Now that my little monster has turned one year old (and what a year it was!), we have found ourselves in this age restrictive no man’s land that no one warned us about. There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot available in Rogers Park and South Evanston for one-year-old’s as far as structured activities go. The majority of the classes at Chicago Park Districts are for kids 18 months and older. And most of the non-public activity groups I’ve looked into don’t accept children under 24 months.
I am not inclined to shell out $90 plus for toddler gym classes that take longer to drive to than the class is itself, thus I constantly find myself saying to my son, “Six months from now, we’re gonna have so much fun!” And he gives me a look that says, “Yeah, but what about TODAY?”
So, little man and I were stuck in a pickle. Where do you take your kid, who has just begun to master the art of walking, to get out of the house for a few hours?
Leone Beach Park
1222 W. Touhy Ave., Chicago (Rogers Park)
This park is all about location if you have a little one who is easily mesmerized by beach scenery. It has a great playground lot with the usual fixtures, but when your little one grows tired of playing on the swings and slides (or if you’re getting tired, let’s be honest), the fringe benefit is the beach walk-front which is only a few yards away. Bring a beach towel and sand bucket, just in case your little one is content to just frolic in the sand. This park also has an easy-to-use and spacious parking lot right next to the playground for those of you who are driving in.
7340 N Rogers Ave., Chicago (Rogers Park)
This park has a lot to keep your one-year-old busy for hours on end. It’s comprised of two age-appropriate playgrounds (toddlers on one side, big kids on the other) separated by a narrow walking path. The toddler’s playground is pretty loaded; it has a fun bridge between two double slides and a little crawling tube to keep your kid scuttling back and forth for what will seem like an eternity. There’s also a run-through sprinkler for those kids whom are endlessly amused by water and those parents who don’t mind getting wet. The side designated for the big kids also has some fun amenities appropriate for an only marginally clumsy tot, lest they wander over to check out what the big kids are up to. Under your watchful eye, of course.
Judson Ave& Kedzie St., Evanston
This park is small, but when my son and I visited on a whim, we discovered a pleasant surprise that kept us occupied for a good while: toddler-sized toys and Power Wheels cars strewn everywhere just waiting for the next kid to play with or hop on. My kid gleefully waddled from one car to another and I “drove” him around for as long as my back could stand. This Tot Lot is perfect for little ones who are bursting with energy. Make sure to bring along a pack of surface cleaning wipes to hose down all those public toys, if you’re in the germ-a-phobe camp.