The cure for the end-of-summer stir-crazies? Drop-in activities that you can do on a moment’s notice. There are tons of music and art classes and events around town that fit the bill, from a sing-along at Mariano’s to a make-your-own-masterpiece at Morton Arboretum. Did we mention they’re easy on the wallet? Yeah, we like that too!


photo: City of Chicago

Millennium Park Target Family Fun Festival
There’s so much going on at this shebang, you just might forget to get the kids ready to go back to school! With interactive activities, acts and crafts, games and music for kids of all ages all for the low price of free, it’s totally worth the price of parking or public transportation it takes to get there. Activities are provided by Barrel of Monkeys, Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago History Museum, Easel Art Studio, Lookingglass Theatre and The Millennium Park Foundation, just to name a few.

Held daily 10 a.m.-3 p.m. thru Sunday, August 24
Admission: Free
201 E. Randolph St.
The Loop

Bubbles Academy Shows at Monica + Andy
Like chocolate and peanut butter, kids music and shopping are the perfect combination. And in this case, the music is coming from Bubbles Academy, the Lincoln Park play space and interactive activities hub. Bubbles musicians make guest appearances at Chicago’s newest children’s clothing store, Monica + Andy on a weekly basis. The 30-minute interactive performance is packed with popular children’s songs for kids to jam along to while parents check out the store.

Held Tuesdays in August, 10:30-11 a.m.
Admission: Free
2038 N. Halsted St.
Lincoln Park


photo: Morton Arboretum

Art at Morton Arboretum
Get art-spiration or be a busy bee at the west suburban outdoor wonderland. The drop-in classes and family adventure programs keep littles busy and engaged with projects like make-your-own mini scarecrows or water lily masterpieces based on famous nature art. You’ll finally have the ideal answer to the age-old kid question, “What are we doing today?”

Held through October on weekdays from 1-4 p.m. & weekends from 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
Admission: Included in Arboretum admission ($12/adults; $9 youth ages 2-17; discounts on Wednesdays)
4100 Illinois Route 53

Toddler Tuesdays at The Red Balloon Co.
Not sure how you’re going to find time to stock your kid’s closets now that he’s graduated from sitting in the stroller to running through stores pulling everything off the shelves? The good people at The Red Balloon Co. in Bucktown have solved the problem with weekly Toddler Tuesdays. Each Tuesday, swing by and encourage your kids to let it rip with free music or art classes while you pick up the hottest children’s fashions. Upcoming themes include heart-pumping activities from The Little Gym and “Schoolapalooza,” a party that salutes back-to-school season.

Held Tuesdays, 10:30-11:30 a.m.
Admission: Free
1940 N. Damen Ave.


photo: Miss Jamie From the Farm

Kids Classes & Concerts at Mariano’s
Need to bribe your sidekicks in order to get your grocery shopping done? Never again! Mariano’s has put together a calendar now through September that’s packed with in-store drop-in art classes, plus music shows by Miss Jamie From the Farm (we love her peppy guitar jams about healthy eating and too-cute puppetry!). In fact, it will keep your kids so busy while you stock your fridge, you’ll never have to bribe them again … at least, not to get them to go to Mariano’s.

Locations throughout the city and suburbs.
Admission: Free
Complete schedules online:

Mr. Dave at Sprout San Francisco
Get your groove on with Mr. Dave at Wicker Park’s much-loved natural and organic children’s boutique. The laidback, relatable singer is a staple in Chicago’s kindie music circuit and his performances mix classic children’s songs, covers of mainstream ditties and original tunes. Instruments and bubbles are often used to get the crowd going. Thanks to his daily appearances weekdays, you’re bound to catch a show.

Held Mondays, 10 & 11 a.m. & noon; Tuesdays, 11 a.m.; Wednesdays-Fridays, 4 p.m.
Admission: $10/child (advance registration recommended)
1943 W. Division St.
Wicker Park


photo: Michaels

Get Crafty at Michaels
Bring your kids to see the artsy folks at Michaels for an awesome — and free — family craft time events at one of the Chicago-area locations, like the Duck Tape back to school project on August 16. In honor of all the picture-perfect moments that go with this fun time of year, kids will get to make their very own picture frames out of Duck Tape (recommended for ages 3 and up).

Locations throughout the city and suburbs.
Admission: Free
Complete schedules online:

Old Town School of Folk Music’s Toddlers, Tunes and Turtles
Who doesn’t love a free, pre-bedtime outdoor concert? Join Old Town School of Folk Music in different parks around the city from now through September, with a variety of performers like Mr. Singer, Lenny Marsh and Lanialoha Lee. Pack a picnic and a blanket, and boogie until the sun goes down. For schedule dates and times, check the website at or call 773-728-6000.

Tuesday, August 12, 6 p.m.; Music for Kids with Jeremy Babcock at River Park – 5100 N. Francisco Ave.

Thursday, August 14, 6 p.m.; Music for Kids with Mr. Singer at Revere Park – 2509 W. Irving Park Rd.

Tuesday, August 19, 6 p.m.; Music for Kids with Maria McCullough & Yahv Pichardo at Nichols Park – 1355 E. 53rd St.

Thursday, August 21, 6 p.m.; Music for Kids with Lenny Marsh at Piotrowski Park – 14247 W. 31st Street

Tuesday, August 26, 6 p.m.; Music for Kids with Lindsay Weinberg at Adams Playlot Park – 1919 N. Seminary St.

Thursday, August 28, 6 p.m.; Music for Kids with Maria McCullough & Yahv Pichardo at Lawler Park – 5210 W. 64th Street

Thursday, September 4, 6 p.m.; Music for Kids with Lenny Marsh at Donovan Park – 3620 S. Lituanica Ave.

Thursday, September 9, 6 p.m.; Music for Kids with Lanialoha Lee at Welles Park – 2333 W. Sunnyside Ave.


How are you planning to keep sane for the rest of the summer? Let us know in the Comments?

— Jo Aaron