The Three Little Pigs built houses of straw, sticks, and bricks. But that’s probably because they didn’t live in an arctic environment. If they had, they probably would’ve built a house out of snow and ice. We wonder how an igloo would stand up to the Big Bad Wolf…

People in different parts of the world build different types of houses, because people tend to use materials that are plentiful in their area. For example, wood and stone are plentiful in some areas of the world, so wood and stone houses are popular in those areas.

In areas with extreme weather, however, building materials may be scarce or nonexistent. In Alaska and the frigid areas of the Canadian tundra, for example, good building materials can be hard to find. Instead, the native people who live in these areas — called the Inuit or Eskimos — use something that is plentiful in their area: snow.

The Inuit call their homes iglu, which is where the term “igloo” for “snow house” comes from. First built by hunters to survive in extreme cold weather conditions, igloos have been around for thousands of years.

Your mental image of an igloo may have come from cartoons on television, but it’s probably fairly accurate. Many igloos are simple dome-shaped structures made entirely of blocks of snow and ice.

Igloos can come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, though. There’s no one way to build an igloo and the number of blocks used to build one will vary with the size of the igloo and the builder’s design.

Some igloos are designed to house one person while hunting in the wild, while others may house a small village of people through interconnected igloos with ceremonial rooms and attached corridors and walls.

Some of you may think it’s a bit strange for people living in extreme cold to build a shelter out of snow and ice. After all, snow and ice are extremely cold themselves, right? Believe it or not, though, igloos can be very comfortable to live in.

An igloo’s walls block the icy wind that’s common in these areas. Snow also happens to be a very good insulator. This means that the heat inside the igloo — whether from a small oil lamp or just body heat — tends to stay inside the igloo. The result is that the inside of an igloo can be as much as 40 degrees (Farenheit) warmer than the outside temperature.

Igloos also get stronger and warmer over several days after they’re first built. As trapped heat causes the inside of an igloo to melt slightly, the melted snow will then refreeze when the igloo is unoccupied. A few days of this thawing/refreezing cycle will eventually turn the entire structure to solid ice, which is even stronger and warmer than the original structure.

Snow also happens to be an easy material to work with when building an igloo. The arctic winds pack it together tightly, which makes it very sturdy. Yet it’s also lightweight and easy to cut into blocks to build an igloo.

An experienced igloo builder can construct an igloo in about an hour. If you’ve never built an igloo before, it’ll probably take you three to six hours or more. All you need, though, is plenty of packed snow, a few tools and patience.

89 Join the Discussion

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    • Hi, Isaiah! We really appreciate you reminding us about your idea for a future Wonder of the Day® about speed. We listen to ALL suggestions for Wonders and consider each request very carefully. It takes a while to create a Wonder of the Day® from the idea all the way to the finished product! We can’t tell you when a Wonder about the speed of light or G-forces might be coming up (remember, part of the fun of Wonderopolis is that each new day’s Wonder is a surprise), but we CAN tell you that we will do our best to share your Wonder ideas with everyone! :-)

    • That’s a great guess, Stefani! We thought it was interesting to learn that the number of blocks it takes to build an igloo can be different for every igloo, depending on the builder’s design and the size of the igloo! Thanks for visiting today’s Wonder! :-)

  1. Igloos are very interesting and I learned some things in this Wonder of the Day that I did not know before. Thanks for another on of your amazing Wonder of the Days!!!

    • Your comment ROCKS, Hannah! We’re so happy to hear that you learned new things about igloos by exploring today’s Wonder of the Day®! That’s what WONDERing is all about! :-)

    • We think so, too, Bruce! It takes a lot of patience and skill, but we think the people who use igloos for warmth and shelter have learned how to build some REALLY AWESOME ones by practicing! Thanks so much for leaving us this COOL comment today! :-)

    • That sounds like a super smart guess, Callie! We’ll have to see if you were right when we visit Wonderopolis tomorrow! :-)

    • Hi there, Mrs. Houseman’s 2nd Grade Class! Thanks so much for visiting today’s Wonder of the Day® and for asking such a great question! We’re not sure how large the biggest snow village ever constructed is or was. We’ll all have to do a bit more WONDERING about that one! :-)

  2. Awesome wonder of the day. I’ve always wondered about igloos. I think the next wonder is what’s at the end of the rainbow.

