Dear CCS Summer Club,

I’m Jarrod, the director of the Children’s Community School. Today I’m reading one of my all time favorite books, Need a House, Call Ms. Mouse by George Mendoza, about a mouse who is an architect and designer for the homes of all the other animals. Then today’s activities involve designing and thinking about different kinds of homes and spaces. This kind of activity not only supports the growth of all the skills involved in making art (fine motor skills, spatial reasoning, planning, etc.), but also creates opportunities for perspective taking (“If I were a jellyfish, where would I feel comfortable?”).
Supplies: Any kind of drawing and/or building materials. Natural materials are especially good!
Pick an animal and make a home for it! First, help your child think about what they know about that animal. Where does it like to live? What does it like to eat? Does it like cold places or hot places? You can help younger kids make connections from what they know to what plans they could make. (“Hm, if a frog likes to eat flies, where could we make a home for it where there would be a lot of flies?”) Older kids can be encouraged to be more abstract, by thinking about personality. (“You say a squid is very sneaky? Hm, what if its home had a lot of little tunnels, so it could sneak around without being seen?”) It never hurts to write down your ideas together, so kids can see you using writing as a tool for thinking! Once you have a few ideas, go ahead and MAKE the home you’ve thought about, with whatever materials sound good. Playdough? Blocks? Sticks and grass? It’s all fair game. You can also draw the home instead (or, for older kids, draw it first, THEN make it in 3D!). Some children might want or need your help to get their ideas out into the physical world—that’s fine, as long as you make sure to be helping with THEIR ideas, instead of imposing your own. Kids who are more comfortable might enjoy working alongside you, on two different homes for two different animals. When you’re done, think about taking a photo of what you’ve made, and encouraging your child to write a description of it. You can send it to a friend or a family member!
Supplies: Optional, animal puppets or costumes.

Pretend you and your child are Ms. Mouse and another animal of your choosing—your child can be either role, and you can be the other. Imagine Ms. Mouse is taking the animal on a tour of the house you’re in, and thinking together how you might change the house to suit their needs. If your child is gung-ho about it, simply listening and saying “Yes” to their ideas should take you a long way. If they need a little more encouragement, Ms. Mouse can start with suggesting ideas (“Now I know dogs like you love dog food. What if we make this the dog food closet, and fill it all the way up with dog food!”), gradually transitioning to their ideas (“But I don’t know much about how dogs sleep. Where would a dog like you feel comfy sleeping?”). You can also get a lot of mileage by saying outlandish things and letting your child correct you (“I know dogs have wonderful wings and love to fly, so what if we added a ladder up to the roof?”).

Hope you enjoy!