The list of resources available to Chicago families during the shelter-in-place directive is growing by the day. It’s nothing short of amazing to see how local museums and businesses, big and small, have stepped up to the challenge during a time that is very challenging. With many of these virtual resources being offered for free or super cheap by businesses who rely on ticket sales and class sign-ups to stay afloat, we wanted to not only share what they’re offering, but how to help them in a show of appreciation.

photo: Brookfield Zoo

Brookfield Zoo

Brookfield Zoo is closed to the public until Apr. 30, but they're bringing their Zoo to You every weekday at 11 a.m. via Facebook Live chats. They're going to bring you some of the coolest and most interesting animals around while also providing informative sessions that engage and educate. 

How to support them post-Covid-19: Ticket sales are critical to the successful on-going operation of the zoo. While you're unable to visit, donate to their Annual Fund (they even accept gift cards!). Or, purchase a membership. A Basic Family Membership is $130/year. 

Y On the Go

Local YMCAs are closed to normal activity, but they have created Y on the Go, which gives access to the best local YMCA instructors and education facilitators guiding you through DIY projects, family activities and workouts.

You may not be aware, but local YMCAs are partnering with the City of Chicago to serve as emergency shelters to house hundreds of displaced and homeless individuals currently in shelters where they are unable to practice social distancing. Thank you to the YMCA for helping to care for some of our most vulnerable citizens.

How to support them post-Covid-19: Make a donation to or join your local YMCA or share your talents and become a Y volunteer.

Art Institute of Chicago

A family visit to the Art Institute of Chicago may have to be put on hold, but prep for a future trip at home with JourneyMaker, an innovative digital interactive kids can use to create their own one-of-a-kind adventure with works of art from the Art Institute’s collection. Kids can fly through galleries like their favorite superhero, travel back or forward in time or discover strange and wondrous beasts.

You can also visit the Art Institute virtually and explore their collection, get the story behind the objects you'd see on a visit, watch videos that give the history of ARTIC, profiles of artists and insights into art, download audio tours and more. 

How to support them post-Covid-19: Purchase a membership. The Basic Membership is $150 and includes admission for two adults (admission is always free for ages 13 & under).

photo: Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

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 a new email series dedicated to a day's worth of 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 for each day's theme and activities.

How to support them post-Covid-19: Consider making a donation to show your thanks for their work to create content or purchase a membership. For $94/year, two adults and all the children in your household have access to the Museum's programming. You can also plan a single visit to see their temporary Dragons Alive exhibit, on display through Aug. 23.

DuPage Children's Museum

DuPage Children's Museum will periodically offer Facebook Live storytimes. Follow them on Facebook for more information, or to watch previously recorded storytimes. 

How to support them post-Covid-19: Consider purchasing a membership. A Child Membership is $125 and covers 1 named child and any adult. A Family Membership is $150 and includes admission for 2 adults and 4 children. Or, simply visit them for a day of play with admission of $13/person.

Autism Speaks

For every kid, rituals and routines can be of great comfort. For kids with autism, they are a necessity. Autism Speaks knows that your world is being turned upside down and new structures are needing to be put in place. Their Autism Response Team (ART) is available to provide personalized information and resources to people with autism by calling 1-888-AUTISM2 or for Spanish-speaking callers 1-888-772-9050.

How to support them post-Covid-19: Much uncertainty surrounds largely attended events in Chicago at this time; but, keep your eye on whether their annual Autism Speaks Walk in Chicago will still be scheduled for 2020. If not, consider making a donation on their website. You can even donate stocks!

photo: The Laboratory Collective

The Laboratory Collective

We know The Laboratory Collective for their wildly popular STEM date night drop-offs, classes and day-off and summer camps with fun themes like Spa Night, Harry Potter Wizarding, Robots, Dragons and LEGOs, but while schools are canceled and kids are home, they are offering free live classes where they talk about books, show science experiments kids can do at home and show a crazy demo. Follow them on Facebook to stay up-to-date on offerings and watch pre-recorded lessons on their YouTube channel.

