- The summer months are a great time to explore the city with your preschooler. There are many great things that you can do as a family both in your neighborhood and around Chicago. I've made a list of some educational, fun, and mostly FREE things that you can do this summer to ensure that this is a summer filled with learning and fun!
- Go on a walk in your neighborhood. Bring some paper and some crayons or pencils. Make observations about what you see. Draw some of things that you discover. Flowers? Buildings? Animals? For an extra challenge, go on a walk with a hula hoop. Pick a spot and put the hula hoop down on the ground. Try to draw everything that you see within the circle of the hula hoop.
- Make some play dough. Preschoolers love using clay! You can use the dough to make people, animals, whatever they want. You can also use it to practice letter and number recognition. Ask them to try to make a letter or number. Or, you can form a letter or number in the clay and ask them to say what it is. You can find many different recipes for play dough online. Here are a few: basic playdough recipe, no-cooking recipe, glitter play dough, Kool-Aid dough.
- Head to your closest park. Pack a picnic. Bring a book or two. Bring some toys to play with outside: bubbles, jump rope, soccer and/or basketballs, hula hoops. Pack some sunscreen and enjoy a day outside. Need some bubbles? You can find several different recipes for homemade bubbles here. Do you always go to the same park? Are you wanting to try a new one? Check here for a list of all of the parks in the Chicago Park District. You can search by neighborhood. You can also search by type of activity that you want to do. Do you want to find a park with a bocce court? Are you looking for some prairie land or grasslands? You can narrow down your search on Chicago Park District's website.
- Go to a Farmers Market. Pick out a new veggie or fruit to try. At many markets you may also find breads, meats, and dairy products. One of my favorite markets is Green City Market. It's huge! And their Club Sprouts program encourages youngsters to try new items available at the Market. You can find out more about Club Sprouts by clicking here. There are also many neighborhood farmers markets that may be very close to your house. You can go here to see a list of markets in Chicago.
- Explore some art. There are many art fairs that you can explore during the summer. One of my favorites is at the beginning of the summer: the 57th Street Art Fair. Admission is free and you can see many different types of art and you can speak with the artists who made the pieces.
- Go to your local library branch and get a library card. Check out movies and books. Pick up a schedule of summer events that are happening at your library. You can click here to search for your local branch.
- Go on a scavenger hunt in your neighborhood. Try to find every single letter in the alphabet. Look on signs, license plates, etc. You might even find some nature that resembles letters. Maybe you find a stick that looks like a letter. Perhaps there is a tree or a flower that looks like a letter.
- Read together! Read, read, read! Although there isn't a Reading Contract for the summer months, try to read together for at least 20 minutes every day.
- Cook together. There are many math skills that can be practiced when cooking or baking together. Students can practice measuring, less/more, and counting when cooking. You could even work on patterns when decorating what you have baked.
- See a movie in the park. You can find the schedule for Chicago Park District's Movies in the Park program here.
- This summer, the Chicago Park District has a great lineup of activities for their Nights Out in the Parks program. You can search by different types of activities: dance, festivals, concerts, etc. The Chicago Park District has introduced an app for their Nights Out in the Parks program that you can download for Apple or Android phones. You can access all of this information here.
- Visit Millennium Park. This park has a lot of fun activities for families including gardens, concert, art, and the new and nearby Maggie Daley Park. You can also check out the Family Fun Festival. It runs from June 19 - August 20th from 10:00am-2:00pm. I took my girls to the festival last year and they had a blast. And it's FREE. You can find out more about the festival here.
- Go for a walk in the woods. The Forest Preserves of Cook County are full of great outdoor activities. You can try birding, fishing, hiking, boating, camping, play a round of golf, ride a horse, or explore a Nature Center. Although some activities may have a cost involved, there are many activities that are completely free. You can find out information about the activities offered at the many Forest Preserves here.
- Is it going to be a rainy day? Check out some websites that you can explore together with your preschooler. You can find some great websites under the "Technology and Your Student" tab at the top of this page (located under the "more" section.)
Many museums have free or discounted admission days during the summer. Take advantage of all of the cultural experiences that Chicago has to offer at a great price! *Please note, times and dates may change. Please check the websites for additional information about admission, transportation, parking, special events/programs, etc.
- Adler Planetarium - Admission is FREE for Illinois residents on June 5-9. You can find out more here.
- Art Institute - Admission is FREE to Illinois residents every Thursday from 5:00pm to 8:00pm. You can find out more here.
- Chicago Children's Museum - Admission is FREE for everyone on Thursdays from 5:00pm to 8:00pm. In addition, on the first Sunday of every month, admission is FREE all day for ages 15 and under. You can find out more here.
- Chicago History Museum - Admission is FREE for Illinois residents every Tuesday and on July 4th. You can find out more here. One of my favorite exhibits at the Chicago History Museum is the Sensing Chicago exhibit. You can pretend to be a Chicago-style hotdog by crawling into a giant hot dog bun!
- DuSable Museum of African American History - Admission is FREE every Tuesday. You can find out more here.
- Field Museum - Admission is FREE for Illinois residents on June 21, 22, 23. You can find out more here.
- Garfield Park Conservatory - Admission is FREE every day! In addition, they have great programs for families throughout the week.
- Lincoln Park Zoo - Admission is FREE every day of the year! You can find out more here. The Farm-in-the-Zoo area is a great spot for preschoolers and their families.
- LUMA - Loyola University Museum of Art - Admission is FREE every Tuesday. You can find out more here.
- Museum of Contemporary Art - Admission is FREE for Illinois residents every Tuesday. You can find out more here.
- Museum of Science and Industry - Admission is FREE for Illinois residents June 5-9 and June 12. You can find out more here.
- National Museum of Mexican Art - Admission is always FREE. In addition, every Sunday the museum offers family programs. You can find out more here.
- Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum - Thursdays are a suggested donation day for Illinois residents. You can find out more here. The Butterfly Haven exhibit is a lot of fun. There are so many butterflies!
- Shedd Aquarium - Admission is FREE for Illinois residents on June 5, 6, 12, 13. You can find out more here.
Mrs. Marx is a preschool teacher at Epiphany Catholic Elementary School in Chicago, IL.