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  1. NPN Jana

    Outdoor Patio Music Class

    until
    Come for music class, stay for brunch! Join us outside on the patio of Tuco & Blondie for a fun and active music class for the whole family! Work up an appetite and earn that margarita with non-stop interactive songs and activities! For families with children ages 0-6. RSVP required. Please go here to register. This is repeating event every Saturday and Sunday at 9:00am through October. The cost is $15 / child. This is an external partner event. Please contact the organization directly with any questions or concerns: louise@silvermangroupchicago.com
  2. until
    You're invited to Kiddie Academy for Storytime LIVE!, where we will celebrate literacy and share a story together - with a special visit from the beloved Curious George. This event is FREE and open to everyone — bring a friend or two. Please RSVP on our Event Website to reserve your spot. This is an external partner event. Please contact the organization directly with any questions or concerns: jackie.sheahan@kiddieacademy.net
  3. Juneteenth is the oldest celebrated commemoration of the enslavement of Africans in the United States. It has many names — Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Liberation Day, Emancipation Day — but no other name has been used as frequently as Juneteenth. This joyous African American holiday began on June 19, 1865, in Galveston, Texas. Many Americans have never heard of, nor learned about this historical event in their school textbooks. I, too, was once oblivious to this day. I can’t remember when I first learned about Juneteenth, but It wasn’t until the Black Lives Matter uprising of 2020 that it became significant to my family when I, among countless other Americans, began to see a shift in our country after the murder of George Floyd. [Related: What role should white parents play in Juneteenth?] Last year, in most Black households, there was a sense of reprieve from the endless supply of videos on police brutality when the interest of Juneteenth began to surface heavily online. A celebration of images expressing Black joy and honor around the country went viral. As a Chicago mother who celebrates Black history all year round, I found several virtual events scheduled during the month of June in which families could participate safely. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, we were not comfortable attending any of the amazing in-person events we read about. Not to be outdone by the virus, we took our children on a driving and walking tour around the South Side and West Side of the city to learn and see the historical contributions made by Black freedom fighters then and now. During the tours, we stopped at Black businesses, such as Can't Believe It's Not Meat in Hyde Park for lunch. We talked about what joy our ancestors must have felt on that day. And we talked about what it must have been like for the men, women, and children who were forced into work that never provided them financial compensation, nor security in the right to stay connected to their families — something some of us are privileged to have strengthened during our months of quarantine. [Related: Can we build anti-racist communities?] Although the formal recognition of the abolishment of slavery (also known as the 13th Amendment) brought much joy to enslaved Africans at the time of its announcement back in 1865, June 19th wasn't recognized as a holiday until 1979 when it passed legislation in Texas. It's now a state holiday in 49 of the 50 states (including Illinois), but has yet to be recognized as a national holiday. In some areas, it is a day, a week, or a month marked with celebrations, guest speakers, picnics and family gatherings. It is a time for rejoicing, processing, and planning for the future. Some would say its growing popularity signifies a level of growth, maturity and dignity that's long overdue. The recent acknowledgment of the racial trauma inflicted on people of African descent is being displayed in cities across the country. People of all races, nationalities, and religions are now acknowledging 400+ years of legalized horror. Honoring those that built the wealth of this nation is an honorable place to start the healing process — especially in the city of Chicago.
  4. It’s been over a year since we retreated into our homes “for a couple of weeks”, to wait for the virus to pass. Weeks led to months, the new year rolled around… and we’re only now thinking of re-entering the world. So, as parents, how do we reintroduce play dates for our kids? Research First order of business is to take stock of the current conditions and guidance in your area. Be mindful that just because restrictions might have lifted, there may be reasons why others are reticent about getting together. Proceed with sensitivity and respect. Discuss Ask your child if they would like to meet up with friends. Try not to bring in your own anxieties but listen. They may well be excited to get out again, or they may be nervous. Let them know that what they’re feeling is ok, and that you’ll be there with them. Intros Start with a virtual intro, to (re)build familiarity with friends. Encourage sharing of masks over Zoom, so they can recognize buddies when they meet up in person. My daughter loves to show-off her new kitty look. [Related: Nurturing your child's mental health in the pandemic's aftermath] Practice Most children are practiced at wearing their masks now they’re back at school (at least part of the time), but they can be reluctant to keep them on. We’ve found jersey ones to be soft and tolerable, while disposable ones are apparently “stink.” A practice run can be helpful. Venue Pick an outdoor venue, so you can relax a little. Playgrounds are obviously fun, but fraught with challenges; all those touchable surfaces and potential crowds. Try picking somewhere a little less obvious and limit the stress. Props Expecting children to pick up where they left off in March 2020 is unrealistic. Making friends is an art that children learn as they grow. Understand that they’re out of practice and may need you to facilitate. Bringing along a game — a soccer ball or drone — can jump-start activities. Limit Having a time limit sets expectations, prevents boredom, and makes it easy to leave without awkwardness. Keep first play dates short and set your kids up for success. You can build up to longer later. Follow-up Have your child send a note or text a picture. I like the Photoshop Express app since I can use an image snapped while out, and the kids can have fun personalizing with stickers. This helps pave the way for an ongoing friendship. Review Ask your child if they enjoyed themselves. What did they like best? What was challenging? Then see what you can address. Perhaps another time of day would work better? Decide together what actionable things you can do to make the next occasion fun for all. Repeat Whether the play date was successful or not, don’t leave it too long before organizing another. If your little one is timid, or needs to enhance their play skills, then it’s important to get out there again. If necessary, find an activity that involves you too, and ease youngsters into the new social scene. It can be daunting for any of us to start meeting up again in-person. We’re following the numbers and reading the reports, feeling optimistic one minute and doubtful the next...then layer on some rusty social skills and think how it feels to be a child. By talking and doing some prep work, then following some simple steps, this can be a more successful experience for our kids, and even an enjoyable experience for us grown-ups, too.
