Winter Fun for Everyone: Indoor places for the Family

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?!

Chicago:

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.

NY Kids Club- Chicago

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.

Bubbles Academy

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.

Purple 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.

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Lesson 1- He definitely warmed up 🙂

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.

LIl' Kickers soccer practice

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.

Kids playroom at the Adler Planetarium

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

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Chicago-land Suburbs:

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.

Adventure Playland

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.

Gather for kids in downtown Evanston

Gather in Evanston

Free:

Story Time at Barnes and Noble

Dawn- Marie’s Toddler Jam Sessions

Garfield Park Conservatory

Harold Washington Library

Swedish American Museum

Free Thursdays at the Nature Museum

French Story Time (Various locations)

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! ThB001AQDA50ere’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.

Building Tiles Set for Kids

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,

Christine

 

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5 things to take your Turkey Day to the next level

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

IMG_0156 (1)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

Ingredients: 

  • 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

Directions:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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!!
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Enjoy!

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.

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Skinny Pumpkin Bars

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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…..

Prep time: 25 mins
Cook time: 25 mins
Total time: 50 mins
Serves: 24
Ingredients
  • 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

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 Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Coat a cookie sheet with cooking spray; set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl whisk together flour, spices, baking soda, baking powder, and sea salt; set aside.
  4. In a large mixing bowl cream butter and sugars; mix until creamy.
  5. Add eggs one at a time; beating and scraping bowl with each addition.
  6. Add egg whites; mix until fluffy.
  7. Add applesauce and pumpkin; mix until all blended together
  8. Add dry ingredients all at once and mix until thick consistency.
  9. Add in mini chocolate chips.
  10. Evenly spread into prepared cookie sheet.
  11. Bake 23-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
  12. Cool and enjoy 🙂

Thanksgiving T-shirt- Turkey, Wine and Feeling Fine

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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

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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,

Christine

Getting Social with Social Wine

It’s no secret that I love wine. I always have. I love trying out different kinds. Red, white and even canned wine. There has been a trend in canned wines recently and some of them are just too sweet. But I did find one that I absolutely love! It is called Social Sparking Wine. It is sake that is certified organic, gluten and sulfite free, has 1 gram of sugar, and only 88 calories. In fact, they even will go as far as saying that are the “cleanest alcohol available today”. One of my favorite parts, they are a local, Chicago company!

I have taken them on walks with Noah, drank them on Sunday Funday and even to go while we went trick or treating on Halloween. With 4 flavors for every season, they are just so good. You can find them at Mariano’s, Whole Foods and Binnys.

But I have something even better for you guys. You can now get 15% off using the code socialchristine or here.

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Get social with me and let me know how you like it!

xoxo

Christine

 

Helmets and Head Shapes

IMG_0143 (1)Around a year ago, my son had to wear a helmet from ages 3-6 months. Right around his 3 month check up, we started to notice that Noah’s head shape was starting to take on more of a “flat head” appearance in the back. But it wasn’t until our pediatrician suggested we see a specialist that it really sunk in for me. It was just too difficult to even imagine having him wear a helmet, but even worse, to think about what could happen in the future when he was older. It was not an easy decision. We were seeking the perfect head shape, but it was starting to become very obvious to us that it wasn’t going away. Read more at Motherhood & Family