With a toddler and a baby at home, we are always looking for new things to do around the city. I look for classes that not only keep my busy toddler, Noah, engaged, but also learning. He’s at that age where I need to constantly keep him moving! When Lincoln Park Zoo reached out for us try their LEAP class, I knew we had to check it out.Continue reading
As Noah is approaching 3 years old, I am trying to fill our days together with various activities. Especially as the weather gets cooler, finding things for us to do becomes limited. Toddlers have a lot of energy and I am trying to to keep up! He also is at the stage where he enjoys trying new things and learning about everything. “Mommy, what’s this?” is on repeat in our house! During the winter, I like him to be in a least one lesson a week and Lil’ Kickers is the perfect fit for a busy toddler. With 19 locations in just Illinois alone, there is a class and location perfect for all families.
As we are counting down the days until baby number 2 arrives and we picked up a few things we never had with our first born. Isn’t it crazy there are lots of new items that have come out in just a few short years? I couldn’t believe it. As much as we can, I think we are ready 🙂 So here is our list and now let the waiting game begin!
Super Bowl is one of my favorite events of the year, but you guessed right, not for the game. But for THE FOOD. Super Bowl food is the best. I took some classic Super Bowl recipes, fun hosting ideas and made them a little bit more kid-friendly. So whether you have a family or a party with kids, there is a little something for everyone to get you ready for the big game!
I love hosting. It’s one of my favorite things to do. But if there are a lot of people, especially with little ones, I need easy ideas for setup and clean up. I decided to minimize the dishes and use Solo Cup Products to make clean up easy and less complicated. They are completely disposable, recyclable and really durable. Once you are done with them, they can also be used for kids to write and color on them. It’s a win, win right?
Some fast and easy ideas are a snack bar, pigs in a blanket, tater tot skewers and individual 7 layer dip cups (because nothing says football more than dip).
SOLO has write on cups that are perfect to label the snacks. The kids can make their own snack bowls with lids. These bowls are easy for them to hold and whatever they don’t finish, the bowls serve as to-go cups. The small, clear cups are the perfect size for the individual 7 layer dip cups. Lastly, the paper plates are the adults for the skewers and other snacks. Don’t forget about the red and blue cups for the adult or kid beverages you serve. Plus, they add lots of color to your table.
The best part of a snack bar is that you can customize it to your guests preferences. Since this is more kid friendly, the options are kid friendly, but even adults would enjoy them (I know I do!)
Here are the snacks I used:
- kid puffs
- graham crackers
- ring pops (everyone’s a champion!
- M & M’s
- blue corn chips
Pigs in a Blanket
This is an appetizer that everyone likes. You can definitely make them with recipes like this or you can buy them frozen, whatever makes your life easier! But either way, they are a great for kids and adults.
7 Layer Dip
These are perfect for a few reasons. The cups are very sturdy, so they are able to hold a lot without feeling too heavy. They are great size for those small hands and you don’t have to worry about any double dipping 🙂
1. In a small bowl mix taco seasoning with refried beans.
2. Add about 2-2 1/2 tablespoons for each layer
- Layer 1: beans and taco seasoning
- Layer 2: sour cream
- Layer 3: guacamole
- Layer 4: pico de gallo
- Layer 5: cheese
- Layer 6: tomatoes
- Layer 7: green onions and olives
3. Garnish with one tortilla chip. Store in the refrigerator until serving and serve with chips. Makes around 6 individual dips.
Tater Tot Skewers
These are super easy to make and really fun to eat. You can eat them right off the skewer or add it to your SOLO plate. 15-20 minutes at 425 degrees, let them cool and add 4-5 tots to each skewer. You can add ketchup to the small SOLO cups for dipping.
So if you are inviting friends over to watch the Super Bowl or watching it with your family, enjoy the game, whoever is playing….most importantly, enjoy the food with a no fuss clean up.
Until next time,
This post was sponsored by SOLO cup however all opinions and experiences are my own!
