Alexandra Lange
Architecture & design critic

Tell Us 5 Things About Your Book: A Close Look at Where Kids Live, Learn and Play

Alessandra Montalto/The New York Times

A Q&A with John Williams for the New York Times.

Jane Jacobs, the famed urban activist who thought deeply about the streets and spaces where we live, wrote of children: “Their homes and playgrounds, so orderly looking, so buffered from the muddled, messy intrusions of the great world, may accidentally be ideally planned for children to concentrate on television, but for too little else their hungry brains require.” Alexandra Lange quotes this thought from Jacobs in the introduction to her new book, “The Design of Childhood: How the Material World Shapes Independent Kids.” In Ms. Lange’s book, schools, playgrounds, toys and other habitual features of young people’s lives are closely examined: the origins of their design, their strengths and shortcomings, and their short-term and long-term effects on children. Below, Ms. Lange discusses Minecraft and Legos, her surprise at the feminist angle of her book and more.

When did you first get the idea to write this book?

The short answer is I had a baby, in 2007.