CMSM at Home

As we all do our best to practice social distancing, we must not forget the importance of play. To help provide your family with fun, hands-on learning experiences, we are launching our first ever #CMSMatHome series.

Tune in to our Facebook and Instagram and learn through play with the Children’s Museum of Southern Minnesota!

  • March 28: Shadow and Light



    Today, we’ll observe how light moves around objects and creates shadows. It’s shadow play time!

    If the weather serves us and there is some sunshine, we can go outside. Otherwise, we can use a flashlight or lamp. Gather some interesting shadow-makers, such as animal figurines, blocks, colander, thin colored fabric, lace, crocheted objects, or anything else you like. Use your source of light to create shadows.

    What shapes do you see? What color are your shadows? What happens when we move the light? Take pictures and show us your shadows!


    Further Your Exploration

    Place paper on your shadow and trace the outlines. If you are outside, trace the outlines with sidewalk chalk.

    Explore different objects and how the light travels through or around them. What shapes does it make? Are there any patterns?

    What kind of shadow is created if you use a thin fabric, crocheted item, or a scarf?

  • March 27: Start Your Seedlings


    The weather is getting nicer and we can start our seedlings! Today we’ll make starting pots with paper towel and toilet paper rolls, fill them with soil, and plant garden seeds in them. Once labeled, they’ll go in clear, plastic clamshell containers (such as those for salad greens or some takeout foods), which will act as mini greenhouses. Water your starter pots gently, put in a sunny spot, and watch them grow!

    When seedlings are big enough and there is no danger of frost, plant your starter pots into the ground. The cardboard will compost and degrade on its own.


    To start your own seedlings, you’ll need garden seeds, soil, empty toilet paper or paper towel rolls, newspapers, scissors, clear plastic clamshell containers, and permanent markers and pencils.

    Cut an inch off the toilet paper tubes or cut the paper towel tubes into three equal pieces. Label each roll with the name of the seed you’ll be putting in. Fold the two sides together so they almost meet, then bend and fold the pointy sides to the center. If the bottom doesn’t perfectly seal, line it with a bit of newspaper cut to fit.

    Flip over the tub and fill three quarters of the way with dirt. Gently water the soil. Put 2-3 seeds onto the top of dirt an gently push in with a pencil (see planting depth instructions on the seed packet).

    Arrange your tubes into the clamshell container and set in a sunny area. Keep the starter pots moist, but not too wet. Once we’ve passed our last frost date (usually mid to  late May), plant your starter kits outdoors in your garden, or larger pot. The tube will decompose throughout the growing season.

    Easier option: Use an egg carton, fill each egg space with soil, water gently, and add your seeds. When ready, transport the seedlings into a larger pot or into your garden but cutting apart the egg carton.


  • March 26: Can You Guess?


    Today, we’ll guess, predict, count, and measure!

    Gather materials, such as a measuring tape (or a ruler), see-through jars, and a variety of small objects found in your home (beans, paperclips, coins, rocks, cotton balls, small building blocks…).

    Fill a see-through container with small objects, then make a guess on their number. Dump them out, count, and see how close you were to your prediction.

    Use a spoon or pencil, then measure how many spoon-longs or pencil-longs your bed or couch might be.


    Looking for more counting or measuring ideas as you practice critical thinking? Check this out:

    Count and measure everyday objects found around your home.

    Predict how many feet or inches an ite is, then measure it with a ruler or measuring tape to see if your prediction is close.

    Count how many small items (building blocks, beans, paper clips…) can fill up 1″ of your jar, then predict how many would fill the whole container.

  • March 25: Music Makers


    We will be making music at home today!

    Let’s use items found in our kitchen and experiment with different sounds we can make, and hear. We’ll pay attention to the variety of sounds and how they change between instruments.

    Material ideas: uncooked/dry rice, noodles, or beans, plastic containers, kitchen utensils, rubber bands, plastic wrap…

    Make your instruments and explore different sounds. Record your performance and listen to the sounds you made.


    Further Your Exploration

    Explore Instruments

    • What kind of instruments do you know?
    • Do you have any real instruments in your home?
    • Play music and identify the instruments you hear.
    • Homemade Instrument Discussion
    • If we put rice inside of a container and shake it, what will we hear?

    Do different materials make different sounds?

    • Which material do you like the most?
    • Make a drum by securing plastic wrap over a container with a rubber band or tape. Use kitchen utensils to make music.

    Let’s talk about sounds.

    • Hit or shake your instrument lightly.
    • Hit or shake your instrument very hard.
    • Which sounds make you happy?
    • Are any sounds scary?
    • Do any of these sounds make you think of other sounds? Is it like rain? Someone stomping? Leaves rustling?
    • Is there a song you can play?
  • March 24: Geology Rocks!

    Geology Rocks!

    Today, discover different types of rocks as you go on an adventure around your home. Observe what makes them similar or different from each other, then write or draw what you’ve come up with.

    For this activity, you’ll need a magnifying glass or any other item that can help you take a closer look. A ruler or a scale might help, and you may want something to write or draw in, such as a notebook or some paper. Go on an adventure and let us know what you find!


    Further Your Exploration        

    Find the three most exciting rocks in your yard.

    Why are they most exciting? What can you see, smell, hear, or feel from these rocks? What makes one rock like the others? What makes them different? What do you think these rocks could be called?

    How can a ruler, magnifying glass, or scale help us find more ways to describe these rocks? Are there any other tools you could use?

    Learn more about geology from National Geographic Kids.

  • March 23: Float or Sink?


    Float or Sink?

    Today we’ll test boats made from found materials to see which ones will float, and which ones will not.

