How to Pick Architecture Books for Youngsters

Choose the Right Materials to Involve Your Kids in Architecture and Design

Father and daughter (18-24 months) looking at book
Daughters Learn From Their Fathers. Photo by Jim Bastardo / The Image Bank / Getty Images (cropped)

From sandbox to science fair, inquisitive kids are exploring the world of building and design. You can help youngsters learn by choosing books and other materials that speak to their imaginations, challenge their concepts of space, and encourage them to create their own architectural projects. How do you choose an architecture book that is not too technical? Begin here.

Easy Picture Books

Even a child still in diapers can begin exploring shape, form, and simple principles of construction and design. Choose simple storybooks recommended for small tots and also for young children just beginning to read. The sturdy construction of the book can be a lesson in itself.

Books to Draw In, Color, Bend, and Fold

As soon as your child is old enough to grasp a crayon or colored marker, she will want to color and draw houses and other structures. Small tots require coloring books with broad simple forms; older children are ready for more detailed illustrations. Choose a coloring book that matches your child's age and skill. The best coloring books include informative text to help children learn more about the buildings illustrated. The very best are books are the ones you want to color, too.

Dimensions. How many exist? Explore the sense of wonder when flat pictures suddenly turn into three-dimensional forms. You will want to exercise care when choosing an architecture pop-up book. Some are simple and sturdy with kid-proof cardboard pages. Others are complex works of paper engineering with detailed artwork that will appeal to teens and adults.

Books with Things to Do

School-aged children are ready to take on independent projects and activities. Whether building a backyard fort or an architectural model for a science fair, the curious youngster is drawn to ideas and easy instructions in the many project and activity books on the market today.

Books to Keep Kids Thinking

Teenagers will often read the same books we enjoy as adults — biographies, books about famous buildings, and books on architectural history. But, what about the preteen years? All kids aged 7 to 12 need shorter, easier reading material, but with adult-like content. There's no reason to omit the flash when presenting interesting content.

Exploring the Digital World

Books are no longer exclusively paper-based. Technology has given us gizmos that can do everything a book can — and more. Our children learn best from a variety of sources presented by an assortment of media. When choosing digital games. apps, or e-books, consider these factors:

  • No long-term studies have been conducted on the effect of earbuds on young ears, pixels on a child's eyes, or gaming on OCD. Like parents' fears of television on 1950s children, today's parents should have some awareness that the digital revolution has evolved faster than human evolution. Minds and bodies of youngsters are still developing. Books are historically safe objects to be around.
  • Compared with print books, digital books are often a higher quality visual experience. E-books also have a greater opportunity to enhance a reading experience with interactivities. For a young mind, however, some dynamic features can be more distracting than enhancing.
  • Learning games seem to come in at least two varieties — (1) spatial cognition and problem solving tasks, or (2) destroy the enemy (usually violently) for a high score. An example of the former is the unexpectedly lovely game called Monument Valley, a graphical exercise in problem-solving set within a wonderfully designed Escher-like environment. The player must manipulate the architecture and avoid squawking crows, which become all too true-to-life symbols of the things that stand in our way to success. Then there's the LEGO Movie video game, where the ancient architect Vitruvius engages in hand-to-hand combat — the right character, but the wrong message.

    Digital media can also do less than old-fashioned books. Because it's relatively easy and inexpensive for anyone to create digitally, people who have nothing to say sometimes speak the loudest. The print world has a longer history of behind-the-scene editing than does the digital world. The vetting process of the digital world is in your hands.