How to support them post-Covid-19: You can donate a scholarship to a student from a high-poverty/low-income school and this donation also helps keep The Laboratory Collective afloat. For $100/year, you can also purchase a Family Membership that gets you discounts off camps, parties, date night drop-offs and early camp registrations.

Kohl Children's Museum

On its website, Kohl Children’s Museum is providing the “Home Zone,” remote learning video series with stories, activities and experiments that can easily be replicated at home. From exploring the science (and fun) of making bubbles, to discovering unique patterning and help kids express themselves with fly swatter painting, the learning videos are available free on the Kohl website.

Kohl also has teamed up with the Association of Children's Museums (ACM) to offer free STEAM digital learning experiences and is offering story time videos featuring museum educators reading children’s books.

Remote Learning Resources
For at-home activities and to download PDFs, visit the Teacher Resources page.
More STEAM activities can be found here.
Scholatic Learn at Home site

How to support them post-Covid-19: Purchase a PlayKCM membership for $165/year and receive free daily admission for 4 and 50% off admission for 6 to more than 200 children's museums nationwide (including Chicago Children's Museum). 

photo: Mr. Dave Music

Mr. Dave Music

Mr. Dave Music in West Town is closed, but he is offering virtual classes for an indefinite period of time for $10/class. Mr. Dave is also creating an interactive show that will be featured on his youtube channel. Subscribe at youtube.com/c/mrdavemusic and you'll be alerted when new content becomes available. 

How to support them post-Covid-19: You can also support Mr. Dave Music by purchasing a gift card to use at a later date or donate at Save Mr. Dave

photo: Shedd Aquarium

Shedd Aquarium

Keep up-to-date on the daily lives of the aquarium’s animals on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter; create learning experiences for early learners through their Sea Curious YouTube series; check out live views from the Underwater Beauty special exhibit, and dive deep with 360-video views to Keep Sharks Swimming, visit Shedd's penguin exhibit daily using the Virtual Reality Penguin Expedition tool and more.

How to support them post-Covid-19: Once this is over, you can visit the penguins in person with Shedd's Penguin Encounter experience, adopt an aquatic animal, make a donation, or become a Shedd member.

photo: Museum of Science & Industry

Museum of Science & Industry

Every day, even without a pandemic, Museum of Science & Industry has an Experiment tab on their website with games, videos showing a virtual tour of their massive submarine and of baby chicks being born in their Hatchery, and hands-on science experiments that can be conducted at home. 

How to support them post-Covid-19: Make a charitable contribution via their donations page, purchase a Family Membership for $195/year or simply pay them a visit with your family once this is all behind us.

photo: Chicago Children's Museum

Chicago Children's Museum

Chicago Children's Museum knows we can't socially distance from our children. That's why they put together a list of activities that allow you to turn a corner of your home into a mini Chicago Children's Museum experience on their Recipes for Play at Home page. Keep checking back because they'll be adding to this page frequently to make sure your together time is a blast!

How to support them post-Covid-19: Help them prepare to reopen their doors by making a monetary donation, purchase a Family Membership for $190/year or, once they reopen, visit them to see the ultra-cool Cloud Buster and the temporary Castle exhibit. 

photo: Adler Planetarium

Adler Planetarium

Even though Adler's doors are closed for a short while, you can stay connected with science, astronomy, our universe—and other Earthlings—from exactly where you sit. Visit Adler's Online Resources page to listen to their YOUniverse Podcast, view their exhibits virtually, contribute to real-life science from your couch via Zooniverse and get ideas for experiments to conduct at home. 

How to support them post-Covid-19: Help people of all ages connect under the stars by making a donation, become a Family Member for $165/year, volunteer or visit them once they reopen and help them celebrate their 90th anniversary.

photo: Bubbles Academy

Bubbles Academy

Kid-favorite Bubbles Academy is streaming multiple virtual classes, Mon.-Sat., while they're closed. Each class is 30 minutes in length and delivered via Zoom. Registration is pay-what-you-can, including free ticket options as they understand many families are impacted by the current state of the world. 
 
How to support them post-Covid-19: Attend one of their virtual classes and pay for the content or attend their classes in person (sign up for a full session or take a drop-in class) once they reopen.

— Maria Chambers

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