Children's Museum of South Dakota

Beyond Imagine A House


Wonder and Grow

Explore at home, ideas and activities, either before coming to the museum or after your visit.


Building is a natural children's pass time. Making design, creating structures, and experimenting with how construction works is exciting. The possibilities are endless.

Here are some fun ideas and activities to spark interest and play at home, either before coming to the museum or after your visit! All the recommended books below can be found at the Brookings Public Library.


The Commons

Homes all have the same purpose – safety and protection, yet have unique features and characteristics. The Commons is all about exploring how others around the world build and use their homes. Here are a few activities to try.

Take a walk with your child.
Walk around your neighborhood, stop and look at the different houses and talk about the similarities and differences that you see.

Spend some time looking at a globe together.
Talk about the features and characteristics seen, such as the hemispheres, continents, oceans, and countries, as well as locating your home. Or check out Google Earth.

Design and build a structure with different found objects.
Build structures with canned goods or other found objects around your home.

Check out construction on new homes.
Walk past homes that are currently being built and discuss what is happening.

Look up Habitat for Humanity’s website. 
See how the organization is helping people around the world build homes. Read stories from the website together with your child.  


Guatemala has many different characteristics when compared to our prairies. This exhibit provides an opportunity to see its differences, as well as the similarities. Below are a few activities to continue learning about how people in Guatemala live and build houses.

Find homes that have concrete block foundations.
People in Guatemala use concrete block and rebar to reinforce and protect their homes from earthquakes. Find a similarity by looking around your home or neighborhood and pointing out which homes have common concrete block foundations.

Learn about earthquakes.
Visit the US Geological Survey website, to view the location of the most recent earthquakes around the world and their magnitude.

Explore Guatemalan culture.
Visit the Rainforest Alliance website, to learn more about Guatemalan culture. The Rainforest Alliance TreeHouse page is all about a group of kids and their world in Pasa Cabillos, Guatemala. 


Mozambique is located almost halfway around the world from the prairies of South Dakota. There are many differences when building homes in Mozambique, yet there are similarities too. Here are a few ideas to try to learn more about how children in Mozambique live and what their homes are like.

Discuss the woven walls of Mozambique.
People in Mozambique use reeds to weave walls. Compare the walls of your home to the woven wall. Together with your child, discuss how it is the same and how it is different.

Learn about Mozambique.
Visit the Time for Kids online magazine to learn more about Mozambique.

Meet kids from Mozambique.
Visit the World Through My Eyes website to meet kids from Mozambique and see photos they have taken.

Brookings Building Square

The Brookings Building Square provides opportunities for building with tools. Children create forts, houses, and other structures. Here are a few more ideas to extend their building opportunities.

Create a fort.
Use blankets and other moveable furniture such as dining room chairs or sofa cushions to create your own fort.

Together, read parts of the book, Underground by David Macaulay.
Then go for a bike ride around your neighborhood noticing the fire hydrants and manhole covers. Stop by ones that are in a safe spot to inspect more closely. Wonder together about how they are used and what might be under the lid or where the connecting pipes might go.

Draw a floor layout of your house with your child.
Try diagramming the electrical circuits or plumbing pipe layouts too.

Continue to play, explore and go…for additional activities to try at home or at school, check out the Teacher Resources.

Before & Beyond Imagine a House - Activity Guide

Building an Indoor Fort

In the Imagine a House Gallery, children use their imaginations to build structures and forts. Here is an opportunity to create an indoor fort on a rainy or snowy day.

What You’ll Need:

  • Bed sheets
  • Blankets
  • Cardboard Boxes
  • Pillows
  • Sofa Cushions
  • Snacks
  • Children's Flashlights

Set Up:
Collect supplies and select a spot to build your indoor fort near a sofa, bed, or table.

What to Do:

  1. Clear an area around a sofa, bed, or table.
  2. Prop sturdy sofa cushions near the sofa or bed to form the walls of the fort. Use chairs, if necessary, to prop up the cushions.
  3. Build the roof by draping sheets over the walls.
  4. Put a smaller pillow on the floor between two upright sofa cushions to construct a window.
  5. Create a door with the simple and elegant drape of a sheet or blanket. Or build a tunnel entrance by tilting cushions together.
  6. Use cushions, blankets and cardboard boxes to make furniture.

Ideas for More:

  • Use a noisemaker for a doorbell.
  • Drape a sheet or blanket over a couch, table, bunk bed, or pool table.
  • Put some secret treasures inside the fort.
  • Create a phone with string and cans.
  • Find a rug for a welcome mat.
  • Furnish the fort with pillows or small rugs.
  • If a cardboard box is used, indoor pictures could be drawn on the cardboard walls to decorate.
  • Add a radio or iPod for music.

Length of Activity:
Set Up - 5 minutes if supplies are readily available
Assembling the Fort - 5 to 15 minutes