If you and your family live in a town or city, the chances are your kids will grow up taking the built environment around them for granted. But the concrete jungle can fire your children’s imaginations just as much as any natural wonder. Architecture is not always an obvious source of interest for children, but in a world that relies increasingly on man-made structure, perhaps it’s time to start deliberately piquing the interest of the next generation. There are architecture-related activities for kids all around the world, from organised workshops to family-friendly exhibitions, but we have a few ideas to help you get started on your own.
Go on an Architecture Trail
There are beautiful and interesting buildings in every city, town, or village. Structures that you pass by every day may have a hidden history. You don’t have to live in a major city with a world-famous skyline to come up with an architecture trail for your children to enjoy, and you don’t need to spend hours researching local history if that’s not your cup of tea. Just asking a child to engage with the aesthetic of a structure that they usually take for granted could work wonders.
Your trail can be as long or as short as you like, and ideally will incorporate a range of historic and modern architecture. To leverage your children’s interest, plan a stop for lunch at a favourite restaurant or cafe, or bring food for a picnic.
Plan your walk around your children’s interests, as well as their physical capabilities. A four year old dragged on a circuit of the Natural History Museum of London’s outdoor façade won’t gain much from the experience, however much they love dinosaurs. Take pads, clipboards, notepaper, and drawing and writing equipment, and make regular pits-stops to talk about your environment and help them to take notes. Your questions can range from the simple – “Which building do you think is prettiest?” – to the more thought-provoking – “Which building would you like to live in, and why?”
For older children, try preparing a scavenger hunt-style checklist of architectural features to look out for, such as timber frame construction or flying buttresses. Ask them to draw these sights as they check them off. Listen closely to what they have to say about these buildings in order to find out which avenue interests them – is it the history of it? The construction? The look? Play on your children’s interests to really engage them.
Recreate their Favourite Buildings at Home
At home, the notes and sketches your children have produced will come into their own. Does your child love construction toys like Lego? Ask them to rebuild their favourite building in bricks. Alternatively, use arts and crafts make great activities for kids. Boxes, card, paint, wooden skewers, glue, plasticine and simple pens and paper can all be incorporated into challenging your child to think in terms of space and construction.
Above all, try to marry architectural awareness with your child’s current interests. If they love dinosaurs, help them to build their very own miniature natural history museum – it can be as elaborate or simple as you like, as their imagination will do most of the work. Small toys and dolls can likewise be rehoused into your children’s own architectural projects, from family homes built from shoe-boxes to painted mansions with cardboard detailing. Even popular computer programmes such as Minecraft can be put to use. When it comes to building, show your children that the sky is the limit!