    • We’re so glad you liked today’s Wonder of the Day®, Isaac, and that you learned a little more about igloos! Thanks for guessing about tomorrow’s Wonder, too! We can’t wait to visit Wonderopolis in the morning to see if you are right! :-)

  3. We loved the video today. It was cool how the boy built the igloo and that it can take an hour or less. We see on tv and in picture of the Eskimos with a fire inside the igloo, how does it not melt the snow? Would it be easy for the boy to cut the snow with a chainsaw, or do you think he was using the saw for safety reasons since he was young? It was also cool how he made the cubes with his knife and then cut the snow to pack it in between the cracks. It made the blocks stick together like glue.

    We also thought it was neat how the information connected the igloos being built to the three little pigs houses.
    Thanks again WONDEROPOLIS!!

    • WOW! That’s a LOT of great, extra WONDERing, North Todd Elementary 3rd Grade Writers! You guys ask some GREAT questions, too! We know that some igloos have vents in them to let heat escape when there is a fire burning inside. Also, we have to remember that the outside temperatures where igloos are built can get blow zero at night (sometimes up to 60˚ below zero!). When a fire is burning inside an igloo, the air is probably still below or near the freezing point. So, even though the heat might melt the snow blocks, it melts it MUCH more slowly than if the weather outside the igloo was warmer. :-)

    • That’s an AMAZING question, Deshawn! We’re proud of you for doing more WONDERing about this Wonder of the Day®! We did a little WONDERing of our own after we received your comment, and found out that, depending on the weather and how well it was built, an igloo can last a few days up to a several weeks! We’ll have to do a bit more research to find out for sure, though. Thank you for being a GREAT Wonder Friend! :-)

    • Hello, Simon! Thanks for stopping by this Wonder of the Day®! We hope you’ll take some time to explore it and watch the video…you’ll learn some COOL new facts about igloos just like our other Wonder Friends did today! :-)

    • We think your comment is AWESOME, Sara! Thanks for leaving it for us today to let us know you visited this Wonder! Yes, some people have fires inside igloos to keep the air temperature warmer inside the igloo than outside, and also to help them cook food to eat. Some igloos that have fires inside also have special vents in part of the igloo so the smoke from the fire has a place to escape. Thanks for doing some extra WONDERing about today’s Wonder of the Day®!

  4. Dear Wonderopolis,
    That was a cool video/wonder! It depends on how big you are making your igloo. No one really knows the exact/average number of blocks to make one. I think tomorrow’s wonder is about penguins. P.S. I was kind of right on the snowflake guess!
    Paige ;)

    • You WERE kind of right about the snowflake guess, Paige…way to go! You are also right about the size of the igloo determining the number of blocks it takes to make it. Thank you for exploring today’s Wonder and for leaving us another awesome comment! :-)

    • Hey, Asher! Thanks for hanging out in Wonderopolis today and leaving us this cool comment! Have a WONDERful rest of the day! :-)

  5. Loved this wonder today. I want to build an igloo now! Kiddos still trying to figure out how you can have a stove inside and not melt the igloo. Hmmmm :)

  6. Maybe if people one day make the HUGEST igloo ever, than it would be… BIGGER THAN A COUNTRY! You guys ROCK! I love to come on this site! It’s one of my FAVES! You should do a Wonder of the day about umm… the longest football game ever! Hope you have an AWESOME day you WONDERful people!

  7. I wonder how they change the shape and size of their igloos if they were not satisfied with it.
    I wonder why the igloo is shaped like a dome shaped and why the water is shaped like tear drop.
    I get the clues while wondering about the wonders around me…..

    • We LOVE that you did some extra WONDERing about this Wonder of the Day® on igloos, Rickii! We think wondering about the wonders around you is AWESOME, too! Wondering leads to learning, and learning makes us all smarter! :-)

  8. I think that the funniest thing about igloos is that when we are little, we make sugar-cube igloos, and the entrance is above the ground. But in reality, the entrance is built below the ground. I even found some plans for an igloo once, and it was really awesome. If it is OK, the link below is a link to that picture.