  5. Looking for a special gift or just a treat for yourself? Check out this list of Black-owned businesses in the city (many of which offer delivery or curbside pickup), where you can get everything from cocktail-themed artisan soaps to kids' toys. Food & Drink Batter & Berries: Breakfast/brunch/lunch spot in Lincoln Park Berry Berry Sweets: Cakes, cupcakes and cake pop caterer Bettie Lou’s: American cuisine in Andersonville Brown Sugar Bakery: Cakes and cupcakes in Chatham Chicago French Press: Coffee roaster that offers bean subscriptions and beans by the pound The Common Cup: Coffee shop in Rogers Park Demera: Ethiopian cuisine in Uptown Dream Chef: Restaurant, catering, meal delivery in Tri-Taylor Eleven | Eleven: American cuisine and to-go cocktails in West Loop Ethiopian Diamond: Ethiopian cuisine in Edgewater Friistyle: Belgian frites in Bronzeville Frontier: Meat-focused restaurant in Bucktown Fruve Express Juicery: Cold-pressed juice in Loop and South Loop Gimme Some Sugah: Pies, cakes, cookies and more in South Shore Good to Go Jamaican: Jamaican cuisine on Rogers Park/Evanston border The Grail Cafe: Breakfast and lunch in South Loop Ida’s Sweet Tooth: Cupcakes and sweets caterer Ina Mae’s Tavern: New Orleans cuisine in Wicker Park Justice of the Pies: Pies available in markets and some restaurants Kilwin’s: Ice cream and sweets in Hyde Park Kyoto Black: Coffee shop in Edgewater currently offering coffee bean delivery Lem’s Bar-B-Q: Barbecue spot in Chatham Life’s Sweet: Cafe in Rogers Park Lizzy J: Catering, cafe and housemade iced tea in Ravenswood The Long Room: Bar/restaurant in Ravenswood currently offering to-go cocktails, beer and wine Love Corkscrew: Wine delivery; also available in various retail locations Luella’s Southern Kitchen: Soul food in Lincoln Square Mr. Brown’s Lounge: Jamaican cuisine in West Town Ms. T’s Southern Fried Chicken: Fried chicken and fish in Wrigleyville Pearl’s Place: Southern cuisine in Bronzeville Rooh Chicago: Indian cuisine in West Loop Shawn Michelle's: Ice cream shop in Bronzeville Sip & Savor: Coffee shop in Bronzeville Soule: Southern cuisine in West Town Surf’s Up Avondale: Seafood and Southern food in Avondale Sweet Maple Cafe: Breakfast/brunch in Little Italy/UIC Taste 2 Go: American cuisine in West Loop Taylor’s Tacos: Tacos for catering or pickup (Tuesdays only) in East Garfield Park Teapot Brew Bakery: Tea and treats in Near South Side Uncooked: Vegan restaurant in West Loop Urban Grill: Burgers and sandwiches in Uptown Virtue: Southern cuisine in Hyde Park Clothes & Accessories The Advocates: Online-only social activist T-shirts A’nies Accents: Boutique in South Loop Buttonsbyferrai: Etsy shop featuring custom and social activist buttons Kido: Kids' toys and clothes in South Loop; online ordering available Kiwi’s Boutique: Boutique in Tri-Taylor; online ordering available Mimi’s Tot Closet: Shop for girls’ clothes in Auburn-Gresham; online ordering available Love Peridot: Accessories shop in South Loop; online ordering available Recycled Modern: Vintage, upcycled and handcrafted furniture and home decor shop in Lakeview Reformed School: Etsy shop featuring humorous and social activism T-shirts and accessories The Silver Room: Jewelry, accessories, clothes, gifts and more in Hyde Park; online ordering available Sir & Madame: Fashion brand with a store in Hyde Park Standout Style Boutique: Online-only clothes and accessories Beauty/Personal Care/Health 80th and May: Online-only shop featuring artisan soaps and bath salts Blade and Bloom: Etsy shop featuring skin-care products Bodi Shak: Group fitness gym in Uptown Chatto: Natural hair- and skin-care products in West Loop; online ordering available Depart with Art: Online-only shop featuring organic body products Eb & Flow: Yoga studio in Bucktown; currently offering live online classes Goldkissed Essentials: Online-only shop featuring handmade soaps Karyn’s: Vegan restaurant, spa and health products; online ordering available Mad Moisture Beauty: Online-only skincare products Mango Moi: Online-only mango butter skin and hair products Mind Body Defense: Kickboxing gym with private classes in Uptown Pear Nova: Online-only vegan nail polish Soap Distillery: Cocktail-inspired artisan soaps Sweet Beginnings: Beekeeping social enterprise featuring honey and honey-based body care products; online ordering available Black Owned Market: Online-only bath and body products Urbane Blades: Men’s barbershop in Near North Side Wholistic Skincare: Skincare salon in Clybourn Corridor; online ordering available Books, Gifts & More Helendora Samuels Picture Framing: Custom frame shop in Wicker Park Rose Blossom Chicago: Online-only florist Semicolon Chi: The only Black woman–owned bookstore in Chicago. Store in River West; online ordering available. Thepairabirds: Etsy shop featuring illustrated artwork Third Coast Comics: Comic and graphic novel shop in Rogers Park This is not an exhaustive list, so we'd love to get your recommendations for awesome Black-owned businesses in Chicago. Tell us at laura@npnparents.org.
