Best spots in Chicago to ring in spring with your toddler

I’m always on the lookout for museums/restaurants/theatres that are both big kid and toddler friendly. With a nine year age gap between my kids, it’s not always easy finding places that appeal to tweens and toddlers alike. At age 17 months, my toddlin’ gal needs space to run and play. She likes bright colors, peppy music, and fresh air. Thankfully, many of our best Chicago institutions have begun to offer exhibits, programming and more to capture the (short) attention span of the under-3 set. Here our my top three places for springtime fun in the city with your toddler:

Butterflies at the Notebaert Nature Museum

Trust me: your toddler will be elated to see (more than 75 species!) of butterflies flying around a sunny greenhouse – even more so when one actually lands on her outstretched hand. The Judy Istock Butterfly Haven, a permanent exhibit at this kid-friendly nature museum, is a 2,700 square-foot greenhouse filled with colorful flowers and fluttering butterflies. The Notebaert also has a great array of early childhood education programming – from a Nature Pals playgroup to a Spanish story hour.

Spring Flower Show and Toddler Play Area at the Garfield Park Conservatory

Nothing says spring more than blooming lilies and fragrant hyacinths: Just step in Spring flower showroom and I promise that you’ll feel transported straight to springtime (even if the weather outdoors doesn’t quite agree). The conservatory also has a toddler play area, where tots can “build” and climb kid-sized blocks in a contained area while your older kids take part in one of the weekend family make-and-take craft projects – all in the same lovely greenhoused garden. The conservatory has some amazing early childhood programming as well).

Play and Picnic at Holstein Park

Perfect for families with both big and little kids, Holstein Park is a Bucktown gem. As soon as the weather turns spring-like enough to spend some time outdoors, head over to this park to get rid of all that pent-up winter energy. Older siblings with love the dizzy-spell-inducing mixing bowl and high-climbing jungle gym, while your toddler will love the easy-to-climb stairs, baby slides, and xylophone. You can push both your baby and your big kid on the many swings. The four-seater teeter-totter will seat the whole family. Two picnic tables are the perfect spot to indulge in a to-go lunch (Thai Eatery and Las Asadas are mere blocks away). Easy street parking. Consider toting your tot’s tricycle for some safe riding around Senior’s Park, a small park directly across the street from Holstein Park.

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