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Best Indoor Play Gyms For Kids In Chicago

By Jacqueline Runice

What part of a kid's body gets the most exercise at this edge of the 21st century? That would be Junior's fingers -- typing madly on the electronic device to virtually "play." Bodies yearn to get out and do what they were meant to -- move -- whether toddler, pre-schooler or scamps of any age. Start 'em young and let 'em loose at any of these excellent indoor play facilities that exercise limbs and limbic systems.

Kid's Island
2207 N. Southport Ave.

Chicago, IL. 60614

If facing a room of hot, sweaty, screaming kids tempts you to pop an extra ibu, consider Kid's Island, a smaller, calmer playroom suited for sweeties from 6 months to about 6 years old. Parents of babies and toddlers especially love Kid's Island because children are visible to them at all times while they relax with coffee in the seating area in the playroom. One of the only peanut free children's facilities, the business serves coffee, lattes and espresso from Julius Meinl as well as healthy lunches and snacks. Lesley Panek says, "What really sets us apart from some of the other playrooms is our indoor sandbox and that we offer a service called supervised play. Since we are located in the same building as a nail spa we can supervise children while mom stays on site and gets her service at the nail spa next door." The sandbox is filled with a special sand that is completely non toxic and doesn't contain microcrystaline silica, a known carcinogen. Have the kids play outside at a newly built park across the street and then come in and cool down or warm up with more play at Kid's Island. The fact that it's right around the corner from Pequads, one of the best places for Chicago pizza, is a big bonus.

Bubbles Academy
2184 N. Elston Ave.
Chicago, IL 60614

Located between Lincoln Park and Bucktown, Bubbles Academy offers two separate open play rooms: the Open Play Meadow is a softly carpeted room, set up with gross motor climbers and baby and toddler friendly toys; and the Loose Parts Lab is best for older toddlers and preschoolers. There, children are encouraged to play and create with open-ended materials, art supplies and blocks. There are also more than 85 classes per week, preschool, events and Open Play is available for free drop ins when you join a class membership, a definite boon to parents especially during the winter months.

Sod Room
1454 S. Michigan Ave.
Chicago, IL 60605
(312) 922-3131

Best suited for the youngest players, Sodroom is Chicago's first and only indoor playspace with an eco-friendly concept. The space is an open loft with exposed original brick, soaring timber ceilings and natural light. Among the custom features you'll discover Tree House Loft, a Fabric Chandelier and Pixel board which uses corks collected by staff of a local restaurant. All of the eco-friendly toys have been either locally made or manufactured by companies committed to responsible and sustainable practices. In addition to Drop in Play, choose among classes and special events such as New Moms Meetup, Baby & Me Yoga and a Tummy Time Music Class. For toddlers we offer Music, Baby Sign and Play, Early Literacy, Chinese and Spanish. Owner Cynthia Valenciana says, "One of the things we are known best for is our special events. We serve complimentary coffee and tea daily and and truly have a warm and cozy feeling!" Located in an historic South Loop building, Sodroom is also perfect for visitors staying at nearby hotels.

Related:  Ask A Chicago Expert: Easy Breakfast Meals For Kids

Explore and Much More
3827 N. Southport Ave.
Chicago, IL 60613
(773) 880 (KIDS)
Designed by a professional children's museum designer, Explore and Much More beckons the crawling babies to 8-year-old set to explore, play and exercise mental and physical gymnastics on two levels. There are colorful structures that encourage active play as well as complementary music. movement and arts and craft classes. The facility is owned by a grandmother who is fastidious about cleanliness and the space is professionally cleaned daily and food and drinks are kept out of the play-area. Check the web site weekly for discounted multi-visit play passes and discounted daily admission prices. Located on the Southport Avenue corridor and close to Wrigley Field, there are countless cafes and restaurants to visit pre or post play.

Purple