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:

 

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:

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:

Movie Time!

One of our favorite things to do as a family is see movies. And one of our favorite things to do during the summer is see movies outdoors! The movie series at Oakbrook Center began this week. You can see the entire schedule here. There are many places to see movies outdoors during the summer in Chicago and the suburbs. One of the reasons that I love this one is that you can easily pick up dinner at the food court and then find your spot on the grass (well, artificial grass) and eat your dinner and watch the movie.

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Our summer bucket list thus far: