Fold Mountains Lesson for Kids: Definition & Facts

Instructor: Jeremy Cook

I have been teaching elementary school for 16 years. I have extensive experience in lesson and curriculum development and educational technology.

Looking up at the peak of a massive mountain might make you feel lots of feelings. Wonder, awe and maybe even curiosity. How could something so big have come to be? This lesson will teach you about how fold mountains came to exist.

The Earth's Surface Floats

I bet you'd never guess that the hard ground you walk on every day is really floating. Well, we are floating, but not on water. The Earth's surface is floating on hot liquid material called magma. But the Earth's surface isn't one giant piece like an unbroken egg shell; it's made of large pieces called tectonic plates.

The crust of the Earth is divided into tectonic plates that float on liquid magma
Fold Tectonic Plates

Those plates float around on the magma, but they are super close to each other, so they can rub and even crash into one another. Think about what the eggshell of a hard-boiled egg would look like if you lightly tapped it on the counter. It would have lots of cracks and pieces. The same goes with the Earth and its tectonic plates.

Plates Crash

No, it's not like dropping mom's favorite dinner plate on the brick floor, but instead the Earth's tectonic plates can crash into each other where the edges meet. When this happens, they can push the edge of one of the plates up. Next time you're at the dinner table, take two placemats and push them together. If you get it just right, one edge will push the other edge up.

Another way to simulate how fold mountains are created is to take a piece of paper long ways and place one hand on one side and one on the other. Now slowly push your hands toward each other. The more you push, the larger the fold in the center will become.

This map of the Himalayas shows where two plates crashed to form the mountains
Fold Himalayas

This is how fold mountains are created. One plate pushes up the the rocks and material on the other, or they push each other up. The place where the two plates collide is called the convergent plate boundary.

When the boundaries are pushed together, the ground can fold and buckle, which is where the name fold mountain came from. This process is not fast, like the hood of a car folding in an accident. Fold mountains are created over the course of millions of years and the plates push each other so slowly, humans wouldn't even notice a change in the landscape in their lifetimes.

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