Best Indoor Playspaces for Chicago Kids

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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 — with coffee! — for parents. Scroll to discover options to get those wiggles out.

Purple Monkey Playroom via Yelp

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.

2040 N. Western Ave., Bucktown; Online: purplemonkeyplayroom.com

Little Beans Cafe

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, classes and they're a great place to host a birthday party. The cafe serves food and drinks and they worked on their patio in 2021 to make it extra inviting for parents to relax.

430 Asbury Ave., Evanston; Online: littlebeanscafe.com

Bubbles Academy

Bubbles Academy

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. 

They also opened a location at 900 N. Michigan shops that hosts music, movement and art classes, preschool prep, weekly drop-in art experiences and curated retail from local mom-owned businesses. 

If you'd prefer to take in-home classes, their website has over 30 pre-recorded virtual classes. 

2184 & 2211 N. Elston, Bucktown & 900 N. Michigan Ave., Mag Mile; Online: bubblesacademy.com

Gather

Gather

Toys, blocks and games are a-okay, but this Evanston play space goes beyond all that. It uses a large portion of its space to encourage creativity through arts and crafts. Go ahead and get messy with play-dough, glue, paint and chalk without worrying about cleanup. There are creative opportunities other than art, including regular music classes.

COVID Update: As of press time, Gather is closed until further notice. Please keep tabs on their website for opening updates. 

602 Davis St., Evanston; Online: gathereverywhere.com

Bellaboo Play and Discovery Center via Tiana Kubik

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 craft 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.

2800 Colorado St., Lake Station, IN; mybellaboos.com

Exploritorium

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.

4701 Oakton St., Skokie; Online: skokieparks.org 

— Maria Chambers & Lisa Snart

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