Places and resources in your neighborhood

Activities for families and kids

The Children’s Museum in Oak Lawn 9600 E. Shore Dr., Oak Lawn (708) 423-6709 Ages: 2-10 (recommended)

The Children’s Museum in Oak Lawn is home to nine interactive exhibits, including water tables, kite flying and a puppet playhouse. Events: "Teaching with Tales," 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Wednesday. Kids can have fun with weekly storytelling activities. Hours: 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday. The third Saturday of each month, admission is free and kids can make art projects and watch magic and puppet shows. Call ahead for daily updates. Admission: $3.50, $3 ages 1-16, free under 1.

Irons Oaks Environmental Learning Center 20000 Western Ave., Olympia Fields (708) 481-2330 Ages: Families

This recreational center offers a variety of hiking trails and nature-based activities. Events: "Woodchuck vs. Groundhog," 10-11:30 a.m. Feb. 4. Kids ages 7-11 are invited to learn more about the fuzzy rodents through crafts, games and a scavenger hunt. "Winter Bingo," 9-10 a.m. Feb. 14. $1 per card. Play the classic game while learning about common wildflowers. Grandparents are invited, too. "Project: Bird Feeder," 1:30-2:30 p.m. Feb. 19. $20, $15 residents. Kids ages 7 and up will use technology to figure out what birds want in a feeder and build it. Registration required for all events. Call or check the Web site for more activities.

Jerald S. Galowich YMCA 749 Houbolt Rd., Joliet (815) 744-3939 Ages: Families and kids ages 4-10 (recommended)

Along with fitness programs for both adults and kids, this Y holds family nights one Friday each month. Events: "Winter Frolic," 6:30-8:30 p.m. Feb. 10, features one hour of gym games and one hour of pool games. Basketball, tug-of-war, a scavenger hunt, swim races and splash contests are just some of the activities planned. Keep your energy up with nachos, hot dogs and popcorn. Admission: $10 per family, $8.50 program members, free full members.

Lake Katherine Nature Preserve 7402 Lake Katherine Dr., Palos Heights (708) 361-1873 Ages: Families

This nature preserve has 3½ miles of trails that wander through prairie, woodland and garden environments. For families in the south suburbs, one of the best places to enjoy nature. Food is available inside the center. Admission: $5, $3 ages 3-12, free ages 2 and under.

Tinley Park Public Library 7851 Timber Dr., Tinley Park (708) 532-0160

Local public libraries can be a great resource for family activities, both for books and for fun activities. Events: "Junie B. Jones Parent and Child Book Discussion," 7-7:45 p.m. Feb. 1. Kids ages 5-7 with parents can read any book in the series, participate in an activity and have snacks afterwards. "American Girls Brunch," 11 a.m.-noon. Feb. 11. Girls 5-11 can put on their best dress, bring their favorite doll and celebrate Valentines Day. "Family Activity Night," 7-8 p.m. Feb. 16. This is a fun opportunity to learn a craft and listen to a special guest. Activities available for families with valid Tinley Park or Orland Hills library cards. Call to register. Admission: Free.

Support and education for parents

Chicago Area Families for Adoption (CAFFA) 1212 S. Naper Blvd., Ste. 119, Naperville (630) 585-4680

CAFFA provides information, support and networking opportunities for adoptive parents and parents interested in adopting. Informational meetings on domestic and international adoption are held the first Tuesday of each month. Play groups, family outings and educational events are offered throughout the year. Call or e-mail the CAFFA membership chairman at [email protected] for more information. Annual membership is $40 and includes a monthly newsletter, e-mail updates and discounted or free event fees.