  6. My boys and I want to spend every waking minute outside in the summer, and that includes meals. Picnics are a favorite activity and over the years we have become alfresco experts. With a little planning, you too can enjoy the great outdoors and some great food, too. I like to keep these essentials in my picnic basket so we’re ready to go: Picnic blanket. In my opinion, you have to go big here. A large, water-resistant blanket made for this purpose is an investment in fun and practicality for years to come. Put this in your basket last because you always need it first when unpacking. Hand sanitizer. Packets of wipes are perfect when kids have been digging in the dirt and come running back for a snack. Bug spray. Keep a small bottle in a zip-top plastic bag in your picnic basket. Nothing ruins a lovely outdoor event like vicious bugs attacking you or the kids. Dinnerware. Plates, napkins, eco-friendly disposable silverware. What’s a picnic without food? One secret to family-friendly picnic fare is to stick with what your kids know and love, in portable form. For kids, the novelty is in the outdoor experience—not the food. That’s not to say that grown-ups can’t enjoy tasty treats, but there are ways to appeal to both kid and adult palates. Making food in advance leaves more time to play and less time trying to assemble at the picnic. Try this pasta salad recipe your whole family will love! [Related: How to celebrate kids' birthdays while social distancing] Pasta salad for everyone The night before your picnic, cook, drain and chill 8 oz of your family’s favorite pasta (rainbow fusilli is great but if your little person will only eat macaroni, go for it). In a 2 qt container, put a generous ½ cup of ranch dressing (or your favorite) in the bottom. Add 1 cup of shredded cabbage or kale on top of the dressing, and top with a variety of diced raw vegetables of your choice such as carrots, broccoli, cherry tomatoes, and cucumbers. Diced apples and dried cherries or cranberries are also great additions. Lightly salt this layer if desired. Top with the cooled pasta, seal and refrigerate. At the picnic, serve plain pasta and raw veggies to your kids, then mix up the rest of the salad, grown-up style. [Related: Summer camp in Chicago: Where, when and how to sign up for summer fun] More picnic tips Use egg cartons to transport mini-muffins or cupcakes Freeze juice boxes and yogurt packets overnight to keep things cool, and of course the kids can drink/eat them as they thaw Wraps travel better than sandwiches. Assemble in advance, slice and wrap in plastic wrap as a “log.” Place these side by side in small plastic containers. Try these easy combinations and use flour, spinach or wheat tortillas as the wrap: Sun butter or nut butter and jelly or honey Cream cheese with thinly sliced cucumbers Hummus and olive spread Thinly sliced meats (such as turkey, ham and salami) with American or Havarti cheese Small bags of chips or crackers are not only fun, but make portioning easy Use small muffin tins to organize food for little fingers and help avoid (almost inevitable) spills Mini containers of fruit (mandarin oranges, blueberries, strawberries, grapes) travel well and fit into muffin cups perfectly See you at the park!
  7. With a new vocabulary that includes “shelter in place” and “social distancing,” get-togethers seem destined to remain a little different for a while. But that doesn’t mean we can’t mark the special occasions—we just need to re-imagine how we celebrate them. Virtual parties If you’re uncomfortable meeting up in person just yet—given that keeping kids apart is a challenge—virtual parties can solve the problem. We’re all now up-to-speed using Zoom, so with just a little imagination, you can create a party atmosphere. Asking everyone to dress up in a fairy or superhero costume and coordinating a themed dance-off takes very little effort. Movie premiere If you’d rather not coordinate schedules, have friends send a video message instead. We’ve used Apple TV to make an occasion out of watching home movies. Alternately, VidHug is an affordable service that will collate video clips for you. Then dress up, add some photo props, fashion a red carpet, and order some Oscar lookalike statues, and you’ve just brought the Academy Awards into your house. [Related: No-gift birthday party ideas] Character videos If you’re suffering from Zoom fatigue (a real phenomenon), or never know how the days will pan out, keeping things really simple takes the pressure off. Now Mickey Mouse, Ariel and many others will either FaceTime with you or send a pre-recorded greeting. This is infinitely cheaper than a traditional party—a real consideration during these financially challenging times. Giving drive Or maybe combine your desire to maintain your social distance with your inherent belief in being a good citizen. Have your child post a video encouraging friends to decorate their own "birthday boxes" that they can fill with items to donate. Then have everyone regroup (sharing photos or through a virtual meet-up) to unveil their creations and where they plan to send their donations. Cupcakes stroll-by A friend of mine organized a stroll-by-and-grab-a-cupcake celebration for her daughter’s birthday. This still keeps contact to a minimum yet offers the in-person connection we’re all craving. Our children were thrilled for the sugar fix, and it gave us all a focus for a stroll as well as providing some welcome fresh air. [Related: 4 unexpected spots for your kids' next birthday party] Backyard bash If you’re fortunate enough to have a backyard in the city, take advantage by hosting your social circle at your place. Adding a fun activity (such as decorating your own water bottle or snack bag) to each seat can help keep youngsters in place. Games like charades also prevent children from running around in a pack. Picnic in the park If you don’t have your own outdoor space, plan a get-together at a local park. Encourage guests to bring their own blankets and use those to delineate each grouping. Sharing food remains a no-no but sending a menu ahead of time that guests can pull together themselves works well, ensuring no child is tempted to sample off a plate elsewhere. Movie night Pin up a sheet outside and project a kid-friendly movie. Invite families to bring their own lawn chairs and congregate with their clan. Providing individual packs of popcorn adds to the ambiance while keeping away from communal bowls. After being cooped up for so long, there’s no need to deny ourselves any joy. As long as you follow sensible guidelines (being sure to keep up with current recommendations), you and your family do not need to miss out on celebrating those important occasions. Nurturing our souls with a little human interaction is now more important than ever.
