Childhood: then and now

Childhood: then and now
Author Tania McCartney discusses her new book Australian Kids through the Years
14 September 2015

Being a parent means traversing many and varied stages. As the years sail by, I continue to watch my children (now aged 12 and 15) leave their childhoods behind and enter teendom—a time that will soon enough melt into young adulthood.

As they have morphed through the varying stages of childhood, it's been ever fascinating to watch my kids move through myriad phases—the toys they play with, the foods they eat, the colours and songs and flavours and books they enjoy most.

But it's also been fascinating to witness a complete shift in the way today's children think and live their lives. Their worlds are so far removed from my own childhood (the 1970s), and it's astonishing to think how the lives of their own grandchildren will unfold. What will they eat? What will they wear and what games will they play? Will they live their lives virtually, or will a return to real and slow living be in full force by the time my great-great-grandchildren appear on this earth?

Endmatter spread from Australian Kids through the Years

Double-page spread from Australian Kids through the Years showing images from the Library's collection

Pondering a possible future had me winging back to the past when writing Australian Kids through the Years—to thinking about our First Children and how they lived their lives, the way they thought, how they learned, the things that were important to them. The way these children lived was so utterly removed from the way our kids live today, yet it also struck me that many of the essential elements of childhood remain the same.

Modern day kids love lollies. Our First Children loved bush honey. Our modern day kids love to play. Our First Children also loved to play. Generations of children have always loved adventure and the great outdoors, have been innovative and curious, and have always needed to be loved.

Then there's the migrant children who have come to call Australia home. In what way do they differ from our First Children? What have they brought to our country and in what ways have they influenced our culture, the foods we eat and the books we read?

Spread from Australian Kids through the Years

Double-page spread from the book showing Australia's First Children

The original title for Australian Kids through the Years was the title of this blog post: Childhood: Then and Now. The name may have changed but the premise of the book has stayed the same: to explore the various ways Australian children have morphed over time, yet (and I believe the book does this subtley, as it should) underpin the essential ingredients to childhood that will ever remain the same.

Both a whimsical tour of the past and a heart-thumping romp towards the future, it's wonderful to know that readers of any age will relate to Australian Kids through the Years—maybe you remember outback ball games and coastal cricket, go-karts made of milk crates, Rubik's cubes, Atari games or the iPad.

1980s spread from Australian Kids through the Years

Double-page spread from the book showing a 1980s childhood

A goal of mine, when writing this book, was to ensure the illustrations were fun, vibrant and detailed. When the amazing Andrew Joyner agreed to illustrate, I was over the moon, as I knew he would capture so much of the zest and life and humour of our Australian children. His resulting spreads are just an eye-fest of fun, extra information and detail. Every time I look at them, I find something new ... and this is a bit like the history of Australian children—ever-shifting and ever-changing.

So, the question remains-have Australian children really changed that much through the years?

Yes. Absolutely, they have. But in many ways, they're still very much the same.

Join me for the launch of my latest book Australian Kids through the Years, as part of the Imaginarium Family Day celebrations, Sunday 11 October. I’ll be reading my book followed by some fun activities from 2pm. I hope to see you there.

Go to the Online Bookshop Australian Kids through the Years by Tania McCartney was released by NLA Publishing in October 2015.

Good to see some ninja turtles and a transformer made it into the illustration of a 1980's childhood, well researched (or perhaps remembered).