Toddler To-do List: Fall Wrap Up

Fall doesn’t technically end until December 20, but our toddler to-do list included mostly seasonal activities. So now that we’ve officially kicked off the holidays, it’s probably time to revisit our list.

Time flies when you’re having toddler fun, amirite?

ToddlerToDoEND

Go to a football game. We took Emme to a Northwestern football game in early September. Here Emme is enjoying a snack in the stands and sporting her new hat. That’s my husband’s leg. He’s a runner.

Check out a local fall festival. Again, we crossed this one off the list early and attended Oktoberfest in Berwyn. But it rained on and off, so we cut our time at the festival short. We talked about going to another one, but never did.

Visit a farm with animals and a pumpkin patch. Did I mentioned how much I loved the Green Meadows Farm in Wisconsin?

goats

Go on a hayride. Done.

hayride

Splash at an indoor water park. We basically had the waterpark at Timber Ridge Lodge in Lake Geneva to ourselves. And we’ve already booked our trip for next year.

water

Decorate a pumpkin. We did this. I don’t have evidence of it.

Go to the zoo. We did end up going to Boo at the Zoo at Brookfield Zoo, but it was not a great day for the toddler, and we didn’t stay long. Maybe we’ll try again next year.

Dress up for Halloween and trick-or-treat. Yep. And yep.

halloween2

Have a dance party or two. Sometime in October, Emme became obsessed with Taylor Swift. We listened (and danced to) Shake it Off about 10 times a night for a week. What I learned is that I do not hate Taylor Swift.

Explore a new playground. We did actually make it to a new playground for a playdate in Western Springs.

Take fall photos. Nope. Not this year. At least nothing fancy.

Visit an art museum. Turns out you can take a toddler to the Art Institute of Chicago.

still life

Visit a children’s museum. We took Emme to Kohl Children’s Museum in Glenview.

Kohl

Learn about Thanksgiving. With Gena’s help and my mom’s book selections, we crossed this one off the list, though I’m not sure she “got it.” She told me “Happy Birthday” on Thanksgiving. Close enough.

10 Unexpected Places to Take a Toddler on a Cold or Rainy Day

I don’t think any of us are ready to hunker down for winter yet, but here we are in early November with temperatures in the 40s and a polar vortex headed toward Chicago. As the parent of a toddler, the threat of an early and long winter seems particularly soul crushing — fewer places to take a toddler means being stuck indoors with a constant force of energy — which can be detrimental to parent’s mental health.

Unexpected Places to Take a Toddler on a cold or rainy day

So when the weather gets rough, the tough have to get creative. Whether it’s Sunday afternoon or Thursday morning, here are some ideas of places to take a toddler on a rainy or cold day when you’ve exhausted your patience, ideas, and resources.

10 Unexpected Places to Take a Toddler on a Rainy or Cold Day*

*With bonus ideas for those of you in the western suburbs of Chicago

1. The Library
This is an obvious one, right? Keep in mind, even if it’s not story time, most libraries have moved beyond shushing and have interactive children’s sections with toys, blocks, computer games, and, of course, books.

2. The Local Mall
A lot of indoor malls have dedicated play areas. In the Chicago western suburbs, North Riverside Park Mall is close to our home and has two toddler-friendly play areas as well as a kiddie train and other rides. The play areas are free, but the train and rides cost money, FYI.

3. Ikea
The children’s section at Ikea is set up to entertain the little ones. We took our daughter to the Bolingbrook Ikea a few months ago to look at big girl beds, and while she had no interest in the beds, she couldn’t get enough of the toys that were available for her to test out. She also liked exploring the staged children’s rooms with their toddler-sized furniture.

4. Aquariums and Pet Stores
I’m a big fan of hands-off parenting, and an aquarium or pet store requires me to be a bit more vigilant than I prefer. But you got to do what you got to do sometimes, and Emme loves to look at fish. There’s an Aquarium Adventure store in the same shopping center as Ikea in Bolingbrook. Just be careful with any loose animals, and stay away from places where people can bring their own dogs, like Petsmart or Petco. Stick with fish and other cage-bound pets like lizards, hamsters, and guinea pigs.

5. Indoor McDonald’s Playplaces
Look, I’m not super excited about getting my toddler hooked on Big Macs, but I can’t deny that sometimes a McDonald’s Playplace is a literal lifesaver. The McDonald’s on Ogden Avenue in Lyons has a decent Playplace with an eating area that is separate from the rest of the restaurant.

6. Local YMCAs, Rec Centers, or Gyms
Most gyms, YMCAs, and park district recreation centers offer a free or relatively cheap hour or two of babysitting in a daycare-like setting for parents who are working out. If you’re a member, I highly recommend you take advantage of this perk. Other centers have spaces you can use for burning toddler energy even if there’s not a specific program going on. If it’s a slow time of day, ask your local YMCA or rec center if you can take your child into the gymnasium or an unused studio or on the indoor track to run around. Also check open swim times.

7. Greenhouse or Conservatory
Conservatories and greenhouses are great options when little ones who love dirt and plants can’t go outside. Oak Park’s Conservatory has pretty extensive visiting hours and is even open on some holidays.

