Howard P. Chudacoff
In this fascinating and enlightening book, Howard P. Chudacoff presents the first history of children's play in the United States and ponders what it tells us about ourselves. Through expert investigation in primary sources--including dozens of children's diaries, hundreds of autobiographical recollections of adults, and a wealth of child-rearing manuals--along with wide-ranging readings of the work of educators, journalists, market researchers, and scholars--Chudacoff digs into the "underground" of play. Ranging over the last 300 years, he contrasts the activities that genuinely occupied children's time with what adults thought children ought to be doing. Filled with intriguing stories and rich insights, Children at Play provides a chronological history of play in the United States from the viewpoint of children themselves. Focusing on youngsters between the ages of about six and twelve, it highlights the transformation of "child's play," paying attention not only to the activities of the cultural elite but to those of working-class children, of slaves, and of Native Americans.
In addition, the author considers the findings, observations, and theories of numerous social scientists along with those of fellow historians. One of his most profound conclusions is that the ability of American children to play independently has diminished over time, with unfortunate consequences for children, for the adults they become, and for our society at large. By examining the play-time pursuits of youngsters whom marketers today call "tweens"--no longer toddlers but not yet teenagers--Children at Play adds fresh historical depth to current discussions about topics like childhood obesity, delinquency, learning disability, and the many ways that children spend their time when adults aren't looking.