You love ’em. But sometimes, you have to leave ’em. Dropping your kids off somewhere and getting a few hours to yourself can feel like a trip to Tahiti — even if you’re just running errands. Get more mileage out of your day and take advantage of play spaces and childcare centers that don’t make you stick around. Some offer regular drop-off hours, while others are known for occasional Parents’ Night Out programs and camps. Here’s where to go if you need a break or if your usual childcare plan falls through.
Wonderland Activities Center
With themed drop-in events like “Dino Days,” this bubbly spot helps kids adjust to time away from Mom and Dad comfortably. Wonderland feels like a play space, but has the spirit of a classroom. That’s because mini tables and chairs set the stage for educational activities ranging from reading to art to music. Transition your young one to a school schedule with weekly drop-off classes or take advantage of play-based drop-in options including Friday morning supervised play time and dedicated Saturday afternoons packed with themed activities.
Best for ages 2-6
Prices start at $35/drop-in visit (available on Fridays from 9:30 am-12:30 pm or scheduled Saturdays from 3:00 pm-6:00 pm)
1927 W. Belmont Ave.
Every Wednesday, from 1:00 pm-3:00 pm, you drop off your tot here. The play space is set up like a city complete with a post office, movie theater, pet shop, grocery store and skyline mural. During supervised play, kids can make crafts, play games or simply romp around “town.”‘ Rest easy knowing your little urbanite is having fun running pretend errands while you do your real ones.
Best for ages 2-6
Prices start at $20/drop-off visit
1837 W. Grand Ave.
Kidz Drop In
A rare gem, Kidz Drop In has late-night drop-in hours and weekend care. Another plus: You pay as you go. Activities vary depending on a child’s age. For the littlest ones, sensory development is fine tuned with water play, finger painting and more. Older tots see time fly by with language classes, movie nights and music. Note that while this is a drop-in service, parents are required to call ahead because spots are limited. Additionally, updated medical records are required prior to scheduling drop-in care.
Best for ages 6 weeks to 12 years
Prices start at $9 per hour
602 N. Michigan Ave.
420 W. 5th Ave.
Blocks Childcare Center
This haven offers more flexibility than most. While it welcomes fully enrolled part-time and full-time babies and toddlers, it also offers drop-in care at an hourly rate to non-enrolled families. From its cozy building in Printers Row, Blocks keeps little ones busy with a fun, development-focused curriculum that includes foreign language, yoga and music. You must call in advance to check on availability of drop-in care and be able to provide updated medical records.
Best for ages 6 weeks to 2 years
Price start at $20/hour (drop-off available Monday through Friday from 7:00 am-6:00 pm)
657 S. Wells St.
The Little Gym of Chicago
Reclaim precious nighttime hours with the help Parent Survival Night. The kids’ fitness studio hosts them on select Fridays from 5:45 pm-9:15 pm. The time is spent with games, gymnastics, pizza, crafts and part of a movie to wind the evening down. Trained instructors are there to make sure everyone stays safely and happily on their toes.
Best for ages 3-12 years (kids must be potty trained)
$35 for the first child; $20 for siblings (attendees must be members)
3216 N. Lincoln Ave.
My Gym Chicago
Steal away for date night knowing that your busy bee is active and entertained. My Gym offers a Parents’ Night Out program every third Friday of the month from 6:00 pm-9:00 pm. During that time, kids enjoy free play and structured games focused on fitness. The fun can include Musical Mat (a jumping game similar to Musical Chairs) and Bolster Relays (an activity involving springing over matted bolsters). Midway through the night, there’s a pizza dinner after which the lights dim and a family movie is shown.
Best for ages 2-9
$30 for the first child; $25 for each additional child (non-members pay an additional $5 per child)
1880 W. Fullerton Ave.
Little Beans Cafe Fall Camp
The Lincoln Park play space had such a successful drop-off summer camp program that it’s extending it into the fall. For 2-4 mornings a week, your little camper enjoys free play, a snack and a daily class (rotating classes include yoga, dance, music and art). The impressive supervision ratio is one teacher for every three kids. For $35 per child per morning, this is a hard value to beat.
Best for ages 2½-4½ years
Camp runs Monday-Thursday from 9:00 am-12:00 pm
1809 W. Webster Ave.
What drop-off childcare options have you tried? Let us know in the Comments section below.
— Tabitha Green
Photos: Courtesy of Wonderland Activities Center, Kidz Drop In, The Little Gym of Chicago