  8. While almost everyone I know east of the Mississippi dreads the winter, my family and I look forward to it. There is so much to do that can’t be enjoyed at any other time of year. Here are some of our favorites. Skiing Chicago may not have the Rockies, but it’s a great place to learn how to ski. Wilmot Mountain, on the Wisconsin border, offers plenty of beginner runs. They have a great and affordable ski school. For little more than babysitters cost, you can put your kids in group classes and enjoy adult time on the mountain. A few tips for Wilmot: Register online in advance, particularly for equipment, as rental lines can be long. If you think skiing could potentially be a family hobby, invest in equipment. It pays for itself quickly. Buy boots online and join a trade-in community at the end of the season. Wilmot has a large food court and a nice tavern called Walt’s. Make a reservation at Walt’s as soon as you arrive for later in the day. In February, check out Ski Girls Rock: a 2-day program that mirrors the best ski programs in the country. Alternatively, venture to the Wisconsin Dells. Cascade Mountain offers free skiing for kids and a bit more challenge. If you wind up staying at Mt. Olympus, in addition to the free indoor waterpark and amusement park, skiing and tubing are free for all guests at Christmas Mountain. I recommend going for the winter carnival. In fact, all the mountains above have a winter carnival that includes bounce houses, night-time ski parades, fireworks, live music, and silly ski competitions. Finally, The Grand Geneva resort in Lake Geneva also has its own ski hill and carnival. Tubing/tobogganing Tubing is offered at all of the resorts above. Wilmot has 22 long lanes, while Christmas Mountain has Cyber Tubing at night. Not far away is Camp MacLean in Burlington, Wisc. (approximately 1.5-hour drive), which opens its unique toboggan run to the public on Sundays. Villa Olivia in suburban Bartlett also has fun tubing runs. Ice skating & hockey Chicago Park District rinks, including the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink in Millennium Park and the Skating Ribbon at Maggie Daley Park, offer free ice skating (with rental fees). Gallagher Way in Wrigleyville operates an affordable skate program, and skate exhibitions as well as parties throughout the winter. Like skiing, investing in skates pays off. For toddlers, get Bobs — double-bladed skates that attach to shoes. Many skates for kids are adjustable up to four sizes. Many rinks offer free lessons. Just ask! Lastly, the Little Blackhawks Learn to Play Hockey program (held at various rinks around the city) provides first-time participants FREE head-to-toe equipment, including skates. Be on the lookout for events at all of the above locations. The Skating Ribbon hosted a Fire & Ice Festival last year including an exhibition, pyrotechnic performers, and free s’mores. How can anyone dread a season that involves s’mores? Winter is in fact too short to enjoy everything the Chicago area has to offer, not to mention time for sledding and snowball fights. Winter is a time to be a kid with your kids! So bundle up, grab some hand warmers and embrace it. It’ll be over before you know it.
