Place Category: Historical Sights & Museums
Building Zone (First Floor G Street side), a hands-on introduction to the building arts designed especially for the Museum’s youngest visitors, ages 2–6.
In this exploratory gallery, children can:
- Build a tower or brick wall.
- Curl up with an architecture picture book in the Book Nook.
- Drive bulldozers and other construction play trucks in the Construction Zone.
- Imagine being a craftsperson complete with a hard hat, tool belt, and goggles.
- Explore the National Building Museum’s Project Playhouse, a life-size custom built “green” house sponsored by HomeAid and built by Pardee Homes.
Just as a building’s foundation lays the groundwork for a structure, child-initiated play lays a foundation for learning. Through imaginative play, children learn to interact with others, to recognize and solve problems, and to gain confidence. Play helps children make sense of their physical and social worlds and their place within them. We invite our youngest visitors and their families to enjoy this space as they explore the world we build for ourselves.
Hours & Admission
Building Zone hours: 10 am–4 pm, Monday through Saturday, and 11 am–4 pm on Sundays
Families interested in visiting the Building Zone only may purchase a $3 ticket per person ages 3 and up. As with the Museum’s other exhibitions, the Building Zone is FREE for members. Otherwise, Building Zone entry is included in the admission ticket for all Museum exhibitions ($7 per child, $10 per adult). Admission to the Building Zone includes 45 minutes of play time. Building Zoneplay times start at 15 minutes after the hour and run to the top of the hour. Last entry is 3:15 pm. Find more Hours & Admission information.
Book of the Month Club
On the first Tuesday of each month, the Museum will introduce a new book during a read-aloud in the Building Zone’s Book Nook. The books explore themes such as patterns, city planning, construction, and celebration of other cultures. Families will then be invited to participate in corresponding hands-on play activities in the Building Zone. Learn more about the Book of the Month club.
This gallery is designed for children ages 2 to 6.Please remember:
- Admission to the Building Zone includes 45 minutes of play time. Tickets are available on-site only, and are sold on a first-come, first-served basis. Tickets may sell out in advance.
- An adult must accompany children at all times.
- No food or drink is permitted in the gallery.
- Maximum capacity is 40 visitors.
- Photography is permitted.
Special Note for Groups: the Building Zone is designed for family visitors. The Museum reserves the right to ask groups of 10 visitors or more to split into smaller groups when visiting the exhibition. Peak visitation hours are 10 am–Noon.
Play Work Build (2nd Floor F Street side)
Through this exhibition, visitors begin to see the connections between play, design, and the work of building professionals like architects and engineers.
Only at the National Building Museum can the concepts of PLAY, WORK, and BUILD be combined to create a new exhibition that will enthrall kids and adults alike. Conceived in partnership with the internationally renowned design firm the Rockwell Group, this exhibition combines a presentation of the Museum’s world-class Architectural Toy Collection, a hands-on block play area, and an original digital interactive that allows visitors to fill an entire wall of the exhibition with virtual blocks—and then knock them down.
After viewing a selection of construction toys from the Museum’s collection, from the familiar Tinker Toys and Lincoln Logs to the lesser-known Bumpalow House and Ringa-Majigs, visitors have the opportunity to reconfigure their environment and design their own course of play with individually-sized blocks. In the subsequent gallery, visitors are invited to work individually to reimagine their small-scale structures created into oversized structures using supersized foam blocks or to work in groups to design and build something entirely new. Whether visitors choose the tactile experience with the small or large blocks, the virtual block-play experience, or all of the activities, children and adults alike are encouraged to participate in unstructured, imaginative play that exercises muscles and minds.
Praise for PLAY WORK BUILD
“Parents and children may want to consider putting down the video games and picking up the building blocks. A new exhibit on playing with blocks has opened in Washington, D.C.”—USA TODAY
“PLAY WORK BUILD is both an extension and an elaboration on one of the museum’s primary missions, to introduce children to the building process. The second-floor gallery is now overrun by thousands of pieces of blue foam, some sized for building models and some sized to build forts.”—The Washington Post On Parenting
“Collaborative activity, physical movement, and no resemblance to a typical playground are the three major themes of this endeavor.”—Curbed DC
“The National Building Museum already hosts programs for teens interested in pursuing design as a career, but an upcoming exhibition intends to inspire a younger generation of architects, builders, and engineers.”—Residential Architect
The Atlantic Cities went behind the scenes to learn more about the “nation’s biggest architectural toy collection.”
- More InfoType of Place: Indoor Only