An Evening at the Children’s Museum

The girls love going to the Chicago Children’s Museum. There is a lot to do and it is designed perfectly for young children. I love going on Thursday evenings. Did you know that the Chicago Children’s Museum has free admission from 5:00pm-8:00pm every Thursday? Year round? It’s a great deal! But, be sure to get there as close to 5:00 as you can because this gets busy. Really busy. If you arrive too late, you might not be able to get in.

I recommend doing two things first before exploring the entire museum.

1) Get a ticket for the art studio. There are a set number of spaces open for a 5:30 and then a 6:30 studio time. During the studio time, an employee will lead you through different art projects. We’ve done sculptures, pillow characters, and water color painting during these sessions. The Art Studio space has moved from into a new space. It’s huge! In the new space, there are opportunities to do more than one activity. The last time we went, we did water color painting, and then the girls did a group activity, and explored with blocks. It’s a great experience. However, you have to have a ticket to get in. If you don’t get a ticket for the sessions, you can wait by the door when the session begins. Sometimes people don’t show and then there might be a wait list.

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2) Early on in the evening, check out the changing exhibit. Right now, this is a Boats exhibit. The exhibit in this space changes every few months and since it changes, it gets packed. The Boats exhibit gets especially busy because there are large, well, boats and they take up a lot of space in the room.  When it gets very busy, it feels a bit claustrophobic because there just isn’t a lot of space for everyone.

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After you’ve done those two activities, you can take your time to explore the rest of the museum. There is a lot to do! Since this is a museum for kids, please don’t feel that you have to do everything. There is a section devoted to fire safety and firefighters. It’s always a very popular section. There is a sign on a bench in this section that really applies to the museum experience as a whole.

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It’s ok if you don’t see the entire museum. If your child is perfectly happy in one section, they are learning as they play. Have a seat (or join in as they play) and enjoy watching as they learn through experience.

Keep in mind, there is no restaurant in the Children’s Museum. There are, however, spots for you to eat if you have brought your own snacks to enjoy. You can also check out any of the many restaurants on Navy Pier when get hungry. I recommend eating an early dinner before you arrive or having a few snacks during and then eating a late dinner (this is usually what we do).

Have you been to the Chicago Children’s Museum? What are your favorite activities to do at the museum?

 

Our list thus far:

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Pajama Days

You know those days when the kids wake up arguing…and then keep arguing through breakfast….and argue while playing…..

Well, we’ve had a couple days like that and they usually come right after we’ve had several non-stop busy days. The arguing usually stems from the fact that the kiddos are exhausted and simply don’t have the energy to get along with each other.

My solution? Pajama day!

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Pajama days for us usually consist of snacky meals, playing games, playing with toys in the living room, watching tv and/or movies, and not getting dressed for the day. We read books and lounge around and take naps. It’s a great way to sort of jump start the rest of the week.

And pajama days are always on our summer list, too. I think it’s actually more because the girls like to wear pajamas all day and not because it helps them to regain some energy for the rest of the week. 🙂

Our list thus far:

Dino Day

My girls love the Field Museum. It really is one of our favorite places to visit in Chicago. As soon as you enter the main lobby, there are things to see. Now, if you have visited the Field Museum in the past, you will notice that there have been some big changes.

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There are several new dinosaurs in the main lobby. It definitely looks different. But, it’s also fun because Máximo the Titanosaur’s head peeks up onto the second floor (he’s huge!!!!) so you can get some fun selfies with him.IMG_1587

My little dinosaurs loved seeing him!

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There is a lot to see at the Field, but honestly, we spend most of our day looking at the dinosaurs. The Evolving Planet exhibit has had a few changes including a new greeter at the entrance.

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And, when you are walking through the exhibit, you can get a peek at Sue in her new exhibit (still under construction.)

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If we aren’t looking at the dinosaurs, chances are really good you will find us at the Play Lab. If you have kids and are planning on going to the Play Lab, be sure to check the website beforehand because the Play Lab is not open everyday. The Play Lab is designed for younger kids and is full of hands-on activities for kids to explore.

 

Our list thus far:

Pool Day

During our recent camping trip, we had a day at a local pool (which was followed by a trip to a winery – obviously the best way to do a pool day.)

Although, I know that swim teams and those that swim for exercise really do need a pool to be set up in a certain way – designated lanes, proper length for distance, etc. However, I am loving the trend of having community pools be a spot that has an emphasis on having fun as a family! The pool that we went to had a zero entry area full of splashy areas and a small water slide. There were also bigger waterslides and a diving board in the deep areas of the pool.

There was something for everyone in the family, no matter what their level of swimming ability is.