  9. Family biking in Chicago and the surrounding areas is fun, healthy, inexpensive and earth-friendly. You just have to know the rules of the road, and have a few family-friendly destinations in mind. Step 1: Start small Air up tires and adjust helmets so they are level to the ground, and won’t move around when your child shakes her head yes or no. To warm up, ride around the block or in a paved park or schoolyard. Try riding to a favorite park that is a little too far to walk. Living in Roscoe Village, one of our favorite destinations is Margaret Donahue Park near School Street and Racine Avenue. Short rides give you a chance to try out your equipment and learn your rider’s limits. Remember that little bikes have little wheels, so no matter how hard your child pedals, it’s harder for them to go as far as you or older siblings. The important thing is just to get out there. Step 2: Go farther Your kids are ready to caravan with you on the street only when they can ride in a straight line and will follow all of your verbal instructions. Until then, ride with them in a seat, trailer or cargo bike or stick to off-street trails. Try an out-and-back ride or bring your bikes to a destination via your car or on the train. Google Maps bike directions are easy to use and the City of Chicago publishes maps that show all the bike lanes, paths and recommended streets. View the map online or pick up a free copy at your local bike shop. Bring snacks, water, sunblock, a first aid kit, and a well-charged phone. Family-friendly destinations River Park, 5100 N. Francisco Ave. (at Foster Ave.) Ride, picnic, swim, splash and swing along the river. Horner Park, 2741 W. Montrose Ave. (Montrose Ave. & California Ave.) Gentle hills make this a great place to pick up speed to learn balance. Lincoln Park Zoo, 2001 N. Clark St. (Fullerton Ave. & Stockton Dr.) Plenty of bike racks and so much to see. Gompers Park, 4222 W. Foster Ave. (Foster Ave. & Kostner Ave.) Jump on the North Branch Trail, which goes all the way to the Chicago Botanic Gardens. Promontory Point, 491 S. Shore Dr. (55th St. & the Lake) Some of the best views for miles. Northerly Island / 12th St. Beach, 1200 S. Linn White Dr. (near Roosevelt Rd. & the Lake) Beautiful picnic and bird-watching spot. Green Bay Trail, 1200 Wilmette Ave. (East side of Green Bay Rd. at Wilmette Ave.) Tree-lined trail that passes through numerous parks. The Garden Jumps at Clark Park, 3400 N. Rockwell St. (Melrose & the east side of the River) Dirt jumps and paved path riding for all ages. The 606 Bloomingdale Trail (between Lawndale Ave. & Ashland Ave.) An elevated path with easy access to parks and restaurants. Chicago Kidical Mass Neighborhood family rides throughout the city and some suburbs. Meet other families and see different kinds of bikes and carriers. See upcoming events at Facebook.com/ChicagoFamilyBiking.
  10. Fathers are often the overshadowed parent when it comes to how we honor them. But lest we forget, there are so many dads, poppas and other positive male role models that deserve recognition. Father’s Day is more than giving your favorite guy in your life a new tie or other gender-based gifts; it’s for showing honor to the men who have a genuine and nurturing presence in the lives of those who cherish them. Here is a list of innovative, fun and nonconforming ideas to honor all the father figures in your life on June 16. For the creative dad The annual Artists of the Wall Festival is held near the lakefront at Loyola Park in Rogers Park. Come watch amateur and professional artists decorate the 600-foot sea wall during this two-day festival, June 15 and 16. For the sporty pop White Sox vs New York Yankees for an afternoon of some ballpark fun! Tickets start at just $10. For the foodie father Learn the ways of Southern cooking at the Chopping Block. Children ages 6 and older are invited to help their families prepare a delicious and festive feast—including mac and cheese, fried chicken, and fruit cobbler—that Dad will drool over! For the nature-loving daddy On Father's Day, the Shedd Aquarium will have its Family Festival, two hours of family-friendly activities that celebrate the natural world. Meet a live animal, engage in hands-on science activities and make a craft to take home. Activities are designed for families with children ages 5-12. For the sun worshiping baba The city has officially opened its beaches, so get out and host a beach day for Dad. However you celebrate with that special man in your life, enjoy your time together!
  11. Having a little one shouldn’t stop you from getting out and soaking up the rays. Here’s a roundup of some of the best sandlots around the city that are perfect for baby’s first trip to the beach. Stock your diaper bag with swim diapers and sunscreen, and get ready to introduce baby to Lake Michigan! Great for South Siders Margaret T. Burroughs (31st Street) Beach 3100 S. Lake Shore Drive Burroughs Beach stretches from 31st Street to 26th Street and offers amazing skyline views for adults and a newly renovated and ADA accessible playground for kiddies of all ability levels. Yummy concessions, easy and affordable parking, and a “green roof” for family picnics make this beach an easy choice for South Siders. Great for North Siders Loyola/Leone Beach Touhy Avenue and Lake Michigan Loyola/Leone Beach is perfect for North Side dwellers and active families alike. Chicago’s largest beach features a 2/3-mile walking trail along the beautiful beach and Lake Michigan, making this the perfect beach for stroller walks and jogs. In addition to a playground, there is also a softball field and basketball court available for older siblings. Great for families with dogs Foster Avenue Beach 5200 N. Lake Shore Drive (Foster Avenue and Lake Michigan) Parent to a baby and a dog baby? Head over to Foster Avenue Beach and get the best of both worlds. Foster Beach has its own dog beach at the northeast end and outdoor showers so that your fam can clean off after a day in the sand and sun. Great for water adventuring babies Kathy Osterman Beach 4600 N. Lake Shore Drive Osterman Beach is located in the northernmost tip of Lincoln Park and is perfect for families that want to explore the water: it is known for having shallower water than other beaches. Great for water-shy babies 63rd Street Beach 6300 S. Lake Shore Drive. (E. Hayes Drive at Lake Michigan) Baby not quite ready to frolic in Lake Michigan? No worries! 63rd Street Beach has interactive water fountains that are perfect for letting your little one enjoy the water without swimming in the lake. Great for a day of relaxing 12th Street Beach 12th Street at Lake Michigan on Northerly Island If a less crowded day at the beach is what you’re in search of, 12th Street Beach is the perfect spot for you. Nestled just south of Adler Planetarium, this beach feels like a private sandy shore just for you and your family. Concessions and restrooms are nearby and you can check out the nearby museums when you need a break from the sun.
