Family Fun Festival – Lots of Family, Smaller Space for Fun

The Family Fun Festival has always been one of our favorite summertime activities. We go for songs, storytime, crafts and lots of gross motor activities. Well, this year we went and had songs, storytime, crafts…..and that’s pretty much it. There is a huge white tent that holds the Family Fun Festival in Millennium Park and that had been, in the past, the only main activity that it held during the summer. However, now the majority of the space has been given to Afterschool Matters programming. I am certainly not saying that the teenagers involved in this amazing program (seriously, look up all that Afterschool Matters programming does! It’s amazing!) should not have use of this space. It was awesome to see so many teens working on different projects in the tent. However, it was a little strange to see how little space the younger kids had when we’ve been going to this programming for years and there would be lots of gross motor activities – blocks, hula hoops, lots of space for dancing and playing. There would be enough there to keep kiddos occupied for several hours.

We still had fun!

We sang songs, listened to stories and made puppets with the Hyde Park Arts Center. (Be sure to look at the schedule online to see what organization will be leading the crafts each week.)

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Have you been to the Family Fun Festival this year? Did you go in past years?

 

Our summer list thus far:

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Zoo Day

One of our favorite activities, year round, is to go to the zoo. The girls love seeing all of the different animals. We are members at Brookfield Zoo and that helps zoo days to still be enjoyable days for us. We each pick one (or two) animals that we want to see and perhaps we will do one extra activity – carousel ride, butterflies, dolphin show, etc. Narrowing down the plan definitely helps to keep everyone happy because we will be able to see the things on the list without spending all day at the zoo.

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During the summer, the zoo also offers activities at night on Friday and Saturday evenings. This is definitely a fun thing to do and will be something that we do later in the summer. You can find out more about nights at the zoo by clicking here.

 

The list thus far:

 

Splash Pads and Fountains

Our girls love splash pads. Sometimes great splash pads are even better than a pool (sometimes). We love the splash pads at Maggie Daley Park in Millennium Park. Not only are the splash pads fun and in the middle of a playground that you can play on, but they in the middle of Millennium Park so you can take a quick walk over to Crown Fountain to extend the fun!

This trip was the first time that big girl did not want to go on the big playground at Maggie Daley. If you’ve been there, I’m talking about the big bridge section. While we were at the playground, you could overhear other parents having similar discussions…..although this playground is a lot of fun…..there are just too many entrances and exits in each area and it is just too easy to lose track of children. Big girl did not want to go to the bridge section (also my least favorite part) because she “couldn’t see us” last time we went. And it’s true. The playground is huge and there are just too many directions that kids can run off to. If you’ve been there, you probably know exactly what I’m talking about.

But, although one of the splash pads sections was closed, we had a lot of fun playing in the sections that were open and playing on the not-bridge sections of the playground. And then, a walk over to Crown Fountain for more fun!

 

Our list thus far:

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:

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: