Children's Museum of South Dakota

Beyond Our Prairie


Wonder and Grow

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


Climb a Cloud

On the prairie, wind is almost a constant characteristic of life. It is everywhere. Here are some ways to explore it with your family.

Make a kite together and then on a windy day, fly it. 
The book, Kites on the Wind: Easy to Make Kites That Fly without Sticks, by Emery Kelly can provide patterns and get you going.

Find a comfy spot to watch clouds go by. 
As the wind changes their shapes, talk with your child about what objects, animals, or favorite toys you see.

Prairie Ways

Whether your family’s roots grow deep into prairie soil or your roots have been recently transplanted from another location, sharing your family’s heritage and past with your child can be enriching for them. Here are some activities to get you started.

Share your family memories with your child. 
Get together with older family members and think about stories that you know from your childhood or from your parents’ childhood. 

Trace your family tree together. 
Begin with your child and work back through your relatives. Ask other family members to help in the process. A great deal can be learned when talking together.

Talk to your child about your family’s heritage.
Discuss how you came to live in the place you live. If you have stories from past generations, share these too.

Share family traditions with your child.
Perhaps make a special recipe together and talk about who made this and what time of year it was typically made.

Spend an afternoon doing "Chores".
Visit the South Dakota Agricultural Heritage Museum’s “Chores” exhibit to view photos of past people on the prairie and how they went about their daily chores.

Examine the energy that we use daily. 
Make a one-day energy diary recording when you use different forms of energy.

Talk about the water conservation.
Discover how and where your family gets their water. 

Prairie Farm

Farms, both then and now, are vital to our lives. Discovering how food is grown and how it gets to grocery stores is intriguing for children. This discovery leads children to make healthy food choices. Here are some activities for further exploration.

Visit a friend’s farm.
Learn about the animals living there and to explore all that is growing in the fields.

Visit the grocery store.
Look at and discuss all the different types of fruits and vegetables.

Visit McCrory Gardens in Brookings.
View all the different kinds of plants growing there as well as other arboretums. 

Market Fresh Grocery

The grocery store is often a very familiar place for young children. Children may repeatedly pretend in familiar roles as a way to explore and try on ideas about themselves. Here are some ideas to build on experiences from Market Fresh Grocery.

Make a grocery list together.
Bring the kids on the next grocery trip.

Empty your pockets.
Examine the different types of coins and then talk about how many coins are needed to make up the next largest coin (such as 5 pennies make up one nickel).

Try something new.
Go to the grocery store and find unusual fruits, then taste them for a snack.

Go on a coupon frenzy.
Clip coupons from the local grocery store’s advertisement and then use them while shopping. Talk to your child about the function of coupons. Ask your child to match the food item with the coupon or use the coupons as your source for a ‘treasure hunt’ around the grocery store – looking for the items on the coupons. 

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

Before & Beyond Our Place on the Prairie Gallery – Activity Guide

Making a Family Tree

Discovering one’s heritage is part of experiencing the ‘Our Place on the Prairie’ Gallery. As a child, drawing out a family tree is an opportunity to hear the family stories and to learn about the important people in your family who have come before you. As a parent, passing on your family stories is a memory-making event.

What You’ll Need:

  • Paper
  • Pen or Pencil
  • A tape or voice recorder to record your stories
  • Your memory

Set Up:
Clear a place on the table to draw and write. A place nearby for a tape recorder or digital voice recorder, if you plan to record your family stories.

What to Do:

  1. Talk with your child about your family and who makes up your family.
  2. Begin with the ‘trunk’ of your family tree by recording the names of your immediate family on the trunk.
  3. As you form the trunk, tell important family stories about how life was prior to your child’s birth.
  4. Tell the story of your child’s birth or adoption, and how he/she came to be part of your family.
  5. Then for each parent, create a branch and include the brothers and sisters of each parent on the branches with each grandparent’s name further out on the branch.
  6. As you and your child write down the names, tell stories that occur to you about the family members you are jotting down on the branches of your tree.
  7. Continue making ‘Y’ shaped branches at each union, including the names of the parents and all of the siblings with the family member who is part of your lineage.
  8. Continue to tell stories about important people as the family tree takes shape.

Ideas for More:

  • Consider the ‘holes’ that you have in your family tree, and brainstorm family members who might know more about family members further into your history. Make plans to contact them and ask questions about ‘missing’ family members.
  • Make plans to interview special people in your family. Ask them about their childhood memories, traditions their family did, their favorite childhood toy, and the important people in their lives when they were children.
  • Consider looking into the family tree websites and other resources to trace your family back further.

Length of Activity:
This may be an ongoing activity. The length of time that it takes is totally up to you and your child. An initial family tree with personal family stories may take about 30 minutes to an hour.

Consider the free family tree resources at Family Tree Resources, or Family Search,
The Kids’ Family Tree Book, by Caroline Leavitt & Ian Philips

Baking Prairie Breads

While exploring the sod house and Sioux tipi one is able to prepare traditional prairie foods. Here are some bread recipes that would have been made while at the stove or around the fire.

