Best in Chi: Afterschool programs not to miss

You’ve just spent the entire summer shlepping your kids around to camps, the beach or the pool, and just when school is about to start, you realize something. The school day ends at 2 p.m., 3 p.m. or worse, it’s only a half day. Sure, in September the weather is still nice and you can bide your time in the park. But come November you’ll be freezing on the swings and wishing you were sitting inside a gym class.

What is a busy supermom to do? Enroll her child in an afterschool program. Because a half (or full) day of school sometimes just isn’t enough. If you’re lucky, your school might offer a myriad of options to keep the youngsters busy. But many of us struggle with what to do when the clock strikes “end of school day” time.

Wishcraft Workshop, 2132 W. Roscoe St., (773) 348-9474,

Wishcraft in the Roscoe Village neighborhood is your key to the craft kingdom. With her aptly named afterschool program, “Crafter-School,” Candice Cummins creates an environment for children to be themselves and focus less on the outcome and more about how to get there. Through her innovative programs such as “Ecosew” and “Fly Rocket Fly,” children are empowered and encouraged to be creative.

Kids Science Labs, 1500 N. Kingsbury St., (312) 846-1426,

Through afterschool science enrichment classes, kids learn how to problem-solve through messy experiments and critical thinking. In fact, founder Keith Norsym says they’ve “developed an entirely new model … we start every class with a question that kids ask and then use science with the guidance of outstanding teachers to explore the answers.”

Pied Piper, 2864 N. Lincoln Ave., (773) 472-8888,

Pied Piper cooking classes allow kids hands-on learning of math, team-building, fine motor skills and different cultures. It’s so simple and genius-what better way to learn to count than by cracking eggs? Pied Piper’s classes include ages 2-6 and 6-10, so siblings of any age can find something that suits them perfectly. And, as a bonus, all cooking classes include a light meal, so worry not about the little ones being hungry after school. The best part is that some of their programs start mid-day for those half-day school programs.

Menomonee Club, 1535 N. Dayton St., (312) 664-4631,

One of the gold standards for after-school programming, Menomonee Club in Lincoln Park is celebrating its 65th anniversary this year. It offers creative, sports, performing arts and day school classes for kids in kindergarten to sixth grade. Where else can one learn engineering fundamentals by building with LEGOs?

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