Chicago winter months can be brutal, especially with little ones. The days can become even longer when you are stuck inside all day. I have rounded out a list of our favorite indoor spots. I have included classes, open playrooms and additional fun, indoor activities to keep everyone entertained (hopefully!) and sane during the cold months. I also got some help from fellow moms too and included their favs. Even included a special discount code, a promotion and several free options because who doesn’t like to save some extra cash right?!
Merry Music Makers– Music based classes from kids birth to 5 years old. Children can learn to sing in tune, keep a beat and participate in the music of our culture, provided their early environment supports such learning. Merry Music Makers offers research-based curriculum.
TIP: There are three locations throughout the city; Lakeview, Andersonville, and Edgewater
NYC Kids Club– Just recently opened, this gym has various classes, but several are gymnastic based. We have done one open play and a Gym Tots class and really enjoyed it. They have some great grand opening specials that includes Monthly – 50% off your first month + 1 year unlimited open play! Offer expires January 31.
TIP: There is a parking lot on the side on the building.
Bubbles Academy– We have been to several events and open plays here, Noah has always enjoyed it. They focus on an art integrated curriculum and have many classes like art, music and creative movement. The facility has lots of space and they are always having FREE events. Some upcoming parent workshops like potty training and building math skills are really informative for parents.
TIP: Sign up for their newsletter and get the latest events, workshops, and classes.
Purple Monkey Playroom– Located in Bucktown, this playroom is nice for children to explore in the large play space. They have free coffee, tea, and WiFi. I really like the mini kitchen area to heat up lunch and have some snacks. We have always done a day pass for $15 and usually stay for at least minimum of two hours. I think its a great place for play dates on a cold day.
TIP: They have lot parking available in the 90 mile Cuban Cafe gated parking lot at 2449 W. Armitage, directly under the El tracks. It’s about a 3 minute walk to the playroom.
Sod Room– Sod Room is an eco-friendly, indoor play space located in the South Loop of Chicago. They provide toys and materials from recycled cork flooring, low VOC paint, and reclaimed wood. It is uniquely designed to utilize as much natural light as possible. They also have workshops and classes. A day pass is $15 dollars.
TIP: They also feature a retail boutique which offers local, organic, fair trade, and recycled products and gifts for children and parents.
Goldfish Swim School- Through some research and word of mouth, we found Goldfish Swim School and we LOVE IT! It’s our favorite activity to do as a family. We each take a turn in the water with him during the 30 minute class (because of his age). We have the same teacher each lesson in a very small class and they work with you and the level your child is at. You can read more about our experience here. By lesson 3, Noah was enjoying it and learning to do the activities much more independently. After we showered, they have diapers, blow dryers, lotion and wipes to help get ready after the shower.
TIP: They have locations in Chicago and Chicago-land suburbs.
Lil’ Kickers Soccer– We started soccer lessons when Noah was 20 months (now turning 2 in two weeks) and LOVE it. The program is designed to help develop a child’s social, emotional, and cognitive skills while providing physical exercise and developing players who are good sports and good teammates, on and off the field. The coaches are very encouraging, always high-fiving, and players get stamps at the end of each lesson (my son’s favorite part!). It is a 50 minute lesson with an adult, but at the age of 3, a parent is no longer required.
TIP: They have locations in Chicago and Chicago-land suburbs.
Mini City on 21– Located in Norwood park, this is an open playroom that is a parent/guardian supervised indoor play, party and cafe. They have have classes and birthday party packages available. Day passes are $10 for children 1 – 10 years old and $7 for children 11 – 12 years old. 0-11 months are FREE.
TIP: You can get a MINI “PASSPORT” (only for children 1 -10 years old) with a 5-day pass, $40, 10-day pass, $80 or 15-day pass, $120.
Tinkergarten– All classes take place outside at a local park. Outdoor classes where children can play with other children alongside adults to learn through well-designed, outdoor play-based activities. They help kids develop a host of important capabilities, including empathy, collaboration, creativity, persistence and problem solving. Classes range from 18 months to 8 years old.
TIP: Free trials in March for the spring season
Zumbini– Created by Zumba and BabyFirst for kids ages birth to 4 years old, the Zumbini program combines music, dance and educational tools for 45 minutes of parent and child bonding! Also taught by a local fellow mom! Check out their schedule for classes all over the city.
TIP: Use the code Mamatribe15 for 15% off (only valid at the Irish American Heritage Center).
Young Explorers at the Adler Planetarium– Children between the ages of 2 and 6 years old can check out Young Explorers’ Mondays from 9:30 am – 1:00 pm, where children and their families can try hands-on activities like Fly a Kite, Stories Under the Stars, and more. Or add a sky show to your day when you purchase a Basic Pass that includes One World, One Sky: Big Bird’s Adventure.
TIP: Free with admission.
Kidsyard– Located off Irving Park Road, it is a 2,400 square feet play center for children aged 0-12 years. They have soft play structures, giant blocks and a climbing wall. All activities are created and appointed based on the age of the children and other safety requirements. For the babies or children under 4, there is a specific area to enjoy, with activities that engage their senses, body and mind. They have their own ball pond, mini slide, soft play blocks to crawl on and play equipment.
TIP: They do NOT allow outside food, but have a cafe.
Learning Loop Academy-Learning Loop Academy is dedicated to providing a safe and caring learning, playing and growing space where parents and caregivers can spend time together with their infants and toddlers. It is an interactive area to gather and explore many aspects of movement, music, art language and literature with the opportunity to meet and connect with other families. Check website for pricing.
TIP: Free parking and Wifi
Kohls Children’s Museum– Kohl Children’s Museum in Glenview, offers 17 interactive, hands-on exhibits for children ages birth to 8. All of our exhibits and programs are aligned to the Illinois State Learning Standards and are designed to nurture a love of learning in young children. Adults and children are $12 dollars.
TIP: Children under 1 years old are free.
Adventure Playland– Located in Mt. Prospect, it is an indoor playground for the kids while serving food, coffee and free WiFi for parents. Open to children 6 months to 7 years old. Children under 1 are free with paid sibling. Monday-Thursday is $10.00, Friday & Sunday is $12.00. An after school special on Monday-Thursday after 3:00PM, is $7.00 per child
TIP: They have punch cards available.
Fun Republic Play– Fun Republic in St. Charles, was founded by three local moms whose main goal was to create a play center to help children not only develop basic motor skills and social skills, but also develop self-confidence while having fun. Fun Republic strives to offer a safe, creative and exciting play setting for children of all ages.
TIP: Kids under 1 years old are FREE.
Wonder Works Wonder Works is 6,400 square feet of fun, a place of creative play for kids birth to age eight. Located in Oak Park, the children’s museum helps kids, their parents and caregivers unleash their imaginations. Wonder Works Children’s Museum provides a hands-on environment for children from birth to age 8 years old. The museum includes six permanent experience zones and hosts parties, field trips, concerts and other fun, educational events. Plus, an outdoor organic garden. Regular Admission is $7 per person, child or adult
TIP: Wonder Works also offers reduced admission for groups of 10 or more children when scheduled in advance through our field trip program.
Peekaboo Playroom– A playroom located in Oak Park, children from 0-6 years old can enjoy the variety of toys, play hide-and-seek in between the little house, read books in the book corner, play basketball, climb and slide in the clubhouse, and much much more. One day unlimited play is per child $12, sibling #2 and Sibling #3 FREE.
TIP: 1 hour pass for $6 dollars
Meet at Gather– Located in downtown Evanston, this playroom offers a place to Gather for art and music classes, workshops and events, open to all ages and abilities. They are open for drop-in art and play Monday-Saturday.
TIP: They have won for Best Playroom in 2017.
When all else fails:
Have the fun delivered to your door! These are kits that are toys with a purpose. Ranging from science to arts and crafts. Here are some kits that you can customize based on your child’s preferences.
HOOT for Kids- For newborn to 6 years old, these treasure boxes are customized based upon your child’s age and developmental stage. They are toys with a purpose.
Bramble Box– Bramble Box award winning Play and Craft Kits are hand-curated activity boxes for kids age 3-7. Mom created and kid tested for hours of fun (& learning) with items to inspire imaginative play and all the materials for at least 2-3 hands-on activities and crafts.