    • Let’s play with water. Choose a bath tub, sink, or any container that won’t leak.
    • Now, let’s build a vessel that holds more than 5 pennies.
    • What can we build with? Paper, popsicle sticks, aluminum foil, wax paper, bottle caps and lids, recycled yogurt cups, rubber bands, bamboo skewers and toothpicks…
    • What do you see? Which materials float on their own? Can you add pennies to your boat? How many can it hold?


    Further Your Experiment

    • Talk about what happens before the boat sinks. Where does the water start coming into your vessel?
    • What can you change to make it float better? Is it the material, the boat’s shape, or size?
    • Which one of your boats can carry the most weight?
    • Which one can travel the farthest distance?
    • What material floats the best?
    • Can you get the boat to move without touching it with your hands? How?
    • How many pennies can your boat hold, and still float?
  • March 22: City Planning


    Can you build a city? How do you do it?

    • Find floor or table space.
    • Gather materials: cardboard, paper, tape, scissors, markers, pencils, building blocks…
    • Plan. Think about the city you wish to build. How big is it? What does it need? Who lives there? How do they get places?
    • Build. Construct your buildings, roads, and parks.

    Don’t forget to give your city a name!


    Further Your Learning

    Ask about building materials. Will you use found materials, or blocks? Can you use both?

    Research maps. Look up towns and cities. Talk about them as you look at the layout, roads, space, terrain. What is different? What is the same?

    Homes might be easy. Hospitals and schools, too. What else does a city need? Where does it get its energy? What about water and food? Why are these things important?

    Ask questions about the newly-created city. Where is it? If it’s in the sky, or on the water, ask the children simple questions (“How do I get to work?) which will encourage their creative experimentation.

  • March 21: Balance

    Today, we balance!

    Collect items around the house, or in your yard. You’ll need a stick, ruler, pencil, or something similar. Pennies, dimes, buttons, small rocks, or pebbles may work. If you’d like, record your observations by drawing or writing.

    Here’s what we’re doing:

    • Engage your fine motor skills by balancing objects on top of other objects.
    • Predict what items will be easier to balance.
    • Compare items by balancing them on a ruler.


    Attempt to balance one of your items on the back of your hand. What do you think will be the easiest to balance? How much do you think you can move while keeping the item in place?

    Attempt to balance the ruler, pencil, or a stick on your finger. Can you add any pennies or buttons to the ruler? How do you think you need to move the ruler to keep it balanced?

    Attempt to balance two or more rocks on top of one another. What rocks will be the easiest to balance? How do you think the weight of the rock impacts its balance?

  • March 20: Build Like a Beaver


    Have you explored the Museum’s Beaver Builders exhibit? You can build like a beaver at home, too! Choose to work outside, in a sandbox (or dirt), or in the house, using a cake pan.

    • Gather twigs, sand, dirt, small stones, moss, or wet leaves.
    • Form a beaver dam or lodge by stacking and layering different sizes of twigs in your sandbox or cake pan.
    • Create a diorama around the beaver lodge or dam. Edge it with small rocks, pack some mud or dried grass around it, add a mossy bank, pour in water to make a lake or stream. Think like a beaver as you work!
    • Explore. Does your beaver dam hold back the water? Does your beaver lodge have a doorway underwater and an air hole on top? How can you make repairs to your beaver structures?


    Further Your Exploration

    Learn more about beavers and building from this PBS video.

    • Try making different lodges on a piece of cardboard using popsicle sticks, toothpicks, pencils, or building kits.
    • Make one dam from twigs and one from toothpicks, then compare the two: Which was easier to build? Would both hold water? How are twigs and toothpicks alike?
    • Add more pieces to your diorama: Make a beaver from paper, cardboard, or fabric. Add blue color to your water (how can you do this?). Make plants or trees from other twigs or grasses.
  • March 19: First Day of Spring


    As we make the change from winter to spring, the environment around us starts to change as well. Spend some time outside each day and see if you can identify these changes. If you would like and are able, prepare a notebook, some writing utensils, binoculars, or a magnifying glass.

    Go into your backyard, take a walk around the neighborhood, or make observations from a window. The best way to do this is by using your senses because we use them to perceive the world around us. As you observe, think about the following things:

    • What, or how, do you feel in this space?
    • Look up, down, and around you. What do you see?
    • Listen to sounds from the sky and the ground. What do you hear?
    • What do you smell? Does the outside smell the same as inside your home?

    Write down or draw your observations. What do you think will change as time passes? When you go back outside tomorrow, will everything be the same? Ask these same questions daily, and add new ones. Check your predictions from the day before and see how close you were to predicting change.


    Further Your Learning

    If your child hears birds, ask how many types they hear, if they all sound the same, or if they can identify any of them. Pick a specific spot outside, like a patch of grass or a bush, and observe how it changes daily.

    • Is the grass getting greener?
    • Do you see any animal tracks or scat?
    • Are there bugs you haven’t seen?
    • Is that pile of snow the same size?

    Review the observations before and after each session outside. Ask for predictions (“What do you think we’ll find today?”). Ask for a hypothesis (“Why do you think this was different today?”). Write or draw your observations. If you have access to a camera, take pictures daily so you can look back and compare how things change from day to day. Have your children teach you about their observations!


  • March 18: Installation Art


    Today, create an art installation at home with this favorite Toddler Wednesday activity (any age is welcome–and encouraged–to join in on the fun!).

    Position two chairs close together to serve as a base.

    • Engage children in picking out materials they want to use. Will it be yarn, ribbon, scarves, paper, cardboard, or something else?

    • Explore the placement of materials connecting the chairs. Is it over, under, around, up, down, or inside?

    • Discuss colors, textures, and shapes as you look at this work of art!


    “Preternatural Prairie Mirage,” by artist Liz Miller, inspires imagination, creativity, and conversation!  Have you noticed this colorful work of art at the Museum?