  12. It’s the first 70-degree day in months and you have visions of a perfect outdoor dining experience with the fam. There’s no time to research in between playdates, soccer matches and diaper changes. But we’ve got you covered thanks to crowdsourced recs from trusted parents. These dining dreams promise good food, great patios and enough room for the whole clan. In a city that loves to eat, narrowing the list to a few is challenging, but here’s our best effort for family-friendly dining on all sides of the city. [Related: You can make eating out with your kids actually enjoyable] Flo & Santos South Loop; 1310 S. Wabash Ave., floandsantos.com Food: Pizza, pierogies and beer Al fresco highlight: A spacious beer garden nestled just off of the El tracks makes this a cozy neighborhood hangout for the entire family, including Fido. Pro tip: Live acoustic music on the patio on Thursdays Café Selmarie Lincoln Square; 4729 N. Lincoln Ave., cafeselmarie.com Food: Breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner Al fresco highlight: Tucked in the heart of Lincoln Square, the outdoor seating and European pastries give off old world vibes, plus kids can run around in the square next to the seating. Pro tip: Don’t leave without a baked goodie. Nella Pizza e Pasta Hyde Park, 1125 E. 55th St., nellachicago.com Food: Pizza, Italian Al fresco highlight: Sleek, sophisticated outdoor seating for simply excellent Italian dining Pro tip: Order anything. Reviews argue it’s one of the best Italian spots in the city. Debate ignited. Easy Street Portage Park, 3750 N. Central Ave., easystreetpizzachicago.com Food: Pizza Al fresco highlight: Enjoy the patio and the big game with flat screens outside. Pro tip: Before you dig into your pizza, try the cheese curds. [Related: Chicago date-night ideas that go beyond dinner and drinks] Bang Bang Pie & Biscuits Logan Square, 2051 N. California Ave., & Ravenswood, 4947 N. Damen Ave., bangbangpie.com Food: Breakfast/brunch, bakery Al fresco highlight: At the Logan location, the casual, stylish patio more than doubles the seating on a warm day, and the facing patio doors provide ’Gram-worthy shots. Pro tip: Pie and biscuits are included in the name for a reason. Try both! The Waterfront Cafe Edgewater, 6219 N. Sheridan Rd., waterfrontcafechicago.com Food: American, seafood Al fresco highlight: Live music most evenings in the summer. The perfect urban oasis if you need a quick getaway from the real world. Pro tip: Take the CTA (Red Line: Granville), bike or walk to avoid parking challenges. Honey Butter Fried Chicken Avondale, 3361 N. Elston Ave., honeybutter.com Food: American, chicken Al fresco highlight: The spacious yet comfy patio on a warm summer night makes you feel like you’re hanging in your bestie’s backyard. Plus, there are always activities for the kids. Pro tip: Come for the chicken, stay for the pimiento mac & cheese.
  13. Moms are incredibly resilient and inspiring. We play instrumental roles in shaping the lives of our children. The communities we live in rely on us and our dedication. Our households function under the faith that we’ll always be there to maintain order (or at least the perception of order!). It’s no question that we are the backbones of our families. These are just some of the many reasons why there is a national holiday for us! Every generation of moms inspires the next, just like the moms in my family have inspired me. On Mother’s Day, kids across the world draw images of flowers on a card or give a pot of dirt with budding seeds in it as a gift to their mother. Of course, she deserves more than what is given to her, but it is cute nonetheless. As we grow up, most of us begin to learn that mothers can’t truly be gifted what they are actually worth to their children and families. But the gesture is still as priceless as the memories they leave behind. If the mother in your life enjoys priceless gifts, here are some special ways to honor her in our city. Connect with the other great mother, Mother Nature: Chicago Botanic Garden - Celebrate spring in one of the most beautiful places for the best Mother’s Day selfies! Lake Michigan for a bike ride, or a stroll and or a picnic for the queen of the house Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum for some meaningful connection to nature Garfield Park Conservatory - This final day of its spring event is sure to celebrate mom. Lincoln Park Zoo - Watch momma animals with their mini-mes. Picnic - Indoor or outdoor bliss while the insects have not yet become a nuisance DIY ideas: Make a surprise brunch - Less hectic, cheaper than an outing and more fun for everyone Create an at-home spa day to bring laughter and somewhat of a comfort to the woman who rarely gets a moment to herself Mom’s personal helper for the entire day - Let mom relax and not lift a finger! Create a special gift for soon-to-be-moms - The anticipation of becoming a mother is such an exciting time for many women. Perhaps something with cultural or spiritual meaning she can one day share with her child. Offer care and support to women who have experienced the loss of a child. No matter what you and your loved ones decide to do on this day that honors our most cherished caregiver, remember to tell her how special she is to you. Verbalizing your appreciation for her role in your life is the most meaningful gift of all!
