The Kohl Children’s Museum

 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.  Here are some tips for visiting the Kohl Children’s Museum with the next generation.

My family and I were given free admission to the Kohl Children’s Museum. All opinions are my own.

The Exhibits

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.

Insider Tips

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.

Current Events

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.

Happy Playing!
Amanda 🙂
Don’t miss a post…follow me on Blog Lovin’.


  1. Anita Ojeda says

    What great ideas for museum visiting! I remember going to OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry) in Portland, OR when I was a kid (my favorite parts were the egg incubation display and the spirograph). It was even more fun to take my kids when they were little :).

  2. karrileea says

    This is such a great post with tons of tips! We don’t really have a museum similar to this close by to our small town, although like Anita – I remember taking our little to the OMSI when she was little. Such a great outing idea- and with your tips – so much more enjoyable, too!

  3. dogear6 says

    I haven’t been to the Kohl Museum for years. The last time I was there, it had an entire wall (or so I recall) for playing with colorforms. My daughter played there for hours.

    I’m not sure if I have any of those scanned. I should – if for not other reason than it was so cool!

    Have you ever been to the children’s museum in Milwaukee? It’s quite a bit farther away, but also really neat (or at least it used to be).


  4. juliesclark says

    I love your Chicago posts so much, Amanda! I spent many joyful days at COSI-the Center of Science and Industry in Columbus, Ohio. Living in a very small city of 80,000, we don’t get the great museums and opportunities that large cities offer, so I love living vicariously through you!

  5. mary hoell says

    I love reading your blog Amanda! Makes me want to take llyr out there and not be at the lake so much….next year……:)

  6. Girl and the Kitchen says

    Amanda, when I was a little girl I used to go to the old Children’s Museum in Evanston… Waiting for a really gross day to take the munchkin there 🙂 Nice to know you are a fellow Chi-town blogger!

  7. Nancy says

    Does the Kohl children’s museum have anything to do with Kohls store? Honest question – since I haven’t stepped inside a Kohl’s store here yet. Where is the museum, anyway? I couldn’t tell by the blog post. Looks like the kids enjoyed themselves!

  8. Fi Ní Neachtáin says

    This museum sounds great for the little ones! It reminds me of a the Nimo museum in Amsterdam, it was full of similar exhibits for kids but I had great fun there as a 19 year old! I’d love if there was something like this in my area cause I’d definitely take my little one 🙂

  9. Tami says

    This looks like a great place to take the kiddos. Too bad it’s not in my area, or even close. We may have to build a vacation with this in mind when choosing our next destination.

  10. Tammilee Tips says

    It is so much fun to find new museums when you travel! This looks like a kid’s museum that my nephews would love to visit! The hand on exhibits was they get wet or messy are always their favorites.

  11. Lauren Harmon says

    This looks like such a fun place to take kids! I love that they have a mini “Whole Foods Market”, how cute is that? I’m also really digging how inventive and creative their different rooms are! If I’m ever in the area I may just have to check it out with my niece! 🙂

    • amandasimkin says

      The Whole Foods Market used to be just a typical grocery store…but it was my favorite place to play as a kid!

  12. Geanine says

    This is the cutest museum for kids. I enjoy smaller spaces when I take the kids on outings for one because my youngest is a adventurer and will tend to wander, but also I like to cover the entire space in a 5-6 hour time span.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.