    • Thanks so much for adding something extra and AWESOME to this Wonder of the Day®! We appreciate you sharing what you know, and providing the neat link, too. It was fun and super interesting to read a “real life” experience from someone who has built an actual igloo! :-)

  9. Hey Wonderopolis! I thought this was the awesomest thing EVER! I always wanted to learn more about igloos. Also, how do you add a picture? I want to add one for me to use.

    • We’re so glad you liked this Wonder about igloos, Linda-Jane, and that you learned some fun new facts! Thank you so much for letting us know!

      The comment section of each of our Wonders of the Day® is only set up to allow for written information and links (not photos). We’re super careful about what links we allow our Wonder Friends to share, also, because we want all content on Wonderopolis to be safe for everyone to view and learn from! :-)

  10. I liked the video!!! It was cool. They use a lot of ice blocks to build an igloo. A polar bear lives in an igloo. Thanks for the wonder. :-)

    • Hi there, Josh! We were so happy to read your comment today! Thank you for sharing that you liked the video for this Wonder! We’re super glad you did! :-)

    • We agree with you, Lynaja! It takes a LOT of ice or snow blocks, depending on the size and design of the igloo being built. We think it would take a lot of work to build an igloo, too! The super-skilled father and son in the video sure make it look easy…they are AWESOME igloo builders! :-)

  11. If you stay in a igloo too long it will melt, and if you go out of the igloo it will refreeze and go back and forth.

    • We’ve never built an igloo before either, Cam, but we’re going to give it a try if we ever get a super big snow storm here in Wonderopolis! We hope it snows the right kind of snow to make an igloo, just like they talked about in the video for this Wonder! :-)

  12. An igloo is like a tent or a one room house they built with snow and ice. They cut it and made the walls. They had to crawl through the door to get out.

    • Thanks for sharing all the great things you learned about building igloos today, Jeron! We liked your comment a LOT! :-)

    • We thought it was cool to watch the people in the video build the igloo too, Ainoha! It is really neat to think that a bunch of rectangular snow blocks can be made into a dome-shaped igloo! :-)

  13. If you rub fake gold on a stone, it will make a big mark on the stone. If you rub real gold on the stone, it will make a little mark. If you put gold testing on the marks you can tell which one is real.

    • That’s right, Tommy! We’re glad you learned some fun facts about gold and fool’s gold today! Thanks for being a super Wonder Friend! :-)

  14. Video is cool :)
    “Igloo may house a small village of people through interconnected igloos with ceremonial rooms and attached corridors and walls” – hmm that’s amazing, I can’t imagine that.


    • We agree that’s a really amazing fact too, Elango! To think that the native peoples of places where igloos are built have been building them for so many generations that they can build one in a few hours is also something that amazes us! :-)

    • That’s a really creative way to think about making an igloo, Mr. Fitz! Let us know if you try it, we’d love to hear about your experience! :-)

    • Hi, Bridget! Thanks for telling us you loved this Wonder of the Day®! We appreciate your comment and think a rock star Wonder would be FUN! :-)

    • We think a lot of Wonder Friends are feeling the same way you are, Laura! It has been unseasonably warm in many parts of the country this year…even in Wonderopolis! :-)

    • We’re thinking it would have to be somewhere VERY cold that gets LOTS of snow, Noah! We think the weather would have to cooperate for you to achieve your goal of building an igloo out of real snow or ice. BUT! You CAN build an igloo out of lots of other cool materials like sugar cubes, styrofoam, or marshmallows! We would LOVE to see a picture of your igloo if you decide to build one! :-)

  15. BEYOND cool! I wish I could get inside one, as well as into one of the Ice Hotels in the world! In the meantime, I do enjoy Mexico City’s mild weather- no wonder why it got sooo crowded right from ancient times!

    • Thank you for sharing a little about yourself and about Mexico City, Chela! We LOVE learning new things from Wonder Friends around the world! We are super happy that you visited Wonderopolis today! :-)

  16. Cool video! I’m always looking forward to the video because they are fun and gives me a background image of the topic.
    I predict that the next wonder is about big cats or about cats. I hope it is because I’m doing research on it.
    I was WONDERing how to make a happy face other than this: :) because other people make other faces than this. :)

    • Hiya, Erin! We’re sure glad you like our videos! And, we’re super curious about your research. You just reminded us of this WONDER: Do Cats Really Have Nine Lives? Have you seen it yet? We hope you like it!

