Architecture and Urban Planning for Children: Games and Books That Inspire
Perhaps others of you can remember the first time you were exposed to architecture and/or urban planning? I can. When I was 10 years old we were assigned to create our dream house. The concept was very much like a drafting a floor-plan, completed painstakingly with graph paper - measuring out every square foot.
It wasn’t until I was 19 that the field popped back into my life, with my college professor encouraging the class to attend a public council meeting - to defend anti-development of a parcel of land. Even later on I discovered urban planning could be a career; long after my interests in cultural anthropology and sustainable development.
I was 26 before I entered a masters program for urban planning. While I have no regrets regarding the often-weaving direction I took to arrive at my current field of interest - urban planning - I can’t help but wonder if that direction would have been a bit more straight with some additional childhood inspiration. And today, as I think of my three nieces (pictured below), I want them to be exposed to urban planning in ways that I wasn’t. Not out of the desire to groom a coming generation of planners, although I would gleefully welcome that, but to encourage the next generation towards civic participation.
Nieces Sydney, Kaitlyn and Sarah at the San Diego, California Zoo Safari Park
Perhaps my later-realized passions could have developed earlier from a few of these architecture and urban planning related games and activities, available online (not much of an option during my childhood) - and not. Purus the list and pass along the links to those that are young in your life.
Plan it Green (The Big Switch), challenges children to build the greenest city - including renewable energy;
Play Urban Plan, build your own city and grow it to the largest population;
A great game for children of around five, Community Game, uses tiles to form the community of their creation;
Learn for Good building and construction games;
Fupa provides architecture, construction, puzzle, build games, and more;
42eXplore lists websites regarding architecture, made by kids, what it takes to become an architect, and more;
Play Digital Dollhouse: Dream Victorian and change the styles and colors of the exterior;
A great tool for school is the Box City. Now available in download. It teaches children how cities are planned, or unplanned; what makes a quality city, and how citizens (yes, children too!) can participate in the improvement of the built environment;
Make a funny urban planning story by using the American Planning Association’s (APA) Crazy City Stories children’s game;
Choose a great place, or a lousy place, draw a picture of that place with a caption, and submit it for inclusion in the APA’s City Gallery;
Write a poem about the city that you live in with the help of APA’s Word Town;
Explore the community with this APA Community Scavenger Hunt;
or for older children - and adults - there is SimCity, a city simulation game where you can be your own Mayor. Careful not to get addicted!
In addition to games and activities that inspire the next generation of urban planners and architects, books are influential in teaching children the importance of community and how a town or city is built and functions - right down to its plumbing. Here are some great books to buy for the children in your life.
- The City Kid & the Suburb Kid by Deb Pilutti and Linda Bleck;
- Country Kid, City Kid by Julie Cummins and Ted Rand;
- A City Through Time by Philip Steele and Steve Noon;
- City Green by DyAnne DiSalvo-Ryan;
- Kids' Easy-to-Create Wildlife Habitats: For Small Spaces in City-Suburbs-Country... (Williamson Kids Can!) by Emily Stetson, J. Susan Cole-Stone and J. Susan Cole-Stone;
- Alphabet City by Stephen T. Johnson;
- The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton;
- The Curious Garden by Peter Brown;
- City Signs by Zoran Milich;
- New York for Kids: 25 Big Apple Sites to Color (Dover Coloring Books);
- Where Do I Live? by Neil Chesanow;
- Underground by David Macaulay;
Amanda Walter also blogged a comprehensive listing of Children’s Books for Future Landscape Architects (or architects or urban designers or planners) in December 2012.
Is there an urban planning or architecture game or book that you particularly like to share with the children in your life? Is there a game or book missing from the list? Please leave those that I missed in the comments below.
And here’s to the next generation of environmental designers (perhaps even Sydney, Kaitlyn, or Sarah?).
Renée van Staveren is the Founder and Executive Director of The Global Grid. She holds a M.S. in Urban and Regional Planning and a B.S. in Sustainable Community Development. Prior to establishing The Global Grid, Renée was an Assistant Planner for A-M-M-A Transit Planning and the Program Director for Planet Green. Renée currently lives in San Francisco, CA; adding to the list of places she ...