  14. Parenting in Chicago is hard. Two recent events reminded me of this. The first, running our two daughters out to the car parked in front of our house in what seemed like biblical rains — no attached garage to keep us dry. And the second, wading into the Chicago Public Schools application process. After reading about three different ways to apply to preschool, I realized this was the first step in a nebulous 18-year-plus journey. These are surface examples of a subtler thought that has gnawed at me for the last couple of years: This is not how I grew up. In many ways, my childhood was idyllic. I grew up in a nice suburb and have fond memories of it. That’s why I always planned to raise my children in one. If the suburbs worked for me, why wouldn’t I raise a family in the same way? Marrying a Chicago native changed things. And while we’re committed to living in the city, a review of the news headlines on any given day makes Chicago seem like the least family-friendly place to be. I’m slowly, sometimes reluctantly, learning the city is a great place for a family. What I know now is that the childhood my two daughters experience is not going to be the one that I had — and that’s okay. In fact, I’m glad. Here's why: Empowerment My daughters will not be intimidated by the “big city” things that scared me. They will know how to get from point A to point B and all the way to Z. And they’ll do it by understanding the CTA routes and schedules. This ability will open up the city to them and make so many experiences instantly accessible: visiting other neighborhoods, biking by the lake, enjoying countless festivals and museums, and soaking in the world-class culture Chicago offers. Diversity The diversity of cultures, learning and day-to-day experiences my children will encounter will provide a perspective — and, I hope, understanding — that’s hard to come by in the suburbs. From trying elotes at the park to neighbors who speak a different language, their close proximity to others different from them raises an opportunity to know people and their cultures better. Social justice My girls will have a chance to see and respond to the challenges of the city. They can be part of making Chicago not just the place where they live, but the community where they thrive. For us right now it looks messy. We cart our girls to homeless shelters and imperfectly prepare meals for guests once or twice a month. But our hope is that one day they’ll lead us to the problems they seek to fix in our city and commit to serving our community. Chicago reminds me on an almost-daily basis that the things that are worthwhile are often challenging. Raising a family in Chicago is a worthwhile challenge, and one that will leave me thankful that my daughters experience a different childhood than my own.
  15. If you're like me, date nights look something like this: drinks, dinner, repeat. My husband and I rarely plan ahead, opting to snag an OpenTable reservation somewhere interesting mere hours before the sitter arrives. A few weeks ago this consisted of an incredibly lucky last-minute opening at Parachute, followed by drinks at Ludlow Liquors. If you wind up at Parachute, don't miss its famous Bing Bread—crispy on the outside and loaded with potato, bacon and scallion. Slather on the sour cream butter if you really want to gild the lily. Hoping to break out of the dinner and drinks rut, I've been brainstorming some new and fun date night ideas for the spring and summer. I've also been mulling over some past dates that could use a refresh. Some are outdoorsy, some are inside, but they're all immersive experiences that are uniquely Chicago. Feel free to "borrow" them and let me know how it goes! Chicago Magic Lounge This requires some advance planning since shows sell out, but the experience at Chicago Magic Lounge lives up to the hype. The space is gorgeous and there's magic everywhere you turn—even the bartenders perform tricks! Dining options here are limited to a small plates menu. For something heartier, try nearby Hopleaf or Immm Rice and Beyond. On Sundays, Chicago Magic Lounge offers The Family Show, a great opportunity if you can't book a sitter and want to go somewhere that satisfies both the adults and the kids. Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary Who says date night has to be in the evening? If you and your significant other can swing it, head out for an early-morning date at the Montrose Bird Sanctuary. Bring your binoculars to catch a glimpse of some of the 300 species of birds that have been spotted at this world-famous (really) birding destination. Grab coffee, pastries or sandwiches for a picnic, from nearby Dollop Coffee Co. Blessed with a sitter for the whole day? Chicago Architecture Foundation gives tours of nearby Graceland Cemetery. See the final resting places of Chicago's movers and shakers in one of the most serene and beautiful spots in the city. Trust me, it's truly awe-inspiring. Dusek's and Thalia Hall This is one of my favorite date-night combos and I wish we did it more often! Enjoy dinner at Dusek's in Pilsen, then head upstairs into one of Chicago's grandest concert venues, Thalia Hall. Granted landmark status in 1989, Thalia Hall was originally built in 1982 and modeled after the Prague Opera House. Plenty of wow factor but still intimate enough to enjoy smaller acts. My pick for an upcoming show? The Jayhawks on July 13. After the show head to the basement bar, Punch House, for a nightcap. Moonlight Kayak Tour One of the best ways to see the Chicago River is at night when there are fewer boats and the water is calmer. Wateriders offers a "Moonlight Paddle" tour through downtown Chicago. Enjoy the river when it's all lit up by the lights from bordering skyscrapers. It starts at 8:30pm so there's plenty of time to grab dinner near their dock. Try The Hampton Social for all kinds of fresh seafood like oysters, lobster rolls and crab legs. None of it caught in the river (of course) but it will hopefully still put you in a seafaring mood.