Curiosity Pack– Curiosity Packs inspire a love of learning through age-appropriate activities. Children will learn about letters, numbers, friendship, science, art, love, and every other intriguing subject you can imagine.
My Giant Box– My Giant Busy Box will keep ’em busy! There’s 16 projects, mold dough animals, collage a farm and sticker art. Decorate paper bag puppets and tissue art pictures, then frame them. Includes plastic frames, animal punch outs, bright dough colors, peel and stick tissue art pictures, tons of tissue paper, glue, and easy to follow instructions.
Magnetic building blocks are hands on learning tool. They can be combined in so many different ways! It includes a set of 102 pieces, including magnetic alphabet blocks & numbers.
With a few more winter months left, I hope some of these ideas help out your little ones (and you!)
Until next time,
Sometimes the best gifts I have ever gotten are the experiences you have together. Personally, I would rather have a gift that creates memories as family over anything else. That is priceless. So this holiday season, whether you are a friend, grandparent, or mom, I have rounded out a list of experiences families can have together throughout the holidays and into the new year. Give the gift of experience to the Chicago Family on your list.
The Berghoff– If you have never been to The Berghoff, it is a family owned restaurant with old German favorites like the bavarian pretzel, bratwurst and much more. They are a family operated restaurant, so why not bring in the ones on your list for the holidays and enjoy the iconic restaurant! They have several festive activities throughout the season and have beautiful holiday decor throughout the restaurant. If you would like to read more about some of their menu upgrades and my latest experience, you can find it here. They have gift cards available for purchase to give those families on your list an experience to dine and enjoy any of the activities below.
Die Weihnachtsgurke (The Christmas Pickle Ornament)– The Berghoff managers choose a post on their famed Christmas tree to hide a pickle. Children under 12 years of age will be invited to find the pickle. If a child finds it, they’ll receive a complimentary root beer. The special will run all day from now until December 23rd in the Main Dining Room. Valid with purchase only.
Spot the Brat (for the adults)– Similar to the pickle challenge, The Berghoff managers will hide their stuffed toy Brat dressed in Christmas clothing somewhere around the bar. Adults will be invited to find it and the winner receives one complimentary mini brat. Valid Monday-Thursday from now until December 23rd in the bar. Valid with purchase only.
Santa– Santa Claus will be visiting The Berghoff from 1pm-5pm every Saturday until Christmas.
Goldfish Swim School– We have been taking swim lessons at Goldfish for almost a month now and we LOVE it! We look forward to it every weekend. If you would like to read more about our experience, you can find it here.
Many families and kids want to take classes, but either can’t commit to the time, can’t afford it or are wary of trying something new. Giving the gift of a children’s class is a really unique way for family members to gift an experience and skill set that a family might not otherwise try! Goldfish Swim School this season is offering a great value holiday package this season. With 12 locations across the Chicagoland area, Goldfish features year-round swim lessons for children ages four months to age 12 with the benefit of state-of-the-art facilities and a confidence-building curriculum that promotes a love of swimming and water safety. This year, the holiday package includes:
- 2 months of swim lessons
- the annual registration fee
- a gift basket of Goldfish retail items
for $189 (regular price $220). Such a great value that will keep giving in the new year!
Pearachute Kids– There are some hot new kid memberships that will make for a great gift for you and your family to experience. Just think of a gift card or membership that keeps on giving!!
With Pearachute, kids can enjoy choices of different classes around Chicagoland that give parents flexibility and options to try new activities! It’s a monthly membership that lets you drop into the best kids’ classes near you. Memberships start at $39 a month and with Pearachute you can buy your kids, nieces or nephews, or grandkids a gift card to put towards a monthly pass. This holiday season, Pearachute is offering a FREE $25 Pearachute gift card with every gift card purchase of $100 or more. There will be a ton of Pearachute-only holiday experiences on the site this season like Polar Express tickets, visits with Santa, Christmas plays and shows, seasonal live theater and Santa breakfasts! You can find more information here.
Blo, Blow Dry Bar– Treat yourself and your little lady this holiday to a fun hair and makeup experience at the newest dry bar to hit the Chicago scene. I have had a blow out here a few times and it’s one of the best I have had in the city.
