5 Chicagoland places with free or low-cost childcare


Juggling errands while trying to keep your kids occupied can be tough, and, let’s face it, hiring a babysitter is not always affordable or convenient. The next time you’re in need of a break, check out one of these local spots that offer cheap or free childcare.


Cheetah Gym


When: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekends


Where: 5248 N. Clark St., Chicago


Getting a workout is a lot easier when you know your kids are being taken care of. The Andersonville gym features a kid’s club as part of most memberships, and your first child is completely free (additional children just $10). The facilities cover kids newborn to age 11 and include an infant care center, play equipment and tons of activities to keep your little ones entertained while you get your sweat on. If you’re a little hesitant to send your children to childcare (we’ve all been there), Cheetah offers video monitoring, so you can check in periodically while you workout. The gym asks that parents limit childcare to 2 hours per visit.




When: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday


Where: 750 E. Boughton Road, Bolingbrook


As if Ikea could get any better, some locations offer free, supervised childcare at Småland near the store’s entrance. Yep, you can shop for household essentials (and, er, non-essentials) without having to worry about your toddler getting lost in a maze of fake plants and throw pillows. The only requirement for childcare is that kids are potty trained and in between 37 and 54 inches tall. Kids can hang at Småland for up to an hour, giving you just enough time to decide whether or not building a desk from scratch is a good idea.


YMCA of Metro Chicago


When: Hours vary by location


Where: Various locations


If you’re a YMCA member, you automatically score free childcare at any of the 18 Y locations across the city. Workout, swim laps, hit up the sauna or simply sit and enjoy a hot coffee in the lobby while your kids are being safely watched. Most Y locations allow two hours of childcare in the morning and two in the afternoon. The Y also offers a low-cost parent’s night out at some locations, perfect for when you’re in need of a date night. Check with your local YMCA facility for more info on childcare hours and info.


Michaels Stores


When: 10 a.m. to noon, every Saturday


Where: Various locations


No place is quite as appealing to kids and their busy hands as a craft store full of paper, glue and glitter. Make shopping easier for yourself by dropping your littles off at Michaels Kid’s Club. Every Saturday morning, the store offers a half an hour crafting class for kids ages 3 and up. Each class has a different theme and activity, so you can bring them as often as you like. Parents must stay in the store while the kids craft, but sometimes a half hour to mindlessly peruse aisles is just enough of a mental break. Cost starts at just $2 and all supplies are included. Choose a session between 10 am and noon and book online ahead of time to secure your spot on their website.


Life Time Athletic


When: Hours vary by location


Where: Various locations


Kids ages 3 months to 11 years can receive up to two hours of supervision daily as part of some memberships. Dedicated play areas for each age group means babies, toddler and elementary kids will each have their own age-appropriate activities. While your kids enjoy their playtime, sneak in a little pampering at the gym’s on-site spa. LifeSpa offers hair, skin and nail treatments, and even massage (so basically, it’s every parent’s dream come true). If you still have time after your spa services, enjoy lunch at the gym’s health food cafe.


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