  16. Birthday party planning can be stressful. I get it. I have nine-year-old twin boys and we’ve had our fair share of big, blowout birthday parties. For a few years, we invited all 60(!) of their classmates. Thankfully, our days of parties are over. Now we try to invite a few close friends for a special activity like mini-golf or Great America. If you’re just getting started with your planning, you’re in luck. I’m sharing my recommendations for the best parties I’ve planned, researched or attended. Emily Oaks Nature Center All year round, Emily Oaks Nature Center in Skokie will help you host an unforgettable outdoor-themed event. We hosted a summer party there a few years ago where attendees were “transformed” into mice and went on a nature walk through the woods where they hid from foxes, made a mouse house and found mouse food. Later we went back inside to make a woodland-themed craft. The indoor party room is spacious and you can bring in any food or cake you want. We got catering from Brown's Chicken because they offer really affordable options including pasta. Emily Oaks has a nice outdoor playground if you want to continue the party or entertain children waiting for a parent to pick them up. The choices for party themes at Emily Oaks have so much variety. They have themes built around birds, bugs, bees, coyotes—you name it! There are even nighttime options like storytelling around a campfire and roasting s’mores. Their parties are perfect for kids age 3-10. Activities are limited to 25 children but the party room can hold 70—plenty of space for parents or family members to hang out and celebrate along with the birthday kid and their friends. Facets Multimedia What kid wouldn’t want to see their name on the marquee of a movie theater? We hosted one of our favorite parties at Facets and I highly recommend it, especially for large groups. They’ll curate a custom screening of award-winning short films from their Chicago International Children's Film Festival archive. Optional add-ons include popcorn and drinks. After the screening, head upstairs to the party room where you can serve food and cake. If you’re looking for a crowd-pleasing option, Sweet Mandy B’s is less than 5 minutes away, making pre-party pickup a breeze. Art Side Out Studio and Mask Shop I recently drove by this storefront art studio and literally did a double take. I had to pull over to write it down so I could look it up later. Turns out this creative mask shop is also the perfect place to host a birthday party. Teaching artists will assist groups from 5-45 in creating unique and individual masks. Transform into a butterfly, a bear, a dragon—the sky’s the limit. Farther north on Western Avenue is my family’s favorite frozen custard shop, Lickity Split. They cater special events and their custard is so delicious. Need to tire out the troops after a few hours of intense art-making? Head to nearby Indian Boundary Park for a romp through the old-fashioned wooden playground (bigger and better than Oz Park) or explore the new nature play center. Then go home and take a well-deserved nap. Cradles to Crayons Have a child who is exceptionally altruistic? Eschew the traditional birthday party and have friends and family join you for a volunteer shift at Cradles to Crayons. They provide children from birth through age 12 living in homeless or low-income situations with the essential items they need to thrive—at home, at school and at play. Children as young as 5 can help sort donations in their warehouse. If you’re looking for a way to give but not ready to ditch a party completely, have guests bring toy donations for Lurie Children’s Hospital. They take gift donations all year, not just during the holidays.
  17. Is your whole family about to lose their minds to cabin fever? Don’t let it get you down! There is so much free or cheap indoor and outdoor fun to be had. Here are some activities you and your special-needs kiddo can enjoy. Around town activities Free museum days Adler Planetarium, Chicago Children’s Museum, dancing with the kiddos at the Chicago Cultural Center, sensory Saturday at the Field Museum, the Shedd Aquarium and the Chicago History Museum. Conservatory exploration Explore beautiful plant life at the Lincoln Park Conservatory and the Garfield Park Conservatory. It’s always free and it feels like you are visiting the tropics! Live theater See a play that will accommodate those who have sensory issues at Lifeline Theatre and Chicago Children’s Theatre. Music Get out and do some serious dancing with your kiddos! Beat Kitchen has a whole kids' concert series! Indoor water parks Splash Landings Aquatic Center in Glenview, The Water Works in Schaumburg and Pelican Harbor Aquatic Park in Bolingbrook Trampoline park Sky High Sports offers discounted open play every Tuesday just for your special-needs kiddos! Obstacle and agility courses For those kiddos who crave climbing and hanging, check out Ultimate Ninjas for open-play weekends. Outreach play Misericordia offers a great play program that gives you a chance to meet and mingle with other parents while volunteers play with your child. Free play KEEN Chicago: Kids Enjoy Exercise Now! Chicago Park District's special rec programs CPD has a lot of available programs for our kiddos. You do have to sign up early as spaces fill very quickly. Sledding and skating Try sledding at one of the Chicago Park District parks. Our favorite hills are Oz Park, Horner Park, Gompers Park and Warren Park. Get skating in at Maggie Daley ice skating ribbon, Warren Park and Wrigley Field. Indoor home activities Sensory bins Create one or a few sensory bins using Insta-Snow, water beads, dried beans, shaving cream or cotton balls to hide and search for treasures. Dress up! Put those old costumes to good use and get dressed up for some pretend play. Have a very posh tea party, get rescued by your favorite little superhero or have your kiddo cure all of his or her stuffed animals boo-boos! Dance party Turn on that music and work out some serious energy! We have different genres programmed on Pandora, like Disney, Kidz Bop, Laurie Berkner, Fresh Beat Band and School House Rock, to name a few! Build a blanket fort and camp inside Make some s’mores Rice Krispies treats with the kiddos and heat up some hot chocolate! Family game day Play Twister, Charades, Old Maid, Hungry Hungry Hippos or whatever you have on hand to enjoy together! Art day Hold a painting party and drink apple cider from fancy glasses. Try re-creating a famous artist’s piece using paint, construction paper, beans, yarn or pasta! Winter can be lots of fun if you get a little creative! Enjoy!

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