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This sort of set up is really similar to the activities that you will find a water parks but without the huge price tag of a water park so it is much more accessible to more families.  Definitely a bonus!

Our list thus far:

The Art Institute and Young Children

I will be honest. When I was a kid, the Art Institute was definitely not my favorite museum. Oh, it was soooooooo boooooooring. It was just walking around and staring at a wall and waiting for my parents to finish reading signs.

Now, however, the Art Institute is one of my favorite places in all of Chicago. I’m old enough now (lol) to understand the importance of so many of the pieces in their collection. I could seriously sit and just look at a painting for a long time. At least until my girls started getting fidgety. But, in the years since I was a kiddo, the Art Institute has  done an amazing job at helping people (of all ages) to love art!

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One of the best areas in the museum is the Ryan Learning Center. Amazing. Perfect for kids. And there are things that for even the youngest art lover. On their shelves, you will find puzzles, blocks, and lots and lots of books.

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When the girls were really little, we would spend hours building with blocks and reading book after book after book.

There is always an art project for kids to do that relates directly to an artist’s work that you can find somewhere in the museum. The last time we went, our girls made “light screens” in the style of Frank Lloyd Wright.

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But one of the best activities that you will find in the Learning Center is the JourneyMaker! It is amazing! The kids pick a theme, answer a few questions, and then print out their own art scavenger hunt based on their answers to use as a guide in the museum.

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The booklet that is printed, tells you exactly what gallery to find the art in, as well. This helps to keep you from feeling overwhelmed. I try to combine both girls’ Journeys on a museum map so we can save time. This past time, most of their pieces to find were close to each other in the galleries.

Once you find a piece, there is an activity to do. Kids are asked to think of what questions they would ask the art, or try to pose like a statue, or imagine if their parent was wearing the same thing as the art. Lots of fun scenarios and it  helps them to engage with the art in a meaningful and age-appropriate way.

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Now, you certainly do not have to limit your museum visit by simply finding things in the JourneyMaker. I try to pick out a couple pieces that I want to see. Or a gallery or two that I would like to wander through.

Chances are really good, you’ll find me in the Impressionist galleries.

And a stop to see one of my faves:

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Plus, there are two galleries that I promise your kids will love! The miniatures and the armor!

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(If you are visiting during the holidays, the miniatures are fun to see decked out in holiday decor! Very fun.)

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The armor exhibit recently went through a huge update and is amazing!!!


It is tempting to try to see everything when visiting a museum. I’m going to be honest and say that if you tried to see everything at the Art Institute and you are traveling with young kids, you and your kids will most likely be miserable. Oh, I’ve been there. It’s not much fun. However, if you use the JourneyMaker as your guide and then pick a few other pieces that are must-sees for you, you and your kids will have a blast visiting one of Chicago’s best offerings!

Now, tell me…..have you been to the Art Institute? What are your must-sees?


This was one of one summer bucket list items!

Our list thus far:

Space Day

One of our girls’ favorite museums is the Adler Planetarium. (Especially since, big girl is going to be an astronaut when she grows up!)

We went this week during the free general admission for Illinois residents day. It was busy, of course, but we got there soon after opening so we were able to walk right in. (This is always a good idea if you are going during the free admission days. Show up soon after opening! As close to opening as you can!)

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The Planetarium isn’t huge and we’ve been there several times. However, I always notice something new each time I go.

For example:

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And:

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Our girls have been to all of the museums several times already but even they were able to find something new to see or do. Lily wrote a letter to Astronaut Jim Lovell.

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“I want to be an astronaut like you. Lily. 6 years. Love it!” I hope that that actually gets to him. 🙂

We’ve been working our way through the summer bucket list pretty quickly this week. Be on the lookout for more posts soon!

Our list thus far:

Bowling Day

Today, we marked one more item off of our summer to-do list. Bowling! Many times, bowling allies are just not the most family  friendly places. Long waits for lanes. Not very clean. Lots of junk food but nothing to make a real meal. Etc. But, that’s why we like to go to Pinstripes for bowling.

At Pinstripes, they have a full dining menu with a kids menu and plenty of items for the grownups too. Be aware, the prices for food are a bit high. In the past, we’ve just done drinks and a snack. (Today we did a full lunch.) The food is all a nice quality and there is a nice menu for drinks (wine, beer, and cocktails). The entire place is nice and clean and looks a lot like a restaurant…that just happens to have bowling. (They also have bocce if that’s something that you are interested in.)

Their kids club has bowling for kids during weekday mornings. $3 for kids to bowl. $3 shoe rental. And parents bowl for free! (Be sure to check your local Pinstripes for their promotion dates and times.)

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Our summer bucket list thus far: