With the state under Tier 3 Mitigations due to COVID-19, museums have closed again after being open most of the summer. Favorite Chicagoland attractions pivoted in the spring to help families and kids virtually encounter their favorite experiences. With the November round of closings, many have enhanced their virtual offerings and included their newest exhibits in the process.
Wondering how to keep your kids busy when you’re stuck at home? Kohl Children’s Museum has some great ideas on how you can experience their museum without leaving the house. From Bubbleology to Fabric Counts, the Home Zone includes plenty of kid’s activities with items you probably already have in the house. The site is growing each day and includes teacher resources that are also great for parents-turned-teachers.
You might not see your Chicago aquarium friends in person for a while, but you can still watch them on YouTube. Shedd Aquarium‘s Sea Curious is worth the watch if you’re looking for an educational video for kids as they answer questions like “Do animals play?” and “What do animals eat?” Other virtual options from Shedd include Virtual Animal Encounters, Underwater Beauty Live Cam, Stay Home with Shedd (great for grades 3-5), Keep Sharks Swimming, Shedd’s Audio Guides and Virtual Reality Penguin Expedition. Also, add to after-school learning with Virtual Aquarium Adventures for kids in grades K-5. Also, keep a close eye on Shedd’s social media accounts for videos from Wellington the rock hopper penguin.
Keep your pint-sized scientists entertained with great science project ideas listed on Adler Planetarium’s website. You can even make your own lava lamp! How cool is that? You can also subscribe to their emails to find new ways to explore space at home.
Your curiosity of science doesn’t stop when you leave MSI! The museum is providing hands-on science experiments for kids to try at home. Make your own tornado, create some cool slime and so much more. If your family is missing the traditional Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light, check out a video exploring the making of the exhibit and watch for more on the museum’s website about traditions in an unusual holiday season. A new Learning Resources hub has been created for teachers and students.
Receive STEM activity ideas from the Nature Museum through its daily e-newsletter. The “Past Wonder at Home” newsletter includes a specific theme (butterflies, frogs, etc.) filled with nature and science facts, activities and a behind-the-scenes look of the museum. Also check out a full docket of online resources for parents and students, including tickets to Curious by Nature: Live into early December. Keep an eye on the events page for other online, family-friendly events like nature card making.
Missing Máximo? You can chat with the dinosaur on the Field Museum’s website and ask him all the questions you want. Other virtual options from the museum include learning resources for pre-K through high school students and their educational YouTube channel, The Brain Scoop. Visit the events page frequently for info about virtual discovery adventures (learn about the wild animals that lived in Chicago!), meet a scientist or sign up for a SUE Science Saturday.
Explore more than 20,000 Greek American artifacts for free thanks to the National Hellenic Museum’s online catalog. You’ll find historic photos, newspapers, books and oral histories from Greek Americans.
If your holiday traditions include concerts with the CSO, check out CSOtv for free and premium concerts. Some of the CSO Sessions in December include “Home for the Holidays,” “A Chanticleer Christmas” and “Musicians from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.” Your kids will love “CSO for Kids,” produced in partnership with the Chicago Children’s Theatre.
The Chicago Children’s Theatre has upped its game during the pandemic, creating a virtual class schedule, drive-in live theater and its newest offering “Walkie Talkies.” These original audio files help families navigate the neighborhoods of Chicago by foot or by car. Also check the CCT website for online performances, special events and new works on the CCTv YouTube channel.
In addition to creating a living history of how Chicagoans adapted to the pandemic, the Chicago History Museum has created workshops for families with kids in grades 3-5 and for teenagers. Check it out to let kids learn about their city and neighborhoods while at home!
Bubbles Academy offers virtual classes for families of kids ages 0-5 daily from Monday to Saturday. Access will be provided for all families registered for the season and drop-ins for virtual classes will also be available. Classes include Family Music & Movement, Let’s Make Art, Toddler Circle Time, Songs & Stories and more.
Try a half-hour virtual yoga class with Buddha Belly Kids. The Monday-Friday schedule is created around both preschool online learners and after-school older students. Watch on your computer and your kids can learn and practice yoga (and maybe you’ll learn some moves, too).
You’ve got enough books to cover reading and can open up the floor for calming yoga time, but how do you curb your kid’s STEM needs? The Laboratory Collective has you covered. With Facebook Live lessons (that will also be saved on the Laboratory YouTube Channel), kids can learn about science, literature and many other ways to stay busy at home.
Enrolled families get first dibs on virtual classes through Stages, sign up for the email blast to learn how to sign up the rest of the week. If all of the classes are full, check out the Stages YouTube channel for more information and starter songs to sing along with your kiddos. Or pick an Evening With Elsa class for kids to enjoy reading and singing with the Snow Queen before bed.
Let your kids help with the holiday cooking thanks to the lessons they learned from The Kids Table. Classes are optimized for bakers ages 2-14.
At least you’ll be able to keep your kid’s dance moves flowing during this challenging times. Tiny Tunes returned to digital classes with the fall weather eliminating outdoor adventures. Drop-in or sign up for the semester.
Wiggleworms is a rite of passage in Chicago, and the Wiggleworms online classes have brought community together. Newborns to 4-year-olds can still wiggle, dance and clap to music designated for them. Check out the schedule and look for drop-in availability. Mini-sessions include Holiday Wiggleworms and Wiggle and Strum (for grown ups who can follow along on their own instruments).
Kids ages 3 months to 6 years will enjoy classes with Chicago’s own Mr. Dave. December offerings include classes for kids on Winter Break.
Royal Princess Parties is bringing four characters (plus a special appearance by Santa) to a Snowed-In For The Season mini session Dec. 12, 20 & 21. Families can see the princesses and super heroes tell stories and sing carols, and learn what each does on a snow day!
Using Facebook Live, kiddos and parents can sing along with Little Miss Ann. Watch for her virtual events around the area, including many free concerts hosted by libraries.
If your “Barnyard Babies and Tater Tots” are missing Miss Jamie, check out her YouTube channel for new and older videos and stories. Littler kids can sit, move, wiggle and sing and dance along to the stories. To dance and sing live, find weekly Facebook Live concerts sponsored by Mariano’s.
Chicago-area performer Nanny Nikki has a series of videos on her YouTube channel and is continuously updating the “You Sing, I Sing” series of musical playdates with other area musicians.
We love the community events hosted at this lovely children’s store in the South Loop and while families are stuck inside, you can still shop online. Check out Kido’s Instagram feed for storytimes and interviews with authors.
Now is the time to craft! Paper Source shared a daily “Craft Recess” on its Instagram Stories in the spring and you can find the series in its Highlights. Also, sign up for a Virtual class to start your holiday preparations.
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This story originally published March 18, 2020. It has been updated with the most recent information.