It’s a poorly kept secret that Chicago is home to some of the best children’s museums in the world where learning through interactive play is at the core of every program, exhibit and activity. Because of the number of touchpoints and the hands-on nature of these museums, state guidelines have left many of them closed for in-person visits. However, they’ve really stepped up to the plate since March developing content and resources to address the evolving needs of Chicago families. One benefit of this new, temporary virtual model is each museum has become more accessible to a greater number of Chicagoans. Read through our list of favorites and find out about available resources and how to access.

 

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Chicago Children's Museum at Navy Pier

Chicago Children's Museum remains closed due to COVID-19 with no open date in sight, but they've created online resources to stay connected with and support Chicago families. While you await your chance to play again, visit their Recipes for Play at Home and Parenting Playbook pages. These online resources give at-home activities, video guides and well-curated content.

Follow their Instagram for fun at-home content and opening updates and consider making a donation to ensure in-person visits to Chicago Children's Museum can be a part of your future.

700 E. Grand Ave., Navy Pier, 312-527-1000; Online: chicagochildrensmuseum.org

 

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Kohl Children's Museum

While Kohl Children's Museum isn't fully open, there are a couple different ways you can visit. Their Kohl Kids Live offers small-group discovery sessions in Habitat Park. Your 90-minute session will include stops at 5 different stations covering Story Time, Art Adventures, Science Sleuths, Theatre Games and Fitness Games.

They also recently added V.I.P (Very Important Play) Sessions, which allows you to enjoy exclusive 2-hour access to the exhibits you love in a safe and clean environment.

If you'd prefer to keep your interactions virtual, visit their Teaching Resources page which was created to support parents, caregivers and teachers in bringing interactive lessons to the home. To support the museum and their delivery of future content, consider making a donation

2100 Patriot Blvd., Glenview, 847-832-6600; Online: kohlchildrensmuseum.org

 

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Chicago History Museum

The history museum might not pop in your head right away when considering which museum to bring your kids to, but it’s definitely worth a look-see. And, they're open to the public! You're encouraged to purchase your tickets in advance, as they are restricted by state guidelines to the number of visitors they can have in the building.

Kid-favorite Sensing Chicago remains closed due to its highly interactive nature. However, kids can get a glimpse into what Chicago looked like during Lincoln’s era, bring classroom studies into focus through a deeper look into Dr. King’s work within the Civil Rights movement, and learn from Muslim Chicagoans sharing their stories of faith, identity and personal journeys.

For stay-at-home learning opportunities, explore their online exhibits which cover everything from our famous Ferris wheel to our infamous fire and America in the Age of Lincoln that covers slavery and the Civil War to the legacy of Lincoln at 200.

If you're not comfortable paying a visit to the museum at this time, consider making a donation to support their incredible programming.

1601 N. Clark St., 312-642-4600; Online: chicagohistory.org

 

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Bronzeville Children’s Museum

The first and only African American children’s museum in America, Bronzeville Children’s Museum’s exhibits and galleries highlight African American culture. They remain closed at this time, but we thought they were worth mentioning because they will be a great first-visit once museums open more broadly. The tour-structure vs. open play of this museum will make it very easy to socially distance and attend with small group. During your visit, you'll learn about famous politicians, artists, musicians and athletes that lived in this neighborhood, take part in enriching S.T.E.M. activities, learn about prominent African American inventors and explore why healthy eating is important for families.

Consider making a donation to support their on-going African-American-focused programming and pay them a visit ASAP. 

301 S. Stony Island Ave., 773-721-9301; Online: bronzevillechildrensmuseum.com

 

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Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum knows it's tough for kids to be away from school, friends and their normal daily activities. So, they created an email series dedicated to nature and science facts, activities, guiding questions to throw at your kids and more. Subscribe to the newsletter and check out the links on their website and their YouTube channel for activities, follow them on Instagram to see staff taking care of the animals and follow them on Twitter to hear from their scientists in the field.

Consider making a donation to show your thanks for their work to create content.

2430 N. Cannon Dr., 773-755-5100; Online: naturemuseum.org

 

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The Children’s Museum in Oaklawn

Play-based activity is important for children’s development emotionally, physically and mentally and The Children’s Museum in Oaklawn has designed activities and exhibits that engage children in social activity. They remain closed because of COVID restrictions but follow them on Facebook for online learning opportunities. 

Instead of their annual Fall Fest, they are hosting a Fall Fun Virtual Walk, Run, Roll fundraiser, Oct. 3-10, that gives families the flexibility to participate whenever and wherever is most convenient. Any donations are also greatly appreciated!

5100 Museum Dr., Oaklawn, 708-423-6709; Online: cmoaklawn.org

 

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Wonder Works

Wonder Works is a great spot to visit for kids ages birth to eight-years-old. It's a shoe-free space with lots to climb, jump and run on and art, performance, design and building are the main objectives here. Kids are encouraged to be creative and let their personalities shine. While they remain closed, they often post content and updates on their Facebook page.

Please consider a donation to Wonder Works to support future programming goals or participating in their inaugural golf outing fundraiser on Sep. 30.

6445 W. North Ave., Oak Park, 708-383-4815; Online: wonder-works.org

 

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DuPage Children's Museum

The hands-on nature of this 20,000-square-feet of play space has kept the doors shuttered since COVID shutdowns, with no opening date in the works as of yet. While you can't shake your sillies out inside the museum, they are consistently scheduling creative and re-imagined outdoor events, Parent Playshops that educate adults on the science behind their kid's behaviors, and virtual learning opportunities including their popular Arts & Maker programming that offers after-school stimulation for kids ages 4-12. Follow them on Facebook and Instagram to get the latest information on events, activities and updates. 

Consider making a donation in appreciation of their ongoing programming. 

301 N. Washington St., Naperville, 630-637-8000; Online: dupagechildrens.org

 

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Exploritorium

This hidden-gem museum delights kids with hands-on exhibits about light, water, wind and more. While they are closed at this time, they periodically offer activities on theirFacebook and Instagram pages. 

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

 

KidsWork Children’s Museum

Local parents and educators founded KidsWork because they wanted a safe and fun place for kids to come to play and learn. What they’ve found, is that the community as a whole benefits. Kids can roam around the museum’s two floors, discovering science, art and movement exhibits. Highlights include the Pet Vet, Imagination Theater, Art Works, Tot Spot and Light Exhibit.

Good to Know: The Mojo Market is full of fun treasures.

11 S. White St., Frankfort, 815-469-1199; Online: kidsworkchildrensmuseum.org

— Maria Chambers

Featured photo: Dominika Roseclay via Pexels

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