Early childhood might be the ideal time to help children connect the dots between the buildings around them and the field of architecture. Although it’s a grown-up pursuit, children are natural-born builders. And once a child starts stacking found objects and building sandcastles, she’s already teaching herself anyway.
College is a long way off, for sure. But teaching children about architects and the things that they create can help them find creativity of their own. It could also help demystify one of the most enigmatic professions. And who knows? It could spark so much imagination as to inspire a whole new generation of architects.
Children Love to Build Things
Give a child a set of building blocks, and she’ll stack, re-stack, watch them topple, and stack again. She’ll work her way through the earliest stages of complicated ideas such as spatial awareness, cause and effect and even gravity. She might not know it, but she will learn by doing.
Building blocks are one of the simplest toys, but they’ve even inspired the likes of Frank Lloyd Wright. According to UrbanTimes, Wright once said that the Froebel blocks given to him as a child by his mother were “in my fingers to this day.” The simple wood block shapes are found in many of his designs, but they’re so fundamental that they’re also seen everywhere else.
It’s not just blocks that kids love to work with. They’ll build with almost anything. Kitchen chairs become the framework for a blanket fort. Shoe boxes form skyscrapers. Children are seemingly born with a desire to build, so it’s natural to make the most of this time when creativity soars.
Kid-Focused Educational Materials Help
You can explain the relationship between architecture and their world, but to really help kids understand you’ll need materials geared to their age group. Several books are in print that are devoted to kids age 3 and on up through teenage years. One such book, called, “Young Frank, Architect,” tells the story of a young boy, Frank, who is interested in architecture and his uncle, also Frank, who takes him to the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) to learn about it firsthand.
Here’s a video by MOMA that peeks inside the book’s pages:
Other books to think about include, “Architecture According to Pigeons,” by Speck Lee Tailfeather (2013) and “Frank: an Architect’s Dog,” by Louis R. Pounders.
In “Architecture According to Pigeons,” the hero, Speck Lee Tailfeather (also credited as the author) travels around the world and talks about the buildings that he sees. In “Frank: An Architect’s Dog,” Frank talks about the great house that he lives in, the building that his owner works in, and how he’d “like to be an architect one day.”
What all of these books have in common is the way that they make architecture approachable, not mysterious. They show a kid designing projects at home with his uncle, a bird flying around famous buildings, and a dog that really loves being an architect’s friend.
Demystifying architects and what they do is part of an ongoing AIA campaign. While you might never have thought about including children in the demographic of people you could reach, there’s really no one better.
Kids love to create things, and their minds are open to new ways of seeing the world. It might not spark the inspiration to pursue architecture as a career later in life, but what they learn now will still affect how kids look at their surroundings and think about the people who create it.
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