Chicagoans are lucky, what with the breadth of indoor playspaces and kiddie classes across our extraordinarily family-friendly town. It takes a lot to stand out from the padded and brightly colored crowd these days, but the Near North’s Bubbles Academy has managed to take an established favorite to new (and adorable) heights.
10-month-old Jasper loved the Open Play room at Bubbles Academy!
As a former nanny, Bubbles Academy will always be fondly held in my heart as the space where my now-tween pals attended their first music classes and free play sessions with gallons of swirling bubbles above their heads. And as my three small children can happily attest, this place is not only just as magical as I remembered it, it’s actually even better.
Recently, we were invited to experience Bubbles Academy’s new preschool classes and expanded musical offerings. Renovations have transformed the already massive space into a marvel of cozy nooks and sunlit classrooms upstairs, just perfect for intimate classes (or quiet places to cuddle up and read, or room to run, jump, stretch and dance). The new addition was so cheerfully inviting that my three- and five-year-olds weren’t the only ones jonesing to stay and play. (Is 34 technically too old for “preschool?”)
While my girls joined a super fun music class, my 10-month-old little guy enjoyed some quiet play time in the stellar Sibling Care room. And let me lay this out for you: when a clean, safe, and awesome place like Bubbles Academy offers a free playroom experience for any sibling (four months to seven years) of a registered kid, you jump on that. You jump right on it, and you high-five the kind and terrific staff member who’s gently and efficiently running that Sibling Care room.
And then you wonder what to do with yourself, seeing as your children are all happily occupied for the first time all day. For starters, you could take advantage of the free Wifi and complimentary coffee. You could enjoy the comfy lounges scattered throughout the facility with a book or a snack from nearby Whole Foods. Or you could do what I did, and squander the time alone by peeking in on your kids’ classes to see how ridiculously stoked they were with their mornings.
After the girls’ music class ended, they were off to see the wonderful Miss Natalie in Sibling Care while their baby brother experienced some unheard of time with me, his mama, in a Bubble Crawlers music class. Turns out, he likes being the alpha kid, especially when it means he has my full attention for the sweet 45 minute class full of musical instruments, soft structures to climb, and a bunch of excited babies just like himself.
No one wanted to leave either the Sibling Room or the Bubble Crawlers class, but they soon changed their tune when I informed them that it was now Open Play in the Meadow Room. Because if Bubbles Academy is Disney Word, then the Meadow Room is their Magic Kingdom. Thoughtfully set up stations, gentle areas in which to play, and impressive projections and music make this a truly great place to chill and while away an afternoon.
Let’s talk cleanliness for a second: not only was this place sparkling and shiny, but every time I turned a corner I saw teachers and staff sanitizing toys and instruments from each prior class. The bathrooms were wiped down throughout the day. And mouthed-on toys, once dropped, were promptly dealt with before anyone else’s gummy grin could get ahold of it. That’s beyond impressive for a space of this magnitude.
And considering that every last person we spoke with was extremely friendly – and considering that they offer free valet right at the front door – my kids will become familiar faces at the new and (astonishingly) improved Bubbles Academy.
I will, too. Because I wasn’t kidding about that preschool question.