With colder weather on the way that means outdoor activities for kids will soon diminish.
But that doesn’t mean they’ll be stuck at home with little to do. Illinois offers a series of children’s museums from Chicago to Peoria to Edwardsville, catering mostly to kids under age 12, but also with activities for babies and toddlers.
The Illinois Department of Tourism (www.enjoyillinois.com) highlights 16 different museums, including a dozen participating in the Museums for All program (www.museums4all.org) which offers free or reduced admission for families receiving SNAP benefits.
Museums offering reduced admission are indicated with an asterisk:
Chicago Children’s Museum* Navy Pier —Chicago’s Outdoor Playground (aka Navy Pier) allows kids to tinker in the lab, build a tree fort and climb Cloud Buster, a highly entertaining multilevel structure. The three-floor museum welcomes families on weekends, Friday through Sunday.
Bronzeville Children’s Museum, Chicago — The nation’s first and only African American Children’s Museum calls the South Side of Chicago home. Choose from four tours that cover themes like food and exercise, African American inventors, STEM and local landmarks.
Children’s Museum of Oak Lawn* — For an out-of-this-world experience, visit the museum to build a spacecraft, rescue and care for a shelter animal (don’t worry, it’s stuffed), or drive a miniature train through Black Oaks Grove, a re-created town within this exciting museum.
Wonder Works, A Children’s Museum*, Oak Park — Chicago’s western suburb brings the outside in and the inside out at Wonder Works. Discover bugs and other creatures who call the forest home, then head outside to see real bugs and butterflies in the Children’s Garden. Curious young minds can follow the production journey of a vegetable, which culminates at the Farm Market, where “store owners” sell harvested fruit and veggies.
Kohl Children’s Museum*, Glenview — Spot a turtle (one of the museum’s newest members) or help care for a pet in the vet’s office at the museum. More than 15 hands-on activities engage children with creative play, like constructing a house and working with others in the cooperative station.
DuPage Children’s Museum*, Naperville — Test your imagination at the museum located next to Naperville’s Metra commuter rail station. It features exhibits that encourage problem solving through the use of energy, engineering skills and physics. Plus, explore plenty of opportunities for creativity in the art studio.
Exploration Station…A Children’s Museum, Bourbonnais—Children can try their hand at real-world adult jobs like a car mechanic, grocery clerk, restaurant chef, paleontologist and veterinarian, plus a prince or princess, in the Exploralot castle.
Children’s Hands-On Museum of NW Illinois*, Freeport — Inside the Lincoln Mall, the museum welcomes kids to make music by banging the drums and shaking maracas. Other exhibits explore science, agriculture and engineering.
Discovery Center Museum, Rockford —A blend of fun and education awaits at the center, where children can explore the universe via more than 300 interactive exhibits or head outside to the Rock River Discovery Park to search for dinosaur fossils. There’s also a two-story maze and splash area.
Land of Lincoln
Children’s Discovery Museum*, Normal —Located in the Uptown neighborhood of Normal, the museum encourages hands-on activities and boasts the state’s largest agriculture exhibit within a children’s museum. Here, kids can drive a combine, harvest corn and feed cows.
Children’s Museum of Illinois, Decatur —Three floors await exploration at the Decatur museum. Get a sense of your senses by learning how an eye works and seeing a giant mouth demonstrate how teeth stay white. Suit up for action in the Heroes Hall, which is dedicated to the men and women in blue.
Kidzeum of Health and Science*, Springfield —Whether it’s your body, the community or life on earth, healthy choices lead to a better world. Discover how at the Kidzeum in Springfield.
Central/ Western Illinois
Edwardsville Children’s Museum*, Edwardsville — Future first responders, doctors, nurses and veterinarians get hands-on experience at this museum. There’s also pizza, custard shops and a post office.
Peoria PlayHouse Children’s Museum*, Peoria — Step back in time at this museum, where kids can unearth fossils from millions of years ago before visiting a town of yesteryear. They can also simulate sailing along the Illinois River as they play with gently flowing water and drive boats downstream.
Discovery Depot, Galesburg —Stop into Ferris Village, the recreated town, with a handful of stores which allows children to choose to be a customer, businessperson, or creator in the art studio.
The Science Center of Southern Illinois, Carbondale —Designed specifically for children aged 3-13, the center features several interactive hands-on exhibits dealing with a variety of basic concepts of science, as well as special events and programs.