Settlements (KS2) Explained For Parents

Mum sat on a bench taking a photo of her daughter who is holding a map.

Image © prostooleh, under a Creative Commons license.

Are your kids learning about settlements in KS2 Geography?

According to the KS2 National Curriculum, in education Years 3-6, students should have the opportunity to learn about human geography topics such as settlements and land use, economics and the distribution of natural resources.

Our guide includes just about everything that the KS2 students need to know about what is a settlement in Geography. This will include what they are and how their location is chosen. We have also included some fun educational activities to reinforce learning!

What Are Settlements?

So, what are settlements in geography? Settlements are places where people live. They are basically any form of human dwelling. This includes temporary as well as permanent shelters. Today, settlements are often located near facilities, such as schools, shops, and places of worship.

Young girl and boy looking at a globe learning about settlements.

The 5 Types Of Settlements

Isolated: An isolated settlement is just a single dwelling, such as a farm or a single house.

Hamlet: A hamlet is a small collection of houses. Sometimes there may also be a small shop or pub, but not always.

Villages: These are still small settlements, but villages are bigger than hamlets. There is likely to be some facilities, such as a few shops, a school, and a place for people to worship.

Towns: A town is a medium-sized settlement, with several thousand people living there. They often have a range of facilities and places for people to work.

City: The largest of settlements, lots of people live in cities; with some of the biggest having a population of over 10 million. A city usually has a wide range of amenities, including a university and a cathedral.

At KS2, children should some awareness of the key differences between villages, town and cities. However, this may need some reinforcement. It is noted that some work may refer to 4 different types. These are the same without isolated, so it would be hamlet, villages, towns and cities.

Did You Know? In the UK, a place used to be classed as a city if it had a cathedral. This is no longer the case, but the rule meant that we still have some cities that are rather small. The smallest city in the UK is St. Davids in Wales.

Child looking at a map pointing to a certain place, learning about types of settlements.
Image © Free-Photos from Pixabay

Choosing A Settlement Site

Each settlement has both a site and a location. A site refers to the land on which they build the dwelling and the location is the site in relation to other features nearby.

When early settlers came to the UK, there was much to consider when choosing the perfect spot to settle. Some important factors were:

Terrain: The land itself is essential when choosing a settlement site. Early settlers knew that it was important that there is some flat fertile land for farming. However, a settlement on a hill is easier to defend as you are more likely to see enemies approaching.

Materials: To build dwellings and thrive, village settlers required access to resources such as clay, wood or tin.

Water Supply: Fresh water was also necessary, and new settlements were often built around a supply such as a river. However, it could not be too close as land prone to flooding was not suitable for farming and building.

Shelter: This includes natural shelter from the wind and rain, such as mountains.

Transport links: Often villages, towns and cities were linked together to make trade easier.

Did you know? We can tell when a place was settled due to its name. For example, we know that towns ending in –ter or –ster were originally settled by the Romans. Whereas, 'burh' was the Anglo Saxon word for town. So, Peterborough, Scarborough and Edinburgh were first settled by the Anglo Saxons!

Dad walking through a city with his daughter on his shoulders.
Image © travnikovstudio, under a Creative Commons license.

Educational Activities

Learning settlements can be so much fun and there are so many ways that parents can help. Some fun education activities could include:

  • Looking at maps. Maps are a great way to identify why a settlement was built there. Get out the old A-Z and encourage children to point out why they think early village settlers chose that site.
  • Visit different types of settlements: If it’s possible, you could visit a village, town and city and ask what the differences between them are. There are lots of resources for this activity online but you could easily turn this into a fun game, like settlement bingo!
  • Design a settlement: Get children to make their own new settlement. Ask them questions about why they have chosen that site and what type of settlement they will make throughout their design process.


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