Understanding Children and Childhood

Understanding Children and Childhood

A New Zealand Perspective

Instructor resources are now available - please email us at info@bwb.co.nz to request access.

Understanding Children and Childhood examines how and why children develop, and how they interact with the people and events in their lives. Emphasising that children grow up in diverse cultural contexts, Anne Smith’s book builds an understanding of childhood in New Zealand based on childhood studies and sociocultural theory.

The voices and experience of children are central to this book. The varied contexts within which children learn and come to understand the world are explored; case studies and examples reflect children’s experiences from their perspective. Use of the latest research and policy completes a rich introduction to the key stages, theories and debates of childhood development.

Children’s rights and social justice issues are foregrounded early, embedded in a broad theoretical framework. Children’s development is then presented as driven by learning, supported by opportunities for reciprocal social interaction across diverse cultural contexts. This approach highlights the importance for children of working collaboratively and thinking flexibly, enabling them to cope with the new, challenging and uncertain futures of twenty-first century New Zealand.

Available in paperback and ebook formats from booksellers and using the ‘Buy’ buttons on this page. For more information on these purchase options please visit our Sales FAQs page or contact us.

Public lectures on childhood by Anne Smith, part of a NZ-UK Link Foundation Visiting Professorship

Table of contents

Part I Theorising Childhood
1 Theoretical Frameworks for Childhood
2 The Principles of Learning
3 Children as Citizens

Part II The Crucial Beginnings
4 Infancy
5 Early Childhood Education

Part III Domains of Learning
6 Being and Becoming Sociable
7 Language and Culture
8 Thinking in Context
9 Assessment for Learning

Part IV Diverse Childhoods
10 Making Sense of Gender
11 Inclusion of Children with Disabilities

Part V Sustaining and Nurturing Human Capacity
12 Families and Whānau

Print publication:
Ebook publication: Dec 2013
Pages: 416
RRP: $59.99
ISBN: 9781927131763
ISTC: A022013000006129
DOI: 10.7810/9781927131763

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Instructor resources

Instructor resources to accompany Understand Children and Childhood are now available:

  • Review questions

  • PowerPoint slides

Please email us at info@bwb.co.nz to request access.


'… well worth owning, reading, referring to and talking about … reflects Anne Smith’s apparently insatiable appetite for inquiry and distilling insight about the complexities of understanding children. It also shows what has happened in the 15 years since the fourth edition appeared in 1998. … The presence of substantial local research is one of the standout features of this fifth edition. … these five inter-related books provide a history of what approaches to learning have been privileged over time. They also stand as an accessible forum to a wealth of research.' Sue Stover, New Zealand Journal of Infant and Toddler Education, 16, 2 (2014), pp.38–41.

'Anne Smith has done a fine job on writing a comprehensive revision of the book. Challenging ideas, recent research and theories are presented in plain English, alongside alternative viewpoints that add balance and clarity.' Anne Meade, Daisies Early Education & Care Centre

'A very readable and clearly written text with many scenarios and examples to explain concepts and theories. The evidence-based nature of discussions is a strength, including both current and seminal, national and international research.' Margaret Brennan, Open Polytechnic

'The new edition is very well-written and will appeal to an audience of students, teachers and parents interested in learning more about their children's development. It is also highly scholarly, drawing on numerous illustrations from a vast array of sources to give context to the theory being covered.' Jenny Ritchie, Unitec Institute of Technology | Te Whare Wananga o Wairaka

'This new edition explores the concept of children as citizens, recommending teachers and researchers view children as social actors rather than passive objects. I value this approach because it makes sense for me as a researcher working with children and wanting to listen to their "voice".' Esther Fitzpatrick, University of Auckland