5 places that inspire the littlest of the littles

Every parent looks at their kid and just knows they’re seeing a future superstar. But in a town as chock-full of schools, centers and activities as Chicago, which ones are the best of the best?

Take a breather: we’ve done the heavy lifting. Here are our picks for your wee idol, whether they’re of the Hendrix, Belushi, Picasso, Retton or Baryshnikov variety.

My Gym

It’s never too early to stretch and bend like the pros! You and your future gold medalists will adore My Gym (with many locations in the ‘burbs as well as in town) and its Tiny Tykes, a gymnastics class geared toward budding balance, gentle agility and plenty of parent-led movement. Experienced teachers help the sessions grow alongside the kiddos, each at their own pace. (So no worries if they’re not sticking the landing just yet, it’s only a matter of time.)

Dovetail Dance Studio

At long last, a dance and fitness studio for children where you also happen to really, really want to take a class, anyhow. No need to be intimidated by the Albany Park studio’s slogan of “Train like a dancer,” since they offer classes for the tiniest twirler all the way up to his fully grown (and, ahem, two left-footed) mama. Teensy Weensy, a music and movement class, is perfection for your budding mover n’ shaker, while Baby Moves blends basic ballet, core muscle work and baby-wearing in a session our own mamas would’ve killed for.

Old Town School of Folk Music

Let’s face it, even the most sweetly hummed rendition of Rockabye Baby gets old really quickly. Up your 2 a.m. game with Old Town’s Lullabies class, guaranteed to soothe your little one, provide quality grooving time and yes, refresh your repertoire in the Lincoln Square locale you’ve loved since your pre-kid days. Older babes will dig Wiggleworms, a rollicking class for your rock n’ rollin’ crawlers. (Got the whole squirmy crew in tow? Good news! Sibling Wiggleworms exists, ensuring you no longer have to choose which favored kid—that we totally don’t have—gets the golden class time.)

Emerald City Theatre’s Little Theatre

Everyone and their cultured auntie knows that early exposure to the theater scene makes for a brilliant, empathetic and culturally aware kiddo. But where and when to start? Emerald City’s Little Theatre has you covered with easily the cutest—and most permissive—theatrical environment. Babies (up to preschoolers, even!) will thrill to the beautiful sets, gentle sound designs and up close n’ personal actors. Parents and caregivers will exhale deeply for the “no rules” concept in this great Lakeview spot, from the optional floor cushions to the vibe that takes “audience participation” to a whole new level.

The Art Institute of Chicago

It’s the best of both worlds: your child gets to absorb Degas and Monet to her tiny heart’s content, and you get to bask in the surety that your kid is strapped into a stroller for half an hour. Voted TripAdvisor’s best museum in the world, the Art Institute of Chicago offers monthly guided stroller tours of their most famous galleries. And honestly, isn’t that somewhere you’re dying to go hang out anyway? (“My son had way too much exposure to the Impressionists at a formative age,” said no parent ever.)

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