Got modern kids? New wing is a winner

Many parents think that their always curious and often boisterous kids don’t belong in an art museum. But Chicago-area families should absolutely take advantage of the cultural and educational opportunities at the Art Institute-even with kids in tow.


Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum

1300 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago

(312) 922-7827

Free admission: 2009 Charter One Discount Days Nov. 4, 11, 18, 25, Dec. 1, 8, 15 and 22, Tuesdays in January, February; January Discount Week Jan. 11-15, February Discount Week Feb. 8-12; March 2, 9, 16 and 23.

Art Institute of Chicago

111 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago

(312) 857-7161

Free admission: 5-8 p.m. Thursdays, as well as all day every day for the entire month of February. Always free to kids under 14.

Chicago Children’s Museum

700 E. Grand Ave. at Navy Pier Chicago

(312) 527-1000

Free admission: 5-8 p.m. Thursdays for Kraft Free Family night; first Sunday of every month for kids 15 and under for Target Free First Sundays.

Chicago History Museum

1601 N. Clark St., Chicago

(312) 642-4600

Free admission: Free every Monday, children 12 and under are free every day.

Field Museum

1400 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago

(312) 922-9410

Free admission: Nov. 9, 11, 12, 18, 19; Dec. 2, 3, 9, 10, 14; Jan. 11, 13, 14, 19, 20, 26, 27; Feb. 2, 3, 8, 10, 11, 16, 17, 23, 24; March 2, 3, 8.

John G. Shedd Aquarium

1200 Lake Shore Drive, Chicago

(312) 939-2438

Discount days (free general admission): Mondays and Tuesdays in November, January and February. January Discount Week Jan. 16-21.

Museum of Contemporary Art

220 E. Chicago Ave., Chicago

(312) 280-2660

Free admission: Tuesdays 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; 11 a.m.-3 p.m. family days free for families with kids 12 and under-Nov. 14, Dec. 12, Jan. 9, Feb. 13.

Museum of Science and Industry

5700 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago

(773) 684-1414

Free admission: Nov. 11, Jan. 4-29.

Notebaert Nature Museum

2430 N. Cannon Drive, Chicago

(773) 755-5100

In particular, the recently opened Modern Wing has thoughtful and diverse offerings for kids of all ages.

If you want to expose your child to the world of fine art, keep these tips in mind when planning your visit.

Before you go, check out the informative Plan a Family Visit online resource. Here, you can learn the location of stroller ramps, research places to grab lunch and find out where to meet for the guided Lions Trail Family Tours.

Begin your visit in the Modern Wing. This innovative space is home to the 20,000-square-foot Ryan Education Center, which is a major improvement over the previously cramped family space located on the lower level. This area is home to special exhibits, programming and hands-on learning. Perhaps the single best feature is that admission to the Ryan Education Center is totally free. If you do want to visit other areas of the museum, keep in mind that kids under 14 are always free.

Plan your visit to coincide with the family programming offered at the Art Institute. During these times, you can be sure you won’t be the only visitors dealing with potty breaks or reminders to use “inside voices.” Kids ages 3-5 can participate in the Mini-Masters program and explore art through stories, games and activities. Older kids can learn about how to use digital photography to create a collage during Teen Studio.

The Modern Wing also features special exhibits of particular interest to children. Beginning Nov. 21, visitors can experience Heart and Soul: Art from Coretta Scott King Award Books, 2006-2009. This exhibit focuses on the contributions of African-American illustrators and authors.

If you aren’t able to make a visit to the museum itself, take advantage of the Art Institute’s recently launched interactive site called “Curious Corner.” This excellent site gives kids ages 3-12 a chance to explore and connect with various art forms.

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