Blo, Blow Dry Bar, with its first Chicagoland location in the Southport Corridor, offers hair and makeup (blow and style, no cuts or color) and full makeup application with Glo Minerals products. Blow outs start at $35 on Mon-Wed and $45 after that. You can also book by appointment Blo for your holiday party, kids’ party and more! You can check out the holiday hair menu here. Gift cards are available for purchase.
Chicago Trolley & Double Decker- Holiday Lights Tour- Experience the magic of the holidays with Chicago’s most spectacular light displays at the city’s most popular destinations.
Enjoy this season with your family and friends because that’s what it’s truly about.
Until next time…
With Thanksgiving quickly approaching, there are a lot of things we need to do. Whether it is cooking, creating the right place setting or finding the perfect hostess gift, Thanksgiving can be overwhelming. I have rounded out some great recipes and fun gift ideas to make your Turkey Day a little more enjoyable with your family and friends.
Beet Bruschetta with Lavender- Vanilla Honey Drizzle
I don’t know what says more than Thanksgiving than beets. It’s like a must right? So why not take those beets and turn them into something fun that everyone would like?! This recipe is from the Ryanne, the blogger at Pineappple Expression. Her stuff is always amazing and under 40 minutes, it is sure to be a serious crowd pleaser.
Prep and Assembly time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes Prep
Total Time: 40 minutes
- 1 French baguette loaf of bread
- 1 (5.02 oz) small package of Boursin Cheese (garlic and herbs flavor is best)
- 1 medium sized red beet
- 1 package of fresh thyme
- 1 tablespoon of fresh lavender
- 1/2 of a vanilla bean
- 2 tablespoons of honey
- 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar
- kosher salt
- First, preheat the oven to 375F. Peel and slice the beet into 1/4 slices. Place the slices on a roasting pan and toss with a light drizzle of olive oil, salt, pepper and a few sprigs of thyme. Roast the beets for 30 minutes, but flip after 15 for a more even cook. When the beets are done, pull from the oven and let them cool.
- While the beets cool, slice the bread as you would for bruschetta. Coat lightly with olive oil and place in the oven under the broiler for a maximum of 5 minutes. The slices should still be soft, but have a nice golden color to the tops.
- In a small bowl, combine the honey, lavender and vanilla bean (scrape the insides out to produce the black flecks) along with the apple cider vinegar. I love this combo!!
- After the beets have cooled, chop into cubes as evenly as you can. 1/4 inch on each side. First cut into strips, then rotate the knife as you move through.
- To assemble the toasts, use a butter knife to spread a layer of Boursin cheese onto each slice of bread. Next, crumble on a small mountain of the roasted beets. Using a spoon, drizzle a little bit of the honey mixture over the tops of each toast. Sprinkle with some coarse kosher salt or flaky sea salt on top. For more pizzazz, use the sprigs of thyme to garnish the plate.
Thanksgiving Wine Bottle Labels
Whether you are bringing wine or serving it, these Thanksgiving themed labels would get a good laugh from all your guests at the table. A set of 4 is $8.89 and available on Prime. Perfect for all wine lovers. Find them here.
Skinny Pumpkin Bars
Whether a pre-dinner snack or a dessert, these pumpkin bars are delicious. They are not overly pumpkin and the chocolate chips are a great addition. My son devoured three in one day (he’s 20 months) and I am not going to even tell you how many I ate…..
- 3 1/3 cups flour
- 2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon cloves
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/3 cup butter, softened (I tried margarine. It doesn’t taste the same)
- 2 eggs and 4 egg whites
- 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
- 1 (15oz) can All Natural mashed pumpkin (I like Trader Joes and Aldi)
- ¾ cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
- Coat a cookie sheet with cooking spray; set aside.
- In a medium bowl whisk together flour, spices, baking soda, baking powder, and sea salt; set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl cream butter and sugars; mix until creamy.
- Add eggs one at a time; beating and scraping bowl with each addition.
- Add egg whites; mix until fluffy.
- Add applesauce and pumpkin; mix until all blended together
- Add dry ingredients all at once and mix until thick consistency.