      PS- Will you let us know if you find out how to make other happy faces? :-) Thanks, Erin!

    • Excellent point, Hawa! We think it all depends on the size of the igloo. Check out some of the igloo pictures from the Wonder Gallery. Do you think you could take a guess at how many blocks each igloo would have? Let us know what you come up with, and Thanks for WONDERing with us! :-)

    • What a great question, Ruben! You have to be very careful when building an igloo, and it’s always best to leave the building to the professionals. Thanks for WONDERing with us, Ruben! :-)

  17. We are still wondering:
    1. Is there a snow mansion?
    2. What is the typical number of blocks used to build an average sized igloo?
    3. How big can an igloo be and still be warm?
    4. Can you step on a frozen igloo?
    5. Are igloos efficient if there is a blizzard?

  18. Whoa, the skilled people can make an igloo in an hour. I could not even do it in a day! But, how does an igloo keep you warm if it is made of ice and snow? It is still very interesting that wood would not be their first choice because there aren’t a lot of trees?

    • What WONDERful insight regarding this Wonder, Ben! We think that the ice and snow serves as a good insulator from the cold. Thanks, for WONDERing with us!

  19. Burning Question: How could the snow stay together when it is bending over.

    An ah ha moment: When the guy was in the igloo.

    world connection: When I was watching something on YouTube and there was an igloo and penguins started to come out of it and it was shooting snow balls, but it was a video game someone was playing and it was funny.

    • That video game certainly does sound funny, Orianna! We’ll have to try and find that video. Thanks, for WONDERing with us! :-)

    • Hi matt! Thanks for commenting on this WONDER. Igloos are very cool! :) The ice and snow are very strong after they melt and refreeze as the WONDER talks about. The WONDER also tells us that the snow makes igloos very well insulated, so with body heat and a small lamp, you would not need a heater. A heater might cause problems! :)

  20. I think the number of the blocks in a igloo is based on what the shape and size of the igloo is. I can`t wait to see what tomorrows wonder of the day is.

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Have you ever wondered…

  • How many blocks make an igloo?
  • What does “igloo” mean?
  • How can cold snow keep you warm?

Wonder Gallery

dreamstime_m_26536008igloo_shutterstock_29373340Vimeo Video

Try It Out

Brrr! Do you feel cold after reading today’s Wonder of the Day? If so, don’t worry. We’re just getting warmed up. Check out one or more of the following activities with a friend or family member:

  • Ready to make an igloo? If you live in an area with lots of snow, you may be able to make an igloo in your backyard. Learn a few architectural lessons as you work together as a family to build your own snow house! Be sure to document your work by taking pictures and writing journal entries. Track the strength and warmth of your igloo over the course of several days. Does your igloo get stronger and warmer with each phase of the thawing/refreezing cycle? Explain the science of igloos to a friend or family member as you give them a tour of your temporary shelter!
  • If you don’t have enough snow to build a real igloo outside, you can have fun building one inside with one of these fun craft ideas:

Have fun being crafty. Feel free to share pictures of your creations by posting them on the Wonderopolis Facebook page!

  • Up for a challenge? Do a survey of the building materials used in the homes in your neighborhood. Unless you live in Alaska or Canada, you probably won’t find any igloos nearby. What kinds of houses do you find? Wood, stone, and brick might be some good bets. If you’re unsure of what material a particular house is made of, ask the owner or get an adult to help you. Chart your findings on a graph. Share that information with your friends and family members. What building materials are most popular in your area? Why do you think those materials are used the most? Do some Internet research on building materials to see what the pros and cons are of each type of building material. If you had to choose one building material to use to make your own home, what would it be? Why?

Still Wondering

Imagine that you’re a settler on the open prairie and you need to build a house. Visit Smithsonian’s History Explorer to play the fun Building a Sod House game and learn that building a sod house isn’t as easy as it sounds!


Test Your Knowledge

Wonder What’s Next?

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