As soon as they start to babble, they can dabble. One cool thing about being a kid is the chance to try all sorts of activities, from music to movement to art. And that’s where drop-in classes come in. Drop-ins often don’t require registration and never make you commit long term. Just pop by and let your little co-pilot soak up the fun. Here are our favorites.
This fitness and wellness center for moms, babies and kids has a workout room, spa-like lounge space and studios where classes are held. Go for Away We Play, a class where you play alongside your child (ages 6-36 months) and meet new friends. Smiles break out as you jump, march, sing and get messy with paint. For older kids (ages 3-5), there’s Bollywood Dance, which explores the fundamentals of Indian traditions like Bhangra, Garba and Launi. For this class, parents can drop off their kids and hang out in the lounge, work out or even get a massage.
409 W. Huron St.
Sprout San Francisco
Sprout is a children’s boutique that sells organic and natural baby and toddler products. It also does a bang-up job of interacting with the local community through various drop-in workshops. The Chicago store offers three or four drop-in activities a week. Music Class With Mr. Dave gets toddlers moving all around, improving coordination and balance in the process. If you need postpartum support, go to Lactation Consultants’ bi-weekly breastfeeding clinic where you can ask questions and interact with lactation experts.
1943 W. Division St.
The CrossFit craze isn’t just for grownups. The strength and conditioning program incorporates jumps and lifts with kettlebells, sandbags and other non-traditional weights. Kids get in on the action in a safe, age-appropriate way. Atlas Performance, a local fitness studio, offers Sunday drop-in sessions at 12:30 p.m. for all levels, ages 5 and up. Coach Libby gets her eager crowd warmed up with games and stretching, and the workout changes every week. Positive reinforcement and teamwork are big parts of the program. Parents and kids are welcome to watch a class, and your first class at Atlas is free.
1030 N. Larrabee St.
Stock up on everything you need for baby and find a supportive community at this boutique, which has two locations in the city. Most of its classes are drop-in, and many are free. While the schedule changes frequently, you can expect to find everything from infant CPR classes to story times to music jam sessions with teachers from Bubbles Academy.
1117 W. Armitage Ave.
1751 W. Division St.
Hyde Park Art Center
The non-profit organization connects artists with the local community — and, luckily for your little one, also helps budding artists forge new skills. Every second Sunday of the month during the school year, it hosts a free community art workshop for kids and families. Activities vary, and have included print-making, collage-making and card-making. There are usually two art activities going on at a time during the sessions, and they are for all ages.
5020 S. Cornell Ave.
Color Wheel Studio
Imaginations run wild at Bucktown’s oasis founded by artist and dad Donald Jackson. Operating on the principle that children should be exposed to and experiment with art, the studio offers classes for ages 2-12. If you just want a little creativity break, the drop-in Open Studio Time allows for three hours of unstructured fun to create whatever your heart desires. Starting September 2, it happens every Mon., Tues., Thurs., & Fri., from noon to 3 p.m. Smocks and art supplies are included.
2016 W. Concord Pl.
The Wishcraft Workshop
Crafty kids orbit this Roscoe Village studio, enjoying everything from camps to scheduled classes. Now that school’s back in, take advantage of Merry Pop-Ins (happening late weekday mornings for ages 3-5). The drop-ins give kids access to ad hoc instruction and art/craft materials. Older kids (grades 3-8) can pop by for the same experience as part of Pincushion Social Club (held Mon.-Fri., 4-6 p.m., starting September 16). Take advantage of discounted punch-card rates if you think you’ll keep coming back. All participants must have a registration form and release on file.
2312 W. Roscoe St.
Dance to Evolve
The mobile dance studio holds classes at gyms across Chicago, including Cheetah Gym and The Mercury Method. Enthusiastic instructors get little feet moving with Ballet, Baby Boppers Hip Hop and You & Me Movement (a mommy-and-me for ages 14 months to 2 years). Parents are encouraged to try a drop-in trial class with their kids. While advance registration is not required, you’ll be asked to fill out a registration form and waiver before the class. Check the website for dates, times and locations.
DuPage Children’s Museum
Families from across the western suburbs and beyond come to play and learn at this three-story wonder. Plan a visit around drop-in classes at its onsite studio. Themed activities change weekly and include things like Rocket Design and Space Station Creation. There are also one-time special classes like Insect Zoo, at which kids learn about how bugs affect the world; and Glow Art, at which kids create illuminated oeuvres. Classes are included in the museum’s general admission and are held Monday-Saturday from 10 a.m.-noon & 1-3 p.m.
301 N. Washington St.
The Oak Park children’s museum has increased its number of drop-in workshops that involve music, art and creative play. Upcoming classes include Beginner’s Art Studio (every Wed.-Sat., from 10:30-4:30 p.m. & Sun., 12:30-4:30 p.m.), an open-ended art-making experience; and the Interactive Music Show (Thurs., 11:15 a.m.) which immerses kids in melody and movement. Drop-in classes are included in the daily admission fee. All kiddos must be accompanied by a parent.
6445 W. North Ave.
It’s never too early to soak up a new language. Aside from classes for babies all the up to tweens, this language and translation center offers drop-in Spanish story time, a 30-minute excursion through a Spanish-language book with the bonus of organic snacks served on the side. Any of the regular session classes can be attended at a drop-in fee; call ahead because the schedule changes frequently.
2518 W. Armitage Ave.
Nibbles Play Cafe
Special drop-in events are scheduled nearly every day of the week at Wheaton’s play space and cafe. Time your visit right and you could enjoy a concert by Miss Jamie from the Farm (she ropes you into a fun, country-themed hootenanny) or Activity Time with Ms. Fran (the former Jewish Community Center pro does interactive stories, games, crafts and more). Every Friday at 10:30 a.m. is “Fun Friday” and there’s always something fun in store. Sometimes, Elmo stops by for stories and laughs.
13 Huntington Ln.
It’s the 10-year anniversary of this haven that’s known for play-based learning experiences that encourage family bonding. Over the past decade, it’s built up a lot of trust among parents. See for yourself during classes that range from music to creative movement to preschool prep (they’re broken down by age and cater to babies up to age 5). Every class can be purchased at a drop-in rate, although calling ahead to secure a spot is required because space fills up fast. Also, a free trial class is offered to any Bubbles first-timer.
1504 N. Fremont St.
Gorton Community Center
400 E. Illinois Rd.
Little Beans Cafe
In addition to its sunny cafe, ice cream shop and play space, Little Beans keeps kids going with special events and drop-in classes. You can find lifesavers for parents like potty training or lighter fare like Kidding Around in Yoga and Singing Beans (a music class). Play space admission is free for an hour before or after class, so make a fun day out it.
1809 W. Webster Ave.
Have you tried a drop-in class? Tell us about your experience in the Comments section below.
— Jessica Smith
Photos: Courtesy of CocoonCare, Atlas Performance, Hyde Park Art Center, The Wishcraft Workshop, DuPage Children’s Museum, Multilingual Chicago, Bubbles Academy