For a long period of human history, children were seen as little adults whose main purpose in life was to help with adult work. That drastically changed in the last century, which is evident in the design and number of toys we’ve dreamed up since.
While thoughts about the way childhood has changed are probably way over your little one’s head, the Museum of Modern Art’s new “Century of the Child: Growing by Design, 1900-2000” exhibit is actually a lot more child-friendly then it might seem. Don’t let the words “modernist preoccupation” on the website put you off; what kid wouldn’t be excited to see 500 toys, furniture, games, and posters? Some highlights: the first Barbie Dream House from 1962 and classics like Slinkys, LEGOs, and Playmobil toys.
If that’s not convincing enough, we checked in with co-organizer and curatorial assistant Aidan O’Conor on the top 11 don’t-miss parts of the exhibit:
For all ages
This installation gives visitors a chance to play and create shadow puppets with enhanced digital teeth, horns, bubbles, and different noises simply by stepping in front of the light box and using their limbs creatively.
As parents well know, furniture is extremely expensive. Enter the adjustable Tripp Trapp chair, which accommodates all sizes from baby to adult. The industrial, oversized design is a fun experience for all—take a break and have a seat!
For kids 6-12
Il Bimbo Cattivo Bed Panel
The title of this colorful 1921 bed panel translates as “the bad child.” There’s a lot of detail in its caricatures of the naughty kid, so it’s easy to make a game out of playing I-spy. Need ideas? Start off by looking for the fat pig with a plunger.
Katamari Damacy Video Game
Calling all gamers: This highly addictive video game comes from rolling a katamari ball around to collect larger and larger objects, working your way up to a skyscraper. When enough objects are collected, the ball becomes a star.
Disneyland October 1954 Photograph
Kids will love looking at this aerial view of the original Disneyland. Can you remember how your favorite modern-day resort differs from the famous theme park on its opening day?
For kids under 5
Modular Indoor Play Area
This set of “burlap beasts” from 1985 is made of modular cushions can used to create different play structures for the stick puppets. How does this stack up with your favorite modern-day puppet theater?
Original Elements From The Set of Pee-wee’s Playhouse
Peewee’s Playhouse was the show for children growing up in the ‘80s. Several pieces from the classic show, including the infamous red door, will be sure to capture children’s attention.
To make sure you don’t miss out on any family fun at the museum, pick up a family activity guide at the gallery entrance or print it out from moma.org before you visit.