Kids love building structures, and learning how they are made. Here are some facts about world architecture for kids, 6 fantastic books about famous buildings around the world, and some on-line lessons and games to spur kids’ interest in the ways buildings are built. Enjoy!
5 Cool Facts about World Architecture for Kids
1) What’s the tallest building in the world?
2). Besides Egypt, where were pyramids built?
Pyramids of various types and sizes were built in many parts of the ancient world including: Mexico and Central America, Greece, China and Egypt. Egypt and China, primarily used them as tombs and monuments to kings and leaders. The pyramids of the Mayans and Aztecs of Central America were mainly religious temples, though some of them housed burial chambers.
3). Why do houses look so different in different parts of the world?
People in different parts of the world use different materials and styles based on what is available around them, what works in their climate, what their cultural identity is. Stone, bricks, wood, cement, or mud/straw are some possibilities. People use materials that are relatively inexpensive, and follow the tradition of of their geography and area. Another important is safety: bricks are not safe in an earthquake, cement stands up better in a hurricane, people in large cities with high crime might prefer an apartment building.
Check out these children’s books on “Homes Around the World” for some awesome examples.
4). How long did it take to build these huge buildings and monuments?
Great Wall of China: Over the 2000 years it took to build the roughly 31,070 miles (50,000 km), millions of people worked on its construction. At the time, the Great Wall was called “the longest cemetery on earth” because so many people died building it (some say it cost the lives of more than one million people).
La Sagrada Familia: Gaudí started building this incredible church in 1882, 131 years ago, and it is not estimates to be finished until 2026 (planned for the 100-year anniversary of Gaudi’s death). See what it will look like in a short video here!
Great Pyramid at Giza: Historians estimate that between 20,000 and 30,000 laborers were needed to build this great pyramid in a period of 23 years.
Empire State Building: It only took 1 year and 45 days to build this skyscraper in 1931 with about 3500 workers. Learn all about the Empire State Building in New York City here!
5) What is the oldest manmade structure in the world?
The Barnenez graves in France were built in 4850 BC. Many of the oldest manmade structures in the world that are still standing are made of stone, which has survived the elements for so many years. Archaeologists are always discovering new sights that give us a peek at ancient cultures!
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Awesome Books about World Architecture for Kids
I have roughly ordered the books by age, starting with the youngest (preK) and going up through late elementary school.
First Shapes in Buildings, by Penny Ann Lane gently introduces shapes (like the semi-circle, oval, sphere) paired with a picture of an actual building that contains the shape. For example, a cylinder from the Temple of Anon in Egypt. It is very simple (written by a Montessori teacher) but gets kids thinking about shapes they see in everyday life. The names and places of the structures are saved for the end of the book, and do represent a wide variety of geographical regions.
Dreaming Up: A Celebration of Building by Christy Hale is a newer book that pairs pictures of famous buildings with a rhyming poem and illustrations of kids (multicultural!) building and exploring construction materials. For example, it has kids building half domes with toothpicks and jellybeans, matched with a photo of the Montréal Biosphère. Also included are the Guggenheim Museum, Petronas Twin Towers, New Gourna Village, Box House (Colorado), Yoyogi National Stadium, Fallingwater, La Sagrada Familia, Habitat 67, Vitra Fire Station, Bamboo Church, Mars One, Paper Tube Scool, Sclera Pavilion, and the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao.
See Inside Famous Buildings, a Usbourne flap book, is so cool for kids! It has many of the same buildings as the other books, including the Great Pyramid, the Colosseum, the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Palace of Versailles, the Himeji Castle (so cool!), the Tower of London, the Guggenheim Museum, and the Sydney Opera House.
Shapes in Our World: Level 4 (Mathematics Readers) by Moira Anderson discusses 3D shapes found in nature and manmade structure including prisms, cones, cylinders, and spheres. This book uses and explains math terms, with examples and drawings, and would be best suited for kids 8 and older.
13 Buildings Children Should Know, by Annette Roeder includes the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Parthenon, Notre Dame de Paris, Leaning Tower of Pisa, Tower of London, Saint Peter’s Basilica, Taj Mahal, Neuschwanstein Castle, Eiffel Tower, Chrysler Building, Guggenheim Museum New York, Sydney Opera House, and the somewhat unusual choice, the “Bird’s Nest” (Beijing National Stadium). Great book, excellent content, my 9 year olds loved it!
Built to Last, by the incredibly talented David Macaulay: if you haven’t seen any of his detailed architectural books, they are awesome! This particular book is a compilation of 3 stellar books: “Castle,” “Cathedral,” and “Mosque.” Macaulay’s impeccable illustrations lets the reader see the step-by-step construction and interiors of these structures from a completely unique perspective. Kids pore over the detailed scenes- and adults enjoy them too!
FOR FUN: Famous Buildings and Architecture for Kids
Discovery Education has an awesome and free lesson plan on world architecture for kids.
Science Kids, based in New Zealand has 36 famous buildings. Click on the picture and you will see a profile of the building, with its location and a description.
PBS Skyscraper Challenge is an on-line game for kids to manage troubled buildings that are suffering from a natural disaster.
PBS has another interactive activity called “Loads Lab” that teaches kids about structures and how they withstand forces such as earthquakes, wind, or soft soil.