An indoor playground is a perfect option when the weather doesn’t want to cooperate
Whether it’s snowing, raining, or even sunny outside, sometimes it’s just easier to play inside. Skip the layers, skip the snowsuits, skip the umbrellas, and even skip the sunscreen. It really is okay to enjoy a beautiful Chicago day indoors particularly if you need to get stuff done.
So where are you going to play today? When your living room loses its luster (your kiddos can only bounce off the walls for so long), check out a neighborhood play space. With indoor jungle gyms, pretend play areas, and tons of toys, the options in Chicago and the ‘burbs have something for every kind of kid. Plus, many have cafes, wifi, and even co-working space for parents.
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Bellaboo Play and Discovery Center
Why venture to Indiana for a play space? Because this one, which feels like a hybrid of a children’s museum and play space, is truly out of this world. Every aspect of Bellaboo is open-ended, play-based, and unstructured, which means your kids really engage their imaginations. With a circular layout, each themed area is actually an entire room. Have a blast in the blocks room, water room, arts and crafts room, train room, and more. A full menu in the cafe means you can make a day of it. Weather permitting, they offer an outdoor area as well.
Lake Station, IN
Bubbles Academy now offers several ways to enjoy its services. Bubbles North Branch is located across the street from Bubbles Academy and is dedicated to all caregiver and child drop-off classes and garage and tent classes. Bubbles Academy is home to the arts-integrated preschool for ages 2.5-5. This location includes an outdoor nature playground using materials that inspire play and connection with the natural world.
Their location at 900 N. Michigan shops hosts music, movement and art classes, preschool prep, weekly drop-in art experiences, and curated retail from local mom-owned businesses.
Most recently, they opened a location in Highland Park.
If you’d prefer to take in-home classes, their website has over 30 pre-recorded virtual classes.
Bucktown, Mag Mile, and Highland Park locations
Chicago Children’s Museum
In addition to the Dinosaur Exhibition, the Tinkering Lab, Treehouse Trails, Art Studio, and so many other great exhibits, play, and climbing areas, the Chicago Children’s Museum just unveiled its newest attraction, Moen Presents Water City. The main components of Water City include the City Center, where kids can experiment with water within a city model of Chicago, Musical Water, with water-activated musical buildings, the Early Learning Area which includes lower tables, and a working replica of Buckingham Fountain, Foggy Lake in which waves can be created, River and Dam for creating courses for a vessel to travel and control the water flow, a Water City Signage area, and Bridges, Ledges, and Loose Parts for Narrative Play.
This hidden gem delights kids with hands-on exhibits about light, water, wind, and more. Come wearing your thinking cap—or just romp around. Attractions include a giant “Lite Brite” peg board, musical instruments, and climbing tubes and tunnels that stretch two-and-a-half stories.
Lincoln Park Zoo
The Lincoln Park Zoo recently replaced the kids’ climbing area, located in the Pritzker Family Children’s Zoo, with the Houston Family Play Treehouse. The new, year-round, nature-based play space is wheelchair accessible, and special attention was given to making the play space inclusive for kids of all sizes, sight, and movement abilities. It is a much-welcomed update. Best of all, it remains free!
Little Beans Cafe
Little Beans Cafe was one of the first and remains one of the most popular play spaces. They offer both imaginative and active play, preschool, summer camps, special holiday events, gymnastics, and other classes and they’re a great place to host a birthday party. They cater to both kids 0-6 years old, and they have a ninja gym area for “Big Beans” (4-12 years old.) The cafe serves food and drinks and they worked on their patio in 2021 to make it extra inviting for parents to relax.
Present Place Chicago
Present Place Chicago offers several drop-in classes (reservations strongly recommended), including Skip & Scoot Little Fitness Adventures, Music Class with Ms. Sunshine, and the little book club. Open, caregiver-supervised play for ages 0-4 is offered during the week. With an incredible play set and selection of imaginative toys, adults can plan to socialize or even get some remote work done while the children are occupied in a safe space. Coffee and wifi are free!
Purple Monkey Playroom
Muraled walls fill this hub for parents with character and cheer. Best suited to kids ages 0-4, it’s intimately sized to allow kids free range to gain independence while you keep tabs. The focus is imaginative play with a hut-style house and a nice stock of dress-up clothes. Gross motor skills can be developed on the balance beam or small toddler slide. They have special Bubbles & Balloons playtimes too. Reservations required.
Work and Play
If you are looking for an indoor play space where you can also get some remote work done on a daily basis, check out these co-working spaces that may provide the key to work-life balance.
itsy bitsy Play & Cafe
itsy bitsy is coming soon to Lincoln Square and is currently available for tours. In addition to an incredibly creative play space for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers, itsy bitsy will house a cafe and a comfortable, functional, co-working space. They will even offer private office space for those moments when you need some extra privacy. As you work, top-notch, early childhood education providers, deemed “Playmakers” will care for your children.
Le Village is more than a co-working space. It is a community. A “village” if you will. The modern, open floor plan of the workspace supports camaraderie among the working parents, as does the cafe. They host events and support groups to further grow the family-like atmosphere. Le Village offers the flexibility to be with your children when you want to, and also the privacy and security of knowing your children are well cared for when you cannot be with them. Kids from 3 months to 4 years old are split into classes, with a custom curriculum, led by certified teachers.
Additional reporting by Maria Chambers