May 02 2011
On our last day in Sioux Falls, it was cold and blustery, so we were looking for something indoors to complete our family weekend. I remembered that a reader had told me of a new children’s museum in Brookings, so we made Brookings a part of our route on the way home.
Like the Kirby Science Discovery Center in Sioux Falls, the Children’s Museum of South Dakota is located in a repurposed downtown-area school building, though it’s done so well that it’s easy to forget what the building was originally used for. The primary exhibit areas are on the ground level of the building, with a traveling exhibit area, offices, and other special rooms upstairs.
My first impression of the museum was that it is airy and bright, yet calm. Lots of outside lighting and pleasant colors make it just-right for both kids and parents. Some classrooms have been transformed to small exhibit areas, like a mechanic’s garage, a get-fit station, and a water area that’s combined with a ball run. There’s an art studio where kids can paint on the window (and then spray and wipe it clean), a music area that’s in a soundproof room, and a unique sand-sculpture station.
The largest room in the building, formerly the gymnasium, was our favorite. While one child was building a house, another was climbing a unique structure. They played weather forecaster in the TV studio and delivered the mail. But the best part was the farm-to-market area. Kids can “harvest” vegetables from the fields, take them to the “processing plant,” and then shop at the market. This cycle of planting, harvesting, and shopping kept my kids busy for a long time. The murals in this room are beautiful, covering all the walls with scenes from the local agricultural community. Carpeting and slyly placed acoustic panels kept things calm in what could have otherwise been a chaotic area.
Outdoors, there’s a “prairie” play area, where kids can have fun in nature and learn some conservation and ecology basics. Be careful, because you just might encounter a dinosaur or two out there as well.
There’s a small gift shop and a large sunny cafe for those who want to make an all-day trip of the museum. While it’s not the biggest children’s museum out there, it’s very well-done and easy enough to spend 2-3 hours there. Our five-year-old cried sadly when it was time to leave, and she’s still asking when we can go back.
To see all the photos from our visit, visit my Children’s Museum of South Dakota set on Flickr. Thank you to reader Jenny for telling about this new place to visit on the prairie. Brookings is just an hour north of Sioux Falls on I-29.