What do you do with an energetic 1-year-old when it's raining and cabin fever looms?
That's the question my sister and I faced when her active son needed an outlet. We decided on the newly expanded Bubbles Academy, Lincoln Park's play-and-learning center for kids under 5.
Bubbles' Mountain Room, which opened Dec. 10, lives up to its name, with high wood beams and a brightly painted mural that made me forget the dreary weather.
Bubbles Academy is one of our 9 Best Indoor Play Places. See them all!
During Open Play in the downstairs Meadow Room, little ones climb on foam cushions, crawl through tunnels and stack blocks. Every so often, a faculty member fills the air with signature bubbles.
Gone are those irritating tunes that get stuck in your head for weeks; Bubbles plays kid-friendly music-think "Yellow Submarine"-that doesn't demand attention.
Bright colors and stimulating toys invite kids to play together, and signs request caregivers' cell phones be left outside, although some ignore the appeal.
For those seeking more structure, Bubbles also offers classes, from yoga to preschool practice.
We chose a family creative movement class, helping kids identify body parts, explore speeds of movement, follow the teacher and run under a parachute.
My nephew was too young to do everything, but the teacher encouraged him to explore. And when a bigger kid sat on him, he handled it with aplomb-and mom's help.
Bubbles has other age-specific classes that narrow down physical activities according to developmental abilities.
When it was time to go, my nephew cried, his version of an endorsement. He also fell asleep on the way home-success in the eyes of his exhausted mom.
Although Bubbles has reserved parking, a pass is required, which can be difficult if yoru'e flying solo with your little one. But once you pick up a pass, it lasts for several weeks, so the inconvenience is only temporary.
Elizabeth Diffin is the associate editor at Chicago Parent. She lives in Wheaton.
See more of Elizabeth's stories here.