Architecture is one of my favorite topics to teach because it combines so many disciplines!
You can use it to study geometry (the shapes of buildings), culture/ climate science (how building styles relate to local weather conditions), social studies (buildings around the world), art and creativity (building design), and of course, engineering!
Here is a collection of my favorite books and activities to teach the different components of architecture.
You could use one, pick and choose by discipline, or combine them to create a big, in-depth, multidisciplinary unit!
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Book: Iggy Peck, Architect
Iggy Peck loves creating buildings out of anything and everything, but when he goes to school, his teacher forbids him to talk about architecture. Iggy Peck is miserable until a bridge breaks on a class field trip and only he can save the day.
Activity: Building stronger bridges
Discipline: STEM/Engineering, Growth mindset
Taking their cue from corrugated cardboard, kids experiment with folding paper and cardboard different ways and investigating the effect folding has on the strength of bridges
This book describes the building of the cathedral in Chutreux, France, in the 13th century. The text is aimed at older kids (think 5th grade and up) but even young kids will appreciate the detailed line drawings as this inspiring structure emerges from the ground up.
Activity: Exploring Architecture with Fort Magic
Disciplines: STEM/Engineering, Creativity, Dramatic play, Cooperation
If you read my post The 9 Essential Elements of a Perfect Playroom OR Fort Magic Baby Gym, you will know that we are OBSESSED with our Fort Magic Kit! It has a great quantity and variety of pieces for making all sorts of different shapes, they’re big and sturdy, and it comes with fabric clips so you can cover your forts in all sorts of exciting ways. This post was written by an architect-turned-mom and describes some awesome ways that your kids can learn about architecture while building forts with this kit!
Note: This Straw Constructor toy is a much cheaper option with decent reviews, but the forts won’t be as big, and aren’t strong enough to support a sheet or blanket, so their use is more limited. Still, they could be used as a fun STEM challenge to create different structures.
Book: The Big Orange Splot
In “The Big Orange Splot”, All of the houses on the street look the same, until Mr. Plumbean decorates his to look like “all his dreams”. One by one, the neighbors come to complain and he convinces them to redecorate their own houses to express their individual dreams as well.
Children use mixed media to create representations of their own dream houses
Book: The Three Little Pigs; an Architectural Tale
Activity: Architectural STEM challenge
Design a house (free printable worksheets included) and create it out of recycled materials
*bonus!* the link above includes links to some fabulous YouTube videos about homes around the world, types of houses, and architects, including Frank Lloyd Wright!
Book: The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig
This hilarious spin on the “Three Little Pigs” has the wolves building stronger and stronger houses to protect themselves from the Big Bad Pig- and in this version, he’s got tools. This book is also a favorite part of my collection, Children’s Books That Get Everyone Giggling!
This collection of easy to print-and-assemble houses has all the textures you need to reenact the story, and a blank template that kids can use to design their own super-safe house where the little wolves and their china teapot can hide out!
Challenge your kids to build as tall of a tower as possible using plastic cups and popsicle sticks, that will hold a “Peter” figurine on top!
Book: Rosie Revere, Engineer
Activity: Outdoor Building Challenge
Given sticks, fabric and clothespins, little architects design and create structures!
Book: If I Built a House
Activity: Build an epic cardboard city
Disciplines: Creativity, STEM/Engineering, geometry, teamwork
Using recycled materials, kids design and create a series of houses and assemble them into a collaborative city project!
Disciplines: Art, Geometry, Creativity
Using a set of textured foam blocks as stamps, kids design cool and colorful buildings
Book: The Most Magnificent Thing
Activity: Building with play-dough and stones
Discipline: Geography/History, STEM
In this clever building activity, kids use playdough to serve as the “mortar” while they create stone houses!
You can extend the learning with a similar activity;
Activity: Building with sticks and play-dough
Discipline: STEM, creativity
A simple but classic activity- kids gather small, straight sticks from outside and use play-dough with them to create a variety of structures.
Activity: Building with sticks, straws and tape
Discipline: STEM/Engineering, creativity
Given a few basic materials, kids are challenged to see what they can build
Book: From Mud Hut to Skyscraper
This journey through the history of architecture has clear pictures and descriptions for younger kids, as well as more detailed facts for older kids. It contains a really interesting collection of buildings in a large format.
Disciplines: Geography, history, STEM, observation skills
This cool printable has pictures of bridges from all around the world! You can challenge your kids to recreate them with blocks- an awesome open ended activity that combines geography, observation, and building skills
Book: This Is My House
Activity: Architecture Walk
Discipline: Geometry, Observation skills, Creativity
Give your kids an architectural survey form (The original seems to have disappeared from the internet, but you can save the image from this pin: Architectural Survey Form or download a different version from this blog post.)
After they’ve studied it a bit, go for a walk around the neighborhood, and observe the houses. Try to identify as many different windows and doors as possible.
You can then have them study one of the houses, and try and draw it as close to reality as possible and/or use the survey form to design their own house.
Book: The Adventures of Harold and the Purple Crayon
Activity: Design some personalized architecture blocks
Disciplines: Creativity, Geometry
Give your kids a bunch of simple wooden blocks in a variety of shapes and sizes, and a black marker, and allow them to decorate the blocks with doors and windows. See an awesome example here: Instagram/Amelia Presents. This is a great opportunity to introduce some geometry vocabulary like “faces”
This book discusses what the weather looks like around the world on one day. It’s a great introduction to how weather can be different in different places. You can extend it to architecture by discussing how homes and other buildings look different in different places to protect people from local weather conditions
Discipline: Creativity, STEM
Students create an animal out of UV-sensitive beads and build a shelter from recycled materials to protect it from the sun. This is a perfect activity for the kindergarten Next Generation Science Standards K-PS3-1 and K-PS3-2. See the original post for more details and a link to the beads.
Book: Not a Box
This fun little book features a bunny playing with a cardboard box, but every time the narrator asks him “What are you doing with that box?” he replies “It’s not a box”, as the illustrations show what he’s imagining it is. This is a great story for discussing and encouraging imaginative play with kids.
Activity: Build a Cardboard Playhouse
Find a giant cardboard box and turn it into an exciting playhouse. This post has 26 images of amazing cardboard playhouse creations- tons of inspiration for your little builders!
Looking for more exciting architecture ideas? Check out this post from Artsy Mama about Exploring Architecture Around the World with Kids.
If your kids love learning about architecture, they’ll go wild for this collection of Hands-on Optical Illusion Activities, Inspired by “Walter Wick’s Optical Tricks!”Which activity will you try first? Leave a comment and let me know!
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