Ever since I found out I was pregnant with my first son, I couldn’t wait to make a trip to the Kohl Children’s Museum as a MOM. The museum was one of my favorite places as a kid and I was so excited to share in the fun with my little family.
I still remember the first time we went there along with some mommy friends I had made through a Gymboree Play and Music class…I was shocked that so much of the museum looked the EXACT SAME but some things were INCREDIBLY different.
Now that I have two little boys who have enough energy to supply electricity for the whole city of Chicago for at least a month, we frequent the Kohl Children’s Museum often to tire them out, learn about the world around us, and of course, play with water.
Because if there is a water feature within 10 miles, my boys will sniff it out and plant themselves next to it NO MATTER WHAT. Bribery of a lollipop? Heck no. Promise to look at Mommy’s phone on the drive home? Really funny, but NO. But I digress.
Although on the small side, the Kohl Children’s museum has a vast array of exhibits that will engage kids from the crawlers to elementary school kids. There are different rooms devoted to unique learning categories, such as music, art, cooperation, nature exploration, reading, real life play…the list goes on and on. As a teacher, I especially love how they differentiate learning for kids at all stages of life so that they can all interact with thematic content but at their appropriate level.
Every few months there are special exhibits on rotation, but I must admit that we do not spend very much time with them because my boys are dedicated to the “Car Care,” “Whole Foods Market,” and of course the “Water Works” exhibit. They also seem to be geared more towards older children and we are not there just yet.
When Chicago weather allows it, there are also great activities set up outside the museum. During the Spring and Summer we spend a lot of time climbing on the different play structures, investigating different types of plants with the museum’s gardeners, and building huge castles/mountains/lava pits in the museum’s sand boxes.
When we are able to go outside, we can spend the whole day at the museum (with a break at the Cosi cafe for lunch or BYOB) but when we are restricted to the inside activities, 2-3 hours and we have accomplished all that we have set out to do.
Now that I have given you an overall lay of the land, here are my insider tips for navigating the Kohl Children’s Museum with ease (even when you have a tantrum ladden boy in each arm…yes, that was me last Monday):
Timing Your Fun: Avoid the museum at all costs when kids have a day off of school, such as holidays and winter break. It can get packed really quickly, and it is not fun telling your kids that the museum is at capactiy and that you need to go home. Trust me on this one. On Mondays the museum is open until noon and there are no scheduled field trips on Tuesdays, so those are great days to visit (and members get in early on Monday!).
Keep the Water for Last: Even if your kids aren’t as water obsessed as mine, they will have a blast splashing around and the museum smocks are a joke…your kids will be soaked! Bring an extra shirt and change in the bathroom after the water fun is over.
Use the Locker Room: You can cram a ton of things in the lockers near the main entrance for only $0.25, so ditch as much as you can so you aren’t bogged down while chasing your kids around. I would also leave the stroller at home and utilize baby wearing or just carry your tot from room to room. There are tons of soft spaces to put the crawlers around so they can really explore, too, not just the big kids.
Eat Elsewhere: The Cosi Cafe at the museum is expensive, so we avoid eating there at all costs. I usually give my kids snacks on the way to the museum or before we enter the exhibits, and we instead drive a couple of minutes to the Glen and eat lunch at either Eggsperience or The Yard House. For those breastfeeding, there are little private nooks throughout the museum–one of my FAVORITE features.
Discount Admission: There are constantly discounted admission prices offered through Groupon and Living Social, as well as coupons in many Chicagoland magazines.
Family Membership: I can’t say enough about how great a family membership is at the Kohl Children’s Museum. You can bring one guest for free with you during each visit and you can get discounts on other Chicagoland Children’s museums as well. My mom gifts us a family membership as a Christmas present every year and it truly is the gift that keeps on giving! Click here for more info.
The Kohl Children’s Museum hosts many family friendly activities throughout the year, some “members only” and others open to the public. We try to attend the special events and fundraisers as often as possible, and have enjoyed their story times immensely. I will update this page as often as possible to keep you updated on the fun either at the museum or sponsored by the museum.
Looking for other great local museums? Simply search “museums” in the sidebar.