Chapters 1 & 2
The concept of childhood is a cultural construct. It is not fixed – it varies by geography and historical period. In all cultures, children are socialized through toys, games, stories, songs etc.
In The Disappearance of Childhood, Neil Postman (1994) maintains that childhood can be defined as a stage of innocence requiring special protection. Print technology invented modern childhood when children became literate and needed to be protected from adult knowledge. “Shame” is the barrier between childhood innocence and adult knowledge. The age of television has given children access to adult knowledge and so TV caused childhood to disappear.
Philip Aries (Centuries of Childhood) posits that childhood was invented in the 17th century because this is the time they were first depicted in paintings, art and other imagery. These primary sources show the first evidence of coddling, nurturing and affection shown to children.
NOTE: Mintz sees modern childhood beginning in the 19th century – the point in which children were expected to attend school rather than work.
The advent of Children’s literature in the 19th century allowed children to become consumers of culture. This era is known by historians as “The Golden Age of Childhood.”
“Toys and games have an important function in teaching and consolidating social rules and norms” (Heller 2008:272).