Guess what, Chicago? Summer break is here! You know what that means, right? It means the kids think you’ve suddenly turned camp counselor and have nonstop, hair-raising fun planned from the minute they wake all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed ’til you tuck them in with a kiss and a yawn. Lucky for you (or the nanny), we did a bit of research and found ways to keep them moving, learning, laughing and happy every weekday this summer.  Read on and start loading up your Palm Pilot (you still have one of those, right?) with to-dos.

Activites that happen on the daily

Interact with the only animals that wear tuxes . . . Penguins! Get a personal introduction to some of the African penguins living at Pritzker Penguin Cove, and find out what their daily lives are like both at the zoo and on the southern African coast. Lincoln Park Zoo, 2001 N. Clark St., Lincoln Park; Mon.-Fri., 10 a.m.-3 p.m.

Dig around in the dirt. Wander the gardens and natural areas and then get your hands dirty with engaging, hands-on activities. Kids will learn how plants grow and what animals you might find in the garden and then do anything from pollinate flowers to building bird nests. Chicago Botanic Garden, 1000 Lake Cook Rd., Glencoe; Daily, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

Non-stop daily activities in the zoo. Animal lovers can educate themselves on zoo residents and what goes into their care. From seal training to ape care, you'll find it all! Lincoln Park Zoo, 2001 N. Clark St., Lincoln Park; Daily, 10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.

Dabble in the artsArt has never been so much fun! Children and adults explore their creative sides in this fully engaging, open-ended art experience. Wonder Works, 6445 W. North Ave., Oak Park; Mon. & Wed.-Fri., 10:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

Make garden origami in the gardenPractice folding paper into your favorite garden shapes in one of the most beautiful garden areas in Chicago’s ‘burbs designed just for kids. So hard to choose . . . will you make a flower, a fox or perhaps an uber fancy fan to keep you cool? Morton Arboretum, 4100 IL Rte. 53, Lisle; Mon.-Fri., 11 a.m.-4 p.m.

Soak in the the beauty of a butterfly releaseWho doesn’t love butterflies?  Experience their intrigue as new butterflies are released daily in the Butterfly Haven exhibit. Peggy Notebaert Museum, 2430 N. Cannon Dr., Lincoln Park; Mon.-Fri., 2 p.m.-2:15 p.m.

Dinner and a cruise to rememberIs there anything better than a Chicago summer? Yes . . . a Chicago summer spent on the water. Experience the architectural highlights cruising both branches of the river and then enjoy a three-course meal of Lawry’s The Prime Rib classics. Departs Southeast corner of Michigan Ave. and Wacker Dr., Near East Side; Mon.-Fri., 5 p.m. check-in, 7:30 p.m. dinner. 

Meet the Discovery SquadBe on the lookout for the men and women in black — Discovery Squad members — to take a peek behind the curtain and learn about the vast collections in the vaults. They’ll show you real objects that scientists use to study and answer questions. The Field Museum, 1400 S. Lake Shore Dr. Museum Campus. Thurs., Fri. & Mon., 10 a.m.-3 p.m.

Escape the heat and bowl! Every sunny day this summer enjoy all-you-can-play bowling, billiards and table games for $11.99 per person from open to 9 p.m. Note: The $11.99 does not include shoe rental or token games. Kings Bowl, 5505 Park Pl. (Rosemont) & 1500 N. Clybourn Ave. (Lincoln Park); Daily, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. 

photo: Chicago Botanic Garden

How will you make the most of your summer weekdays in Chicago? Tell us your secrets in the Comments below!

— Maria Chambers