Good Shepherd Center for Exceptional Children 17314 Kedzie Ave., Hazel Crest (708) 335-0020, (708) 351-TOYS

Parents of kids with special needs of any age can benefit from Good Shepherd’s services. Parents can arrange for trained Lekotek staff to visit their home with a therapeutic toy library adapted specifically to meet their child’s needs. Sessions last about an hour and children are allowed to borrow six to 10 toys to keep until the next session. A computer library is also available. The cost is $5, free for low-income families. Call Mary Ellen McLoughlin, (708) 351-TOYS, to schedule a session. Good Shepherd’s Respite Service provides professional baby-sitters trained to handle disabled children. Parents in need of a break can schedule free in-home care to attend an all-day event or a dinner date, up to 180 hours per year. Contact Dawn Dixon, (708) 335-0020, ext. 22. Other Good Shepherd services include an integrated preschool for ages 3 and under and an autism lending library.

Governor’s State Smart Start Program 1 University Pkwy., University Park (708) 235-7330

Smart Start is dedicated to keeping families connected and giving children a strong foundation through fun and educational events. Parent-child play groups, family activities and early childhood classes are just some of the programs Smart Start offers. Classes include infant massage, child safety and CPR, stimulating child exploration and pre-kindergarten for kids under 5. Childcare is available for adult classes, and most are free or low cost. Smart Start also arranges family outings such as trips to area museums. Call for details.

Mothers and More P.O. Box 31, Elmhurst (630) 941-3553 for the national group (815) 828-0618 local

This nonprofit group works to improve the lives of mothers by offering support, education and advocacy. Mothers and More works for social equality by recognizing the importance of the work that mothers do, both in the workplace and at home. South suburban moms meet at the Crest Hill Library Community Room in Crest Hill. 6:45-8:45 p.m. Feb. 6 and 15. (No children please.) Annual membership: $45. Nonmembers are allowed to attend up to three events before joining.

Parent and Child Education Society (PACES) P.O. Box 13, Lombard (630) 835-4111

PACES offers support for parents of children from birth to age 5 through play groups, parenting seminars, workshops, babysitting co-ops and social outings. Annual membership: $32. The south suburban branch meets the third Tuesday of each month at Life Church in Palos Heights. Meetings feature keynote speakers and a chance for parents to share their experiences. Childcare is provided. Call Victoria Hamel, (708) 598-9415, to register. $2, free members. For infant play groups in Palos Heights, Orland Park, Frankfort and neighboring communities e-mail Dawn Mack, [email protected]

Parents Anonymous of Chicago and Uhlich Children’s Advantage Network 10046 S. Western Ave., Chicago (773) 429-9307

Free parent support groups meet weekly to discuss issues including child development, finances, frustration and self-empowerment. Calumet City offers chapters for teen parents and Spanish speakers. Two more chapters will open to all interested parents in Riverdale. Meetings last one to two hours. Free childcare is provided. Groups often arrange family field trips. For more information or to find a meeting in your area, call Tonya Gaddis, (773) 429-9326.

South Suburban Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Riverdale (call for exact location) (708) 308-3849

Grandparents raising grandchildren from birth to age 18 are encouraged to share their experiences, concerns, joys and frustrations at this support group sponsored by the Children’s Home and Aid Society of Illinois. Free admission. Refreshments are served and free childcare is provided. 10-11:30 a.m. Monday. Call Merna Watkins, (708) 308-3849, for the location.

University of Illinois Extension 5527 Miller Circle Dr., Matteson (708) 720-7500

Family Life Extension Educators teach free courses on family issues throughout the year. Free admission. Registration is encouraged. Call Donna Murphy, (708) 532-6434.

Young Single Parents Inc. (708) 802-0804

Young Single Parents Inc. provides an instant network for divorced, separated, widowed or unmarried parents. The group arranges two family and two adult activities per month and weekly adult social nights. Nonmembers are welcome to participate in up to three family or adult activities before joining. Call to introduce yourself, ask questions and register for all events. Events: Weekly adult nights. $4, free members. South Chapter: 8:30 p.m. Wednesday at Centennial Bowl, 16050 Centennial Circle, Tinley Park. Southwest Chapter: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Kopperwynd Bar & Grill, 11265 W. 159th St. (at Wolf Road), Orland Park. Annual membership: $25 for the first year, $20 thereafter.

Anneliese Kumler


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