Toddlin’ around Town with Your Toddler: Best Spring Spots in the City for Families with Toddlers

| May 18, 2011 | Comments (0)

I’m always on the lookout for museums/restaurants/theatres that are both big kid and toddler friendly. With a nine year age gap between my kids, it’s not always easy finding places that appeal to tweens and toddlers alike. At age 18 months, my toddlin’ gal needs space to run and play. She likes bright colors, peppy music, and fresh air. Thankfully, many of our best Chicago institutions have begun to offer exhibits, programming and more to capture the (short) attention span of the under-3 set. Here our my five places for springtime fun in the city with your toddler:

1. Butterflies at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. Trust me: your toddler will be elated to see (more than 75 species!) of butterflies flying around a sunny greenhouse – even more so when one actually lands on her outstretched hand. The Judy Istock Butterfly Haven, a permanent exhibit at this kid-friendly nature museum, is a 2,700 square-foot greenhouse filled with colorful flowers and fluttering butterflies. The Notebaert also has a great array of early childhood education programming – from a Nature Pals playgroup to a Spanish story hour.

2. Spring Flower Show and Toddler Play Area at the Garfield Park Conservatory. Nothing says spring more than blooming lilies and fragrant hyacinths: Just step in Spring flower showroom and I promise that you’ll feel transported straight to springtime (even if the weather outdoors doesn’t quite agree). The conservatory also has a toddler play area, where tots can “build” and climb kid-sized blocks in a contained area while your older kids take part in one of the weekend family make-and-take craft projects – all in the same lovely greenhoused garden. The conservatory has some amazing early childhood programming as well).

3. Play and Picnic at Holstein Park. Perfect for families with both big and little kids, Holstein Park is a Bucktown gem. As soon as the weather turns spring-like enough to spend some time outdoors, head over to this park to get rid of all that pent up by winter energy. Older siblings with love the dizzy-spell inducing mixing bowl and high-climbing jungle gym, while your toddler will love the easy to climb stairs, baby slides, and xylophone. You can push both your baby and your big kid on the many swings. The four-seater teeter-totter will seat the whole family. Two picnic tables are the perfect spot to indulge in a to-go lunch (Thai Eatery and Las Asadas are mere blocks away!). Easy street parking. Consider toting your tot’s tricycle for some safe riding around Senior’s Park, a small park directly across the street from Holstein Park.

4. Dora and Diego Catch that Robot Butterfly, the Polar Playzone and Jellyfish at the Shedd Aquarium: The 4-D theater at the Shedd is perfect for toddler cinephiles (read: tots that can manage to sit still and watch a kid-dazzling 8 minute show). My daughter loved seeing two of her fave characters, DO-Rah and Gay-GO (gotta love her pronunciation!) on the big screen. You’ll fly and bump through the jungle; be on the lookout for Swiper!. My daughter managed to keep the 3D glasses on at 18-months, but the younger tots in the audience seemed to be having a tough time. Afterwards, burn off some energy at the Polar Playzone: overlooking the cute Shedd penguins, this play area features a slide slipping down an iceberg climbing area that’s just right for toddlers, as well as a submarine for even the youngest explorers. Afterwards, we checked out the latest exhibit, Jellyfish. Our entire family, including the toddler among us, was struck by the bright, illuminated colors of these intricate creatures.
5. Dot & Ziggy, presented by the Chicago Children’s Theatre I want to second Melanie’s positive review of Dot & Ziggy, now playing at the Victory Garden Theater on Lincoln Ave.  I too was skeptical before the show, envisioning a madhouse of toddlers running around and screaming. Instead, the babies and toddlers at our showing were enthralled. They all seemed to be following the simple storyline, focused on the budding friendship between a skunk and a ladybug. My daughter (and many others) followed the commands to repeat certain words and enjoyed the simple visuals, props, and vocab. Floor seating alongside caregivers and colored carpet sections magically kept everyone in place. It was a lovely morning out for the two of us, and I can’t help but to think it’s important for kids to learn early how to be a good audience member and what fun it is to take in live theater!
Note: We were provided with tickets to see Catch that Robot Butterfly and Dot & Ziggy. That said, all opinions are my own!

Category: entertainment, New Posts

About Amy: Amy Bizzarri wears many hats: teacher, writer, and most importantly, a mother to two beautiful children, ages 1 and 8 years. She and her family live on the Near North Side of Chicago, and enjoy exploring our city together. Follow her on twitter at: amybizzarri Amy blogs at View author profile.

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