The best investment I ever made for my family’s health was a membership to the Chicago Children’s Museum at Navy Pier. For the Family Membership plus an additional $80 fee we can park at Navy Pier for FREE anytime we visit and get a validation ticket from the Children’s Museum. There is a never ending supply of fantastic cultural, educational and of course fun events and activities going on at the CCM. From the Kraft Arts Abound studio that engages young minds through arts led by area artists and museum staff, to the Passport to the World cultural events that introduce little ones to other cultures from around the world – there is always something going on at CCM.
CCM has some of the best rotating and permanent exhibits as well. We have been awaiting the Ready, Pet, Go! for the last month and jumped the gun a few times this past month visiting and expecting to see it. Even though the area only opened this last week, our previous visits were tons of fun too! From the second my children pass the threshold at the Member Services desk it is a race to keep up with them. My four year old son and one year old daughter love to suit up into small sized fire fighting gear and race around the fire truck as their 12 year old brother slides down the fire pole, and crawls on hands and knees to evacuate a simulated house fire through a window.
Fun for the family can be had year round. During the freezing winter months that blast into Chicago, the CCM is a great get away from possible frostbite with their Winter Wonderland set up. Children can throw giant pom pom snowballs, construct igloos, dress up snowmen and even ice skate to kid friendly tunes. My daughter turned one in December 2012, and my youngest son turned four in the same week. They both had a blast at the Winter Wonderland exhibits. My daughter found one of four snowmen that was just her size and had a ball taking its hat on and off. The rambunctious and ruckus duo that is my four and twelve year olds built snow barriers and spent hours bunkered down plunking snow balls at each other.
When the snow melts in Chicagoland CCM puts away the snow days exhibits and replaces them with two bowling lanes, tables for large checkers and chess, and catapults. This month ends their Superhero days. Children could complete punch card tasks, make capes, create Super-Secret (and Super-Small) Superhero Lairs and even pledge their powers as a superhero in a very serious for little ones ceremony in the main hall. It isn’t too late to get your little superhero in to play. CCM’s hours open daily from 10am–5pm. Budgeting? Thursday evenings 5–8pm and First Sunday of every month Free admission all day for ages 15 and under. They’re open and ready to play every day except Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.Admission rates Children Under One FREE Children & Adults $14 Seniors $13.
TIP: Buy the Explorer Membership and gain admission for 6, Navy Pier $3 parking discount, 10% off at the CCM Gift Shop, Members-only hours, Invitations to members-only events and 50% off general admission for 6 people at almost 200 participating children’s museums through the ACM Reciprocal Program**
There is always something going on at CCM. Whether it is presentations, dance parties and crafts in the main hall upstairs, or art projects in the Kraft Arts Abound studio downstairs – kids and adults will learn, create and have fun. We visit the CCM every weekend, sometimes twice a weekend. We are there so much that the volunteers in the Pritzker Playspace know my kids by name, and have known two of them since they were inutero!
The Pritzker Playspace is a special environment for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers – be ready to remove shoes for the safety and cleanliness of the children’s play space. Also note that hours are limited for this space. Izzy loves this area and asks to go upstairs as soon as she is done in the fire truck. Her favorite part of the room is the plethora of baby dolls, the anatomically correct, real baby type. We dress and undress them in cloth diapers for hours, then stroll around in the little push car. The hands on table changes daily, sometimes hourly, depending on who is in charge of the room. Coffee hulls, shaving cream painting, play dough and other textured experiences await little hands.
TIP: Don’t wear Sunday’s best to the Pritzker Play Space. Wear something that can get messy and really allow your little one to explore the environment.
Do you have a little archaeologist in your midst? CCM has a dinosaur dig as a permanent exhibit. It is a re-creation of the real Saharan expedition where Chicago paleontologist Paul Sereno discovered a new type of dinosaur. See a life-size skeleton of suchomimus (sue-co-MY-muss), dig for bones in the excavation pit, compare skulls, teeth, and claws with a T-Rex, and learn what it would be like to be part of Paul’s expedition team. Children will have hours of fun digging through rubber shreds to find bones. Remember that kids learn through repetition so let go of the timetable, pull up one of the many lounger chairs and relax while your little explorer digs, digs and digs some more.
Kids Town has to be my four year old’s favorite exhibit. A trip to the museum is not complete unless he has had a chance to grab some PVC piping and run into the grocery store and try to rob the till. Yes, that’s my boy you hear screaming “FBI! Give me your money!” and jumping off of the car in the car wash exhibit. Your kid will enjoy shopping in the grocery store, build plumbing, changing a tire, washing the car, and driving a CTA bus in this cityscape built just for kids. This urban neighborhood promotes role-playing, problem-solving, emerging literacy, and creative exploration. There is also a space to nurse a baby or relax with a toddler but the area is only semi-private, a little loud and way too lit. Like other exhibits there is a specific toddler and baby area. Even my 12 year old has a good time running around and making transactions, delivering mail, and hiding out in the underground plumbing space.
TIP: Watch for older kids who like to jump into toddler areas even with signs that say Non-Walkers Only. Staff does not enforce this rule and some parents are absent at times.
Treehouse Trails is another great exhibit that even my 12 year old likes to visit. Kids can camp, climb, burrow, and pretend in this enchanted forest setting. Canoe and fish in the blue river, splash and fish in a mountain waterfall, garden and cook in the log cabin. There is also an infant area with large soft play pieces.
Remember to pack extra clothes during cooler months because Waterways is always a big splash with the kids. There is now a tiled wall for water painting but the water wheel and musical whale are no longer a part of this exhibit.
The Big Backyard has undergone some changes as well. There are still screens where butterflies can land on you and colorful raindrops will fall according to your shadow. The big shoe is still available to crawl through and the bug city race is still there. The back blacklight area right now is for more superhero exhibit parts and there are no longer the hanging bell flowers to ring.
The Tinker Lab has been upgraded. Gone is that lifeless backroom where most patrons avoided and it has been replaced by real tools and a real chance to create something – for all ages. There is a space for the youngest to create contraptions on a peg board and where the piano once was is another great infant space with old wheels for spinning, and doodads for playing.
Whether your child likes the challenge of the Climbing Schooner, racing the clock to build in the Skyline or playing the world’s largest scale of Eye Spy, there is definitely something for everyone at the Chicago Children’s Museum.
We are a family on a budget so I understand how difficult it can be to take large families out for the day. To help offset the cost of your next family’s outing I am sponsoring my own giveaway.
You can enter to win this Family Outing Pack:
Denny’s Gift Card $10
IHOP GiftCard $10
Coupon for Bob Evan’s Free Kids Meal
Navy Pier Coupon Book for discounts on activities, shopping and dining
KidsLiveWell Recipe Winner Recipes
Simply Click on the Rafflecopter Link and one lucky winner will be sent all of the items pictured above!
Congrats to Jennifer M!