Indoor Play Spaces

Little Beans Evanston (Photos courtesy of each business.)

Midwest winters are no joke. Since it’s too cold or snowy for the park, it’s easy to become stir-crazy. These nine play spaces are saviors for kids who need to release some energy — and parents whom have exhausted all options at home. Here are our favorite places to let loose!

Growth Spurts

Since 2011, Growth Spurts has become a destination for busy parents to enjoy a cup of coffee while their tots play in the bright, clean and relaxed setting. A train table, block center, indoor play set and crooked house are just a few of the highlights for your little one. Reviewers have noted that Growth Spurts is best for kids 5 and under. Since the space isn’t too big, you’ll be able to keep an eye on multiple kids. 404 Linden Ave., Wilmette, $12 per child with reduced rates for siblings

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Little Beans Evanston

While there is a Little Beans in Chicago, the Evanston location is newer and more spacious. Children ages 0 to 6 can play at the Little Beans play area, a little village built just for little ones to climb and discover. Kids ages 4 to 12 will stay busy at the Big Beans Ninja Obstacle Course next door, an “American Gladiator”-like obstacle course with foam pit and zip line. A karaoke room (with a selection of pop and Disney tunes) is also a hit with kids ages 5 and up, while the half-court gym entertains those little athletes. 430 Asbury Ave., Evanston, $12 per child with discounted rates for siblings; pricing is discounted to $8 after 5:30 p.m. Monday-Friday 

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Bubbles Academy

Bubbles is THE destination in Chicago for first-rate baby and children’s classes, but they’re also worth visiting for their daily Open Play. Children ages 0 to 5 will find something that speaks to their interests, like tunnels, climbers, dress-up, play kitchens and puppets. The facilities are kept spotless and the staff is inviting and accommodating. 1504 N. Fremont St., Chicago, $12 per child with discounts for siblings

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Kohl Childrens Museum

If you live on the North Shore or in Chicago, you’ve likely visited Kohl. Things never get stale, though, as the museum is constantly adding new attractions. This winter, look for the new exhibit “Run! Jump! Fly!” which runs through Jan. 10. This traveling exhibit lets you test your balance and strength as you try out physical activities like peddling a “flycycle” or balancing on an interactive snowboard. Don’t miss “Build It!,” an exhibit debuting Jan. 27, featuring life-size building blocks in lots of unique shapes. 2100 Patriot Blvd., Glenview, adults and children $11, grandparents and seniors $10, children under 12 months are free 

Chicago Childrens Museum

Love being on the water? Check out the Boats Exhibit. Does science pique your interests? Check out the Tinkering Lab. From a Dinosaur Expedition to the Kraft Art Studio, there is something for everyone in your group. Make a day of your visit and grab lunch at Navy Pier after you’ve worked up an appetite. 700 E. Grand Ave., Chicago, $14 per child and adult, $13 per senior; Thursday evenings from 5-8 p.m. are free for everyone; the first Sunday of every month is free for those 15 and under

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Sod Room

Located in the South Loop, this eco-friendly play space was created with recycled cork flooring, low-VOC paint, eco-friendly carpeting and reclaimed wood play structures. While it’s on the smaller side, your kids will keep themselves entertained for hours. The nature-themed, light-filled space has many creative and interactive nooks like a Cork Wall, Tree House Loft and Grassy Knoll. Although it’s located on Michigan Avenue, metered street parking is ample. 1454 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago, $12 per child with reduced rates for siblings

Exploritorium

Children will have a blast exploring the many areas of Exploritorium. A giant Lite-Brite, climbing wall, dress-up area with stage and life-size storybook, large water table station and more makes this the best $5 you’ll ever spend. The older kids in your bunch won’t want to come down from the two-and-a-half-story indoor playground, complete with tubes and slides. 4701 Oakton St., Skokie, Skokie residents $3 per child/adult, non-residents $5 per child/adult, children under 12 months are free 

Pump It Up or Jump Zone

Kick off your shoes (literally)! Rooms of inflatable jumpy bounce houses, slides and climbing walls make both Pump It Up and Jump Zone a kid’s paradise. Although the two businesses are not affiliated with each other, they’re very similar and offer “open jump” hours, where you can let your child run around while you look on. These spots are appropriate for kids 2 to 13. Pump It Up, 1857 Elmdale Ave., Glenview, $10 per child; Jump Zone, multiple locations including Chicago Ridge, Niles and Buffalo Grove, $8 to $10 per child depending on time of day

Digital Adventures

If your child has expressed interest in computers, consider Digital Adventures, a new groundbreaking center in Wilmette developed by parents for children. The instructors here used technologically-advanced platforms to teach kids grades one through eight how to program computers. Popular classes include Ultimate Adventure, where kids learn about topics like robotics and movie-making, while another favorite class, Video Game Design, teaches kids how to create their own video games. Classes are primarily after-school on weekdays with some Saturday morning classes. Weekends are also reserved for birthday parties and Maker’s Workshop (open play). 406 Linden Ave., Wilmette, free play is $30/hour, after-school programs are $199/month for four- to five-hour long sessions depending on the month, discounts for siblings and referrals


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