Skillet Bread

What You’ll Need: (This serves four people)

  • 1 ¼ cups milk
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons cold vegetable shortening

Set Up:
Gather ingredients and prepare a workspace.

What to Do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400° F.
  2. Make sour milk by pouring the milk and lemon juice into a small bowl. Stir and let it sit for five minutes.
  3. Sift the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a medium-size bowl.
  4. Add the cold vegetable shortening. Mix it with the flour by cutting it into tiny pieces with two knives.
  5. Add half of the sour milk, and mix the dough with your fingers. Keep adding sour milk and mixing just until the dough sticks together. Let the dough rest for five minutes.
  6. Lightly grease the bottom and sides of an 8x8-inch baking pan with shortening. Put the dough in the pan. Dip your fingers in flour and spread the dough evenly out in the pan.
  7. Bake for 35 minutes or until the top is brown. Serve warm with butter or jam.

Ideas for More:

  • Mix in bacon or cheese into the batter.
  • Try cooking the skillet bread over a campfire.

Length of Activity:
Set up- 5 minutes
Mixing the dough-10 minutes
Bake time-35 minutes

Resource: Erdosh, George. Food and Recipes of the Westward Expansion. New York: PowerKids, 1997. Print.

Garden Pan Bread

What You’ll Need: (Makes 8 to 9 servings)

  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup mashed pumpkin
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup raisins
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 tablespoon butter for greasing

Set Up:
Gather ingredients and prepare a workspace.

What to Do:

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  2. In medium bowl, combine 1 cup cornmeal, 1 cup flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, and ½ teaspoon salt. Set aside.
  3. In a small bowl, combine ¾ cup pumpkin, 1 cup water, and 2 eggs. Stir until well-mixed.
  4. Stir pumpkin mixture into cornmeal mixture. Mix until dry ingredients are moistened. Gently stir in ½ cup raisins and ½ cup walnuts.
  5. Use a paper towel or napkin dabbed with 1 tablespoon butter or margarine to grease skillet or baking pan.
  6. Spoon batter into skillet or baking pan.
  7. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until bread is golden brown and pulls away from edges. A wooden toothpick inserted into the center of the bread will come out clean.

Ideas for More:

  • Instead of raisins try another dried fruit such as crasins or apricots
  • Try a different nut such as pecan or hazelnut

Length of Activity:
Set up- 5 minutes
Mixing the dough-10 minutes
Bake time-30 to 35 minutes

Resource: Gunderson, Mary, and E. Barrie. Kavasch. American Indian Cooking before 1500. Mankato, MN: Blue Earth, 2001. Print.


What You’ll Need: (Makes 6 servings)

  • 2 cups cornmeal (stoneground white or yellow)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons drippings
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 1 cup cultured buttermilk

Set Up:
Gather ingredients and prepare a workspace.

What to Do:

  1. Preheat oven to 400° F
  2. In a bowl mix cornmeal, salt, and baking soda. Place drippings in the center.
  3. Stir molasses into ½ cup boiling water and pour the mixture on the drippings.
  4. Stir until drippings are melted and meal mixture becomes a paste. Stir in the buttermilk and mix well.
  5. Grease the baking sheet and pour the batter onto it, spreading it evenly by tilting the sheet or by pressing with a wet hand.
  6. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until dough surface is cracked and edges are browned.
  7. Remove from the pan before it cools.
  8. Serve with honey, molasses, baked beans or boiled cabbage and meat.

Ideas for More:

  • Try mixing in some fried and chopped bacon

Length of Activity:
Set up- 5 minutes
Mixing the dough-10 minutes
Bake time-20 to 30 minutes

Resource: Walker, Barbara M. The Little House Cookbook: Frontier Foods from Laura Ingalls Wilder's Classic Stories. New York: Harper & Row, 1979. Print.

Churn Your Own Butter

What You’ll Need:

  • Heavy cream
  • Canning jar
  • Colander or piece of cheesecloth

Set Up:
Gather ingredients and prepare a workspace.

What to Do:

  1. Take a canning jar and fill it one-third full of cream.
  2. Shake the jar until you feel and see the butter separate.
  3. Separate the butter from the buttermilk by straining it.
  4. Rinse the butter with cold water. Gently turn it while rinsing until the water runs clear.
  5. Put it into the refrigerator to chill.

Ideas for More:

  • Mix in salt before chilling for salted butter.

Length of Activity:
Set up- 5 minutes
Making butter- 15-20 minutes


Additional Resources:
Fertig, Judith M. Prairie Home Cooking: 400 Recipes That Celebrate the Bountiful Harvests, Creative Cooks, and Comforting Foods of the American Heartland. Boston, Mass.: Harvard Common, 1999. Print.
Fertig, Judith M. Prairie Home Breads: 150 Splendid Recipes from America's Breadbasket. Boston, Mass.: Harvard Common, 2001. Print.