Listen, we get it. Your kids love playing with water, but the thought of having soaked kids fills you with dread. But did you know that water play puts kids’ problem solving skills to work? Or that kids can learn about simple and complex machines while using gross motor skills?
The benefits far outweigh the dampness you may encounter, so go ahead and let the kids experiment with the wonders of H20. Make a splash at these museums that combine water play and learning. Just do yourself a favor and bring an extra set of dry clothes, because there’s no avoiding it—kids will get wet.
2100 Patriot Blvd., Glenview
At WaterWorks, little ones can build a boat and then watch it float away, balance balls on jets of water and even create music by shooting water at instruments. While the kiddos are busy splashing away, sneak a little water knowledge by reading the helpful explanations about the specific water activity. Heck, you may even learn a thing or two!
Cool tip: When warm weather hits, meander outdoors to Habitat Park to paint with water.
5700 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago
The Idea Factory draws kids 10 and under to a mecca featuring 3,000 gallons of water play action. Watch rainbow-colored balls flow down the winding river, then listen to screams of glee as they’re inserted into the air tube and whisked away. The best part? Kids won’t even know they’re learning about the water cycle process! The huge water contraption is a total sensory experience like no other with a swirling vortex, blasting water cannons and bikes used to pump water. It sounds more like a water park than a museum exhibit!
Cool tip: Have tiny tots? Babies can splash away at the little fountain found in the gated crawler section.
700 E. Grand Ave., Chicago
WaterWays is a wonderland full of flowing, pumping, squirting water all around. Looking for a dryer experience (and a chance to unwind)? Grab a brush and paint with water on the slate walls. Another water experience awaits at Treehouse Trails where kiddos can grab a net and go fishin’ in the creek.
Cool tip: Want in on the splash action? Adult-sized raincoats are available.
301 N. Washington, Naperville
By June 2017, the newly redesigned Awesome Water exhibit will bring a brand new learning experience to the re-imagined museum. The one-of-a-kind water table made using earth-friendly materials (the first in the nation!) will feature twice the shoreline, beautiful umbrella sculptures and a gigantic waterwheel where kids can move blades to generate energy. But until then, there is no shortage of water play fun, with bubble stations and temporary water tables allowing youngsters to lift, pour and experiment with water.
Cool tip: Ever wanted to immerse yourself in a gigantic bubble? Here’s your chance (it’s harder than it looks).
711 N. Main St., Rockford
It’s worth making the hour-and-a-half trek to this Rockford museum for not one, but two fun splash-making opportunities. Tot Spot’s “Make it Flow” water table allows the youngest visitors to squirt and play with bubbles. Then make your way to the outdoor science park to race boats down one of four lanes, or manipulate the flow of water through the locks and dams on the 40-foot Waterworks table.
Cool tip: Make most of this day trip with a visit to the adjacent Burpee Museum to meet Jane, a juvenile T. rex.