Your little monkeys probably hung, swung and climbed on every jungle gym Chicago’s parks have to offer this summer. As the cold creeps this way, don’t think you have to swap swing time for screen time. Ditch daydreaming about endless summer days and opt to meet friends at one of these nearby malls that offer inviting indoor play spaces that guarantee the need for an afternoon nap afterwards. (And who knows, maybe you can grab a warm coffee or squeeze in a little shopping too!)
photo: Northbrook Court Treehouse
Northbrook Court Treehouse
With a little imagination, this large treehouse themed play space can transport your crew to the great outdoors all while staying toasty warm. The rotating decor mimics the changing seasons and is centered under a large skylight to bring in the much missed natural light. Designed to encourage interactive social play, your young explorer can roam with other children while crawling through tunnels and pathways and peering through telescopes. With surrounding benches and a Starbucks stationed right across the way, a relaxing afternoon at the treehouse may need to be a regular adventure.
Treehouse play space is free
2171 Northbrook Court
Northbrook, IL 60062
photo: Yorktown Center Train courtesy of Lori Hopp
Yorktown Center PLAY Zone
This shopping center has long been known for its “Yorktown Express” train, which tykes can climb aboard and ride for just $1.00. The train recently moved to a new home inside FunFlatables, an inflatable party and place space on the upper level next to JC Penney. You’ll also find a new-ish innovative PLAY zone near Carson’s that gets rave reviews from children and parents alike. The colorful space was designed to meet the developmental needs of children ages 10 months through 10 years. While it has timeless favorites like a Lego table, older children can also find features like a small horizontal climbing wall and new techy gadgets such as touch screens for activities like taking pictures and coloring. And designed with mom and dad in mind are the family lounge restrooms (located on the upper level) complete with child-size toilets, TV programs, a microwave and nursing area.
Note: PLAY is a shoe-free, socks required zone.
Play space is free; $1/train rides; free train rides on Toot Tuesdays
203 Yorktown Center
Westfield Fox Valley
Every place you look there’s entertainment. The crawlers and new walkers can test their budding mobility on the giant bugs in a colorful play space where climbing is encouraged. Next, treat your little one to a ride on his favorite animal aboard the two story carousel in the lower level food court. On your way, don’t miss a stop at the fountain for an eye-pleasing water show. There is also a family lounge with private area for nursing equipped with toys or children’s shows for a break from the crowds. Totally new this year, Fox Valley offers sleek, comfortable Velochi strollers that come with a built-in tablets. They’re perfect for kids 18 months to 6 years and, along with the tablet, come with cupholders, comfy hammock seats, parcel tray and upright handlebars to hang packages.
Play space is free; small fee to ride the carousel
195 Fox Valley Center
photo: Stratford Mall
Watch your newly mobile tot practice his or her skills while zooming around the racetrack themed play space in this shopping center. Cushioned couches offer caretakers full view of their children at all times. Small tunnels and bridges to climb over will give the exploration and movement that any young toddler is seeking. On the first floor near Carson’s, you’ll find Jolly Express train for adults and children to ride all around the first floor of the mall.
Notable: This mall also features FunFlatables, an indoor inflatable playground equipped with slides and bounce houses.
Play space is free; $3/Jolly Express Train
152 Stratford Square
Woodfield Mall Looney Toons Play Park
If burning off energy is the goal, this low-to-the-ground obstacle course suited for both toddlers and young children is a destination of choice. With features like small slides, bridges and cars to crawl in, on, and over, your tot will zoom and zip from place to place leaving mom in the wind. Large 3-D characters of Looney Toons favorites like Tweety Bird, Road Runner, Marvin the Martian and good ole’ Bugs Bunny that are designed for climbing and playing will add to the excitement of this indoor playground. And to cap off the experience, treat your bunch to lunch at the ever popular Rainforest Cafe located within the mall itself for a winter play date worth remembering.
Note: Looney Toons Play Park is a shoe-free, socks required zone.
Play space is free
5 Woodfield Mall
Do you have a favorite mall play space to visit with your kids? Shout it out in the Comments below!
—Maria Chambers & Nicole Morris