- Add in mini chocolate chips.
- Evenly spread into prepared cookie sheet.
- Bake 23-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
- Cool and enjoy 🙂
Thanksgiving T-shirt- Turkey, Wine and Feeling Fine
Ok, I know this technically doesn’t go on the table, but how cute is this t-shirt? And pretty accurate right? Thanksgiving is about turkey, wine and RELAXING. It is available for men and women.
It is $17.99 and available on Prime. You can find it here.
Thanksgiving Party Boxes
I really like these party boxes for either your adult guests or a nice addition to your kids table. It can be filled with candy from a candy bar, leftovers or desserts to go, it is a cute way for your guests to leave with something special from the day. For a set of 12, it is $11.04 and available on Prime. You can find them here.
However you are celebrating, I hope you have a blessed day with friends and family, because in the end, that’s all that matters.
Until next time,
We are always on the hunt for fun activities to do as a family. Things that are different and unique, but still kid friendly. We recently went as a family to the spy-themed restaurant, Safehouse on 60 E. Ontario in River North and had such an adventure! This was probably the most unique dining experiences we have had in Chicago. I am usually not one for themed restaurants, but they go all out and stay in “character” the entire time. There is so much for everyone to do, you could spend hours just exploring. But not only is it entertaining for the entire family, the food is INCREDIBLE. Read more at Motherhood & Family
Summer is slowly coming to an end, but the children summer events in Chicago are still in full swing. I have rounded out a list of some of our favorite kids events in the city for $10 dollars or less.
- Sing Along at Lincoln Park Zoo– Children can sing, dance, and clap along with Mr. Singer every Wednesday and Friday at 9:15 and 10 a.m. in the Main Barn of Lincoln Park Zoo’s Farm-in-the-Zoo. Mr. Singer will play original songs and classic sing alongs. There is always a wide range of ages, children bring their own instruments and can request songs as well. The best part is after the concert, you can visit the petting zoo, feed the cows and goats and then have a picnic at Green City Market (Wednesdays only). All FREE!
2. Monica & Andy- Miss Alexis from Bubbles Academy performs every Tuesday from 10:30- 11a.m., at the Monica and Andy store at 2038 N. Halsted. If you haven’t seen a Miss Alexis concert, we love her! She has sing alongs with small musical instruments. props and is overall very engaging! She will explain how each song helps learning in different stages of development and even incorporates sign language into her performance.
Noah is 18 months and he is one of the oldest that attends, so I think this might be more for babies and crawlers. Although, he loves it and we will continue to go. $10 dollars.
3. Whole Foods- Lincoln Park At the Lincoln Park Whole Foods Market on 1550 North Kingsbury Street, there is FREE Bubbles Academy children’s concert every Wednesday and Thursday morning from 10:00 to 10:30 a.m with Miss Alexis. I always like this Whole Foods because it is large and has lots of parking available.
At the Whole Foods in Lakeview on 3201 N. Ashland Avenue, Sarah Jane performs every Thursday from 10-10:30am on the Porch. It does very crowded, so I recommend going early. TIP: They sometimes give out yummy snacks for the kids too.
4. The StoryBook Mom- The StoryBook mom is an interactive read aloud is for all ages. This is great way to introduce young children to theatre, storybooks, music and engage their senses in an immediate and interactive way. She performs at various locations across the city. Monday’s at Shop Little Threads in Roscoe Village on 2033 W. Roscoe at 10:30am. She is also at Monica & Andy and Purple Monkey Playroom on Wednesdays. All the weekly performances are FREE.
5. Park at Wrigley –
The Old Town School of Folk Music, Wiggleworms, performs every Tuesday at 10-10:45am, except on game days. It is an interactive performance with music, movement and dancing. They will even have shakers, bubbles, singing, dancing and more. It is geared toward children 6 and younger along with their caregivers.
There are so many more events across the city like FREE classes at Home Depot, or FREE bowling Kids Bowl .Jump on the Water Taxi for $6-9 dollars (depending on the distance) or all the FREE family and child friendly events at Maggie Daley Park.
Let me know what you think!