It was a big year for littles. Cool play spaces opened, new music studios flourished and local shops came on the scene. Here are our picks for the 15 best things to happen in the world of Chicago kiddie fun in 2013.

1. Kid’s Island. The Lincoln Park play space came complete with a huge indoor sandbox and adjoining spa for parents to get a mani-pedi fix.


photo: courtesy of Kid’s Island

2. Sod Room. Evoking the outdoors in a Pinterest-perfect garden party way, the new ecofriendly play space made the South Loop go wild.


photo: courtesy of Sod Room

3. Kids Science Labs South Loop. Slime. Bubbles. Explosions. It was all in a day’s partying when the second location of the hands-on science kingdom opened, spreading its educational fun further south.


photo: Tiia Norsym Photography

4. LeitHaus Studios Chicago. Kindie music fave Mr. Singer opened his own studio for music classes, sharing the space with his wife, Kerry, who does family photography.


photo: courtesy of LeitHaus Studios

5. Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams. The big, delicious news this year was the opening of the first Chicago location of the Ohio-based biz known for a salty caramel ice cream so good you’ll do back flips.


photo: courtesy of Jeni’s

6. Adventure Playground at Blackberry Farms. The new feature of the Fox Valley Park District’s scenic living-history museum excited kids with a rustic, farm-inspired design and fun interactive features.


photo: courtesy of Fox Valley Park District

7.  Elate Yoga Studio & Sweet Buddha Candy Shop. In one Lincoln Park building, there opened an oasis specializing in parent-and-me yoga classes and a modern candy shop stocked with nostalgic treats.


photo: courtesy of Sweet Buddha

8. Kidville Lincoln Park. It’s a play space, dance and art studio, sports center, cafe, boutique, salon and birthday party spot all wrapped into one building that has enough happy-go-lucky energy to power a 747.

Kidville_Rockin Railroad_3

photo: courtesy of Kidville

9. Steve & Kate’s Camp. With five new locations in Chicago and the North Shore, this summer camp’s unique formula — allowing kids the freedom to independently choose their own adventures every day — gave it a cult following like nothing else we’ve seen.


photo: courtesy of Steve & Kate’s Camp

10. Peekaboo Playroom. The 2,500-square-foot play space for the five-and-under crowd opened in Oak Park, offering kiddos a mini city with several interactive areas to explore.


photo: courtesy of Peekaboo Playroom

11. Goldfish Swim School. Two suburbs — Naperville and St. Charles — welcomed new locations of the tropical-themed swim school, where tiki-style decor and cabana-style changing rooms are as enjoyable as the friendly instructors.


photo: courtesy of Goldfish Swim School

12. Stomp and Shout Chicago. Classes at this new music studio aren’t your usual song and dance because they introduce a music curriculum that grabs influences from rock, blues, folk, jazz and pop.


photo: courtesy of Stomp and Shout

13. Emerald City’s Little Theatre. The sibling of Chicago’s Emerald City Theatre Company launched with summer camps, performances, birthday parties and classes, sending tots down an imaginative path before they’re even out of diapers.

photo: courtesy of Emerald City Theatre

14. Heritage Littles & A Little Photo Studio. Heritage Bicycle’s Mike and Melissa Salvatore expanded their brand of off-the-chain cool, opening a shared storefront for custom-built kids’ bikes and Melissa’s family photo studio.


photo: courtesy of Heritage Littles

15. Foss Swim School. The first Chicago location of the swim school offers classes for little ones as young as six months, breaking down lessons into bite-sized skills that build on one another as a session progresses.


photo: courtesy of Foss Swim School

It was a great year, don’t you think? What was your kiddie highlight of 2013? Let us know in the Comments section below.

— Kelly Aiglon

Cover photo: Courtesy of Sod Room