Developing An Architect in Your Child

5:00:00 AM

I originally posted this at Artchoo. But it was back in the summer, and I sometimes feel that people look at architecture with some kind of special mysticism.If you think that you can't teach your child to think like an architect--or even think like an architect, you're dead wrong. In fact, you probably do a lot of these activities with your child already!!

So, do you have a toddler architect on your hands? Or do you want to nudge your middle schooler into become the next Frank Lloyd Wright? Jeanette has asked me to share with you ways to encourage an appreciation for architecture, and maybe even encourage the skills needed to become and architect.I think you'll be surprised at how simple some of these ideas are. Here are just a few ways to encourage your budding architect:

Preschool/Elementary School Age Children:

Build a fort. How many people have built a fort (or castle, or playhouse) with their kids? Whether it’s out of pillows, snow, or scrap lumber, I haven’t met a kid who doesn’t enjoy making their own space. Defining a space = architecture at its very basic.

Use building blocks. 

It really doesn’t matter if it’s wood blocks, or legos, megablocks, bristle blocks, or any other of the wide range of blocks available. In fact, it doesn’t even need to be real blocks, at all. My girls use concrete counter top samples as blocks outside (they also pretend they are sandwiches, pads of paper, and anything else that suits their fancy). We have other architectural samples that are our "blocks" too.  I can remember playing with wood scraps growing up and stacking them up. Part of architecture is learning how to use new materials and using old materials in new ways.

Use blank paper. Coloring books have their place, but if you want your children to get really creative, hand them a blank piece of paper.

This little piece of art was the very first drawing that my oldest daughter said was for me. Give them a prompt….or don’t. See what they create! Then ask them to explain what they’ve drawn. Architecture is only partially drawing. On a daily basis, I have to describe and defend my creations to others verbally. Not everyone can interpret architectural drawings; my job as an architect is to convey my design to my boss and to my client in a way that they can understand. (So don’t feel bad if you don’t know what it is your preschooler drew—it will help them develop their language skills to describe it!)

Middle School/High School Children:

Discuss proportions and scale. 

Does your older child get frustrated with math? Does he wonder who uses proportions? Architects use proportions all the time. Think how crazy it would be if I had to draw a building as big as it actually is. Instead, I use a special ruler called a scale, and draw every foot of the building much smaller, but in proportion. Want a illustration? Call a local architectural firm and ask if they can give you a floor plan that they are going to throw away. Chances are, they have something they can give you. Then have your child draw their room to scale (graph paper is a good tool in this task). I have visited a couple of classes and discussed this very always amazes middle schoolers that you actually do use math concepts in real life--even if you do have a calculator, too!

Use free computer programs to design spaces and buildings (and a whole lot of other things). I use both the free version of sketchup and the paid version in my job as an architect. This program allows you to draw in 3 dimensions and create some really amazing images. Not only is it fun, but it gets your kids thinking in 3 dimensions, which will help them from geometry to gym class!

All ages:

Learn about different styles of architecture. Do you know the difference between a Greek temple and a Roman one? How about a Gothic church and a Renaissance one? This is a great history exercise! Pop quiz: anybody know what order the column is in my blog button?

Architecture of a Mom

You can tie this study of architectural styles into the time period or country they are studying at school, or maybe introduce the indigenous architecture of the exchange student they met. Or, on a more basic level, page through a real estate book and look at the differences! What kind of style do you like? Why? Why do you think this people group designs this way? Once you understand the basic elements of each style, play architectural Pictionary, where each team is trying to guess the style architecture you’re drawing.

Draw a floor plan of a playhouse in sidewalk chalk (outside) or painter’s tape (inside). This introduces the idea of a plan, and creates a different kind of space. This can be a simple rectangle, or you can add plan elements (furniture, plants, etc). Even if your kids don’t go into the design industry, this is a good life tool to have when they are trying to envision if a piece of furniture will fit in their house!

Ask your child to draw their dream house, castle, or super hero hideout. Then have them write (or dictate if they are younger) a description of the space.

Build a bird house, gingerbread house, dollhouse or model together! 

There are plenty of sets that require no glue or shoot for the moon with a complex set (just make sure you stay within your child’s skill level!). This is another activity that helps your child think in 3 dimensions, understand scale, and learn good construction practices. This is a simple foam house that we made for a Christmas decoration.

Let your child help with light construction projects around the house. My five year old helps me sand. I will let her use a hammer. A comfort level with the tools of construction will only help them later in life, whether they become an architect…or a teacher, doctor, or bus driver.

This past summer, I let her come with me to a friend house that we were doing some work on. She learned how to use a screw driver and put on outlet cover plates and switch plates. She also learned why we keep our outlets covered in our house (no shocks, but it helps when another grown up than mom or dad teaches why things are dangerous!

What do you think? What kind of skills do you thing you need to become an architect? Are you already encouraging your child to think like an architect, and you didn't even know it? I'd love to hear some of your life lessons that would be applicable to teaching a child to be an architect!

Have a great day!

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