As tough as the cold weather can be for parents, those with little ones that aren’t in school yet go the most crazy when the temperatures drop. There’s only so much screen time you can both take before serious cabin fever kicks in. The next time you start feeling antsy, bundle yourselves up and head out to one of these local spots where toddlers can learn, play and explore.
If you’ve been wanting to check out Legoland, but felt hesitant about dealing with crowds of people, DUPLO Little Playtimes is a great option. Each Tuesday from 10 a.m. to noon, the Discovery Center devotes their second floor to kids under 5 and their parents. Even better? Each admission ticket also includes one free donut per person and a tall hot cocoa or tall coffee (aka parent fuel).
601 N. Martingale Road, Schaumburg
Kid City is a popular birthday party venue, but the indoor amusement center is also ideal on frigid days when your kids are going stir crazy. Children can get creative with costumes in the dress up boutique, use their imaginations in the supermarket and playhouse, or grab down time in the movie room and reading corner. Week day open play hours are 9:30 a.m.-6 p.m. during the winter (weekends depend on their party schedule) and there are convenient membership options available for families. Another bonus is that complimentary tea and coffee are available for parents.
1837 W. Grand Ave., Chicago
Free activities can be hard to find, so Garfield Park Conservatory is a gem for families on a budget, plus it’s open year-round. The conservatory’s weekly drop-in session, Morning Glories, features nature-based activities for kids 5 and under every Monday morning. If you can’t make the class, escape the cold for an hour or two and explore the indoor gardens with your little one.
300 N. Central Park Ave., Chicago
Many local libraries feature storytimes, both during the week and on weekends (score for working parents) including Naperville, Oak Park, Wilmette and Homewood. In the city, Pottery Barn Kids, Women & Children First Bookstore and Volumes Cafe offers free storytimes that often incorporate crafts and music.
If your toddler is literally bouncing off the walls, there’s no better spot to hit up than a trampoline park. Many parks offer special hours for the under 5 crowd or even separate jumping areas to help keep them safe. Get Air in Downer’s Grove has a “Kiddie Court” for littles under 46 inches to hop to their heart’s content, and Sky High Sports in Naperville serves up free coffee for parents during the week.
Mall play areas
Want to kill two birds with one stone? Mall play places are ideal for parents looking to indulge in a little retail therapy while also keeping kids entertained. When the little ones start to get restless, these spaces are great for getting the wiggles out.
Gurnee Mills: 1,000 square feet of play space, including a mini Michigan Ave. Bridge, Willis Tower and Navy Pier.
Westfield Old Orchard: Need some fresh air? Explore this garden-themed playground with a maze, slides, play structures and plenty of bench space for parents.
Northbrook Court: The treehouse at Northbrook is well-known (and well-loved), and there’s also another play area on the second floor of the mall that features museum-style exhibits.
A cafe with a playspace for little ones is a dream for parents eager to feed hungry tummies and get toddler energy out. There’s a town square play structure where kids under 6 can visit a fire station, school, grocery store and service station, plus a Lego area, trains, puzzles, books and more. Grab a sandwich, soup, snack or pastry when you both need are in need of a little fuel, and the old fashioned ice cream shop is a great reward after a morning of successful play.
1809 W. Webster, Chicago
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