8. Indoor Playspaces and Playgrounds
Have I mentioned my love for indoor playspaces? I take my toddler to Peekaboo Playroom in Oak Park all the time. Unlike businesses that provide indoor inflatables, these spaces tend to cater specifically to the toddler and preschool set. There’s tons of age-appropriate fun to be had, and your two-year-old won’t be demanding to get into a bouncey house with 14 other kids twice his age. While Peekaboo Playroom is my go-to, I’ve put together a Pinterest board of playspaces in Chicago and the surrounding areas, so you can find one near you.

Chicagoland Indoor Playplaces for Littles

9. Museums
Children’s museums are always a great option, though they tend to be a bit more crazed and crowded than indoor playspaces. We like the DuPage Children’s Museum in Naperville (currently closed until April 2015 due to water damage) as well as Wonderworks in Oak Park. But think outside the children’s museum box: We’ve taken our two-year-old to the Art Institute of Chicago many times, and there are plenty of other museums with sections that cater to little ones.

10. Local Toy Stores
I know… You may end up having to buy something you didn’t intend on buying, but many toy stores, especially smaller stores that are trying to compete with the Toys R’ Us-es of the world, have created interactive play spaces where kiddos can sample the goods in order to lure more customers. Some stores, like Geppetto’s Toy Box in Oak Park, even offer events.

*Chicago Western Suburbs Bonus* Hamill Family Play Zoo
We’re members of the Brookfield Zoo, and it has been one of the best investments we’ve made — not only in the summer when going to the zoo is practically mandatory, but in the winter. The Hamill Family Play Zoo is an indoor child’s area that offers interactive learning, crafts, and other fun. It’s open every day from 10am until a half hour before the zoo closes. You can even go on Sunday afternoons, and it’s never crowded on the weekends in the winter (which blows my mind).

Are there other places to take a toddler when it’s rainy or cold and you can’t handle staying in the house one second longer? Share them in the comments.

Gone Blogging: Guest Post on {kidlist}

You can find me over at {kidlist}. If you’re not familiar with {kidlist}, it’s a fantastic resource for parents in the Chicago western suburbs. Check out my post (and photos of my daughter): True Toddler Life: I Took a Toddler to the Art Institute of Chicago.

14 Must-do Fall Toddler Activities

Happy Autumnal Equinox! If you’re in the central time zone like those of us in the Chicagoland, the equinox happens at 9:29 tonight. So since fall is officially upon us, I wanted to share our plans to enjoy the season and keep the toddler entertained with fun fall activities over the next few months.

14 must-do toddler fall activities for your family bucket list.

1. Go to a football game.

We got a jump on this one when we took Emme to a Northwestern football game in early September. Both my husband and I went to graduate school at Northwestern, so we try to go to at least one game every season. We found out at the last minute that it was Local Heroes Day, and my husband, a police officer, was able to get discounted tickets. We also had the opportunity to go on the field for the national anthem, which was kind of neat. Here Emme is enjoying a snack in the stands and sporting her new hat. I had no idea what to expect from her behavior- and attention span-wise, but she was actually pretty good and seemed to enjoy herself.

2. Check out a local fall festival.

Again, we crossed this one off the list early and attended Oktoberfest in Berwyn. But it rained on and off, so we cut our time at the festival short. Maybe we’ll get to another one in the coming weeks.

3. Visit a farm with animals and a pumpkin patch.

We’re going on a mini-vacation to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin because my husband will be attending a conference there. One of the activities I’m planning while we’re there is a trip to Green Meadow Farms in East Troy, which is about a 20-minute drive from where we’ll be staying. I’ve been wanting to check this farm out ever since I read about it in the Chicago edition of Red Tricycle in July.

4. Go on a hayride.

Quintessential family fall fun.

5. Splash at an indoor water park.

We’ll be going to Timber Ridge Lodge in Lake Geneva, which has an indoor water park.

6. Decorate a pumpkin.

Tiny pumpkins can be decorated with markers. Perfect for tiny people.

7. Go to the zoo.

We’re planning to go to Boo at the Zoo at Brookfield Zoo.

8. Dress up for Halloween and trick-or-treat.

I have given zero thought to a Halloween costume this year. I should probably get on that.

9. Have a dance party or two.

Because duh.

10. Explore a new playground.

Temperatures are dropping, and soon we’ll be stuck indoors. We want to make the most of the mild fall weather and visit a few more playgrounds in 2014.

11. Take fall photos.

Fall means it’s time to update our family photo, just in time for the holidays.

12. Visit an art museum.

We’re planning a visit to The Art Institute in Chicago. I was a little skeptical about this outing, but my husband and I did some recon this week, and it’s far more family friendly than I was expecting.

13. Visit a children’s museum.

There are three to choose from in the western suburbs of Chicago.

14. Learn about Thanksgiving.

Sometimes I underestimate the ability of young children to grasp less concrete concepts, which is dumb and probably partially lazy on my part, but honestly, my first instinct was to wonder if this was necessary. But really, is it ever too early to talk about the meaning of Thanksgiving and how we should be thankful for the good things in our lives? I’m going to start by getting books about Thanksgiving that are age-appropriate. We’ll see if I can come up with anything else.

Want to see how we did with our bucket list of fall toddler activities?