

Magda Mautner von Markhof (1881-1944):
Kalenderbilderbuch (Calendar picture book), 1905

Design for children in the early twentieth-century was generally not seen as
profitable or high status, but for many women like Magda Mautner von Markoff,
 it was a new and important field. At the time, as suggested by the design critic Amelia
Levetus in an article about Viennese toys, women were felt to 'better understand
child nature than men; they are nearer to them in thought, and sympathise
with them in a way that men rarely do'.

Figli della Lupa (Sons of the Wolf) tableware set. 1930s

Outside the classroom, Italian children could eat and drink from
 tableware designed to whet their appetites for future service in the colonies.
In the mid-1930s the Richard Ginori porcelain factory manufactured children’s
plates, cups, and saucers decorated with stereotypical colonial imagery - the
ubiquitous palm tree, camel, pith helmet, rifle, tank, and huts flying
the Italian flag - that celebrated Italy’s conquests
in North and East Africa

Ladislav Sutnar. Build the Town building blocks, 1940-43

In keeping with his commitment to modernist principles, Sutnar believed
in the cognitive power of a visual language rooted in elemental shapes and colours.
 Building entire cities with blocks, he believed, would give children an awareness of
form and structure that made direct reference to the simple, geometric volumes of functionalist
architecture, while also giving a sense of the functional and aesthetic interrelationships
between different types of buildings in the modern city. He described these
nonverbal, object lessons, taught through play, as 'mental vitamins
necessary for the right development of a child'. The prototype
sets seen here were never put into full production.