Kids (and adults!) are always curious about their peers. Whenever we visit a friend’s house, my kids inevitably want to go see their bedroom, their play area, their backyard. I have noticed the same curiosity when other kids come to our house: kids wonder where we sleep, what toys we play with, or even what snacks we have in our pantry. This natural inquisitiveness is equaled in adults- how many times have you taken in the details of a friend’s home, visited an open house for sale just to see the interior, or watched a show on TV that tours the inside of houses? We can capitalize on this curiosity by taking a fascinating picture tour of houses around the world and then talking about the similarities and differences.
Here are 3 resources to begin to examine inside houses around the world: 2 great children’s books, and one photographic essay available on-line and in print. These glimpses inside homes and home life in various countries are guaranteed to open your eyes as well as your kids’. Whether in a social studies class, a multicultural unit, or simply for enjoyment, teachers and parents can use these photographic journeys to stimulate children’s wonder and increase our cultural awareness of the many different people, cultures, and ways of life around the world.
Houses and Homes (Around the World Series) by Ann Morris is a treasury of real-life, full-color photographs (without much text) that survey houses around the world, how they are made, and the people that live in them. The index contains more information with thumbnail pictures of each photograph, a description, the country locations labelled, and finally a world map labelled with each location.
Wonderful Houses Around the World, by Yoshio Komatsu is an amazing book that profiles ten houses with photographs, paired with extremely detailed illustrations that show how the family lives inside with their possessions. The pictures are not only a snapshot of someone’s house, they are a window into that family’s daily life and routines, with cultural aspects integrated into both the photos, the illustrations, and the text, which explains who lives in the house, where each house is located, how the environmental conditions affect the house design, and additional information about features of the house. Here is an example of the illustration for the Mongolian yurt:
The final photographic experience that invites us inside homes around the world is brought to us by photographer James Mollison. Mr. Mollison was born in Kenya, educated in London, an currently lives in Venice. He traveled the world and documented children and their bedrooms in a photographic essay aptly called “Where Children Sleep.”
There are over 50 pairs of photographs: a child posed in front of a white background, and his or her bedroom. While some children’s rooms are packed with toys and books, others are sparse. Some children share their room with several other family members or children, and others have their own room. Adults may read deeper into the documentary than our children do, though all ages will enjoy the stunning pictures of kids and their houses around the world (even if they aren’t smiling!).
After reading the books, I suggest that kids and teachers make a list together of what makes a home: is it a gathering place for family and friends? a safe sanctuary where we can relax at the end of the day? a shelter from the elements, where we can sleep comfortably, warm, and dry? a place to prepare and eat meals, celebrate holidays, play games, read books, and enjoy our families?
Teachers doing a social studies unit on Communities and Ways of Life might try a Venn Diagram, displaying similarities and differences between 2 houses in different geographic regions (or between their house and one of the homes in the books).
Additional Resources of Houses Around the World:
Learn about “Famous Buildings and Architecture for Kids!”
Play on-line memory using images of houses around the world.
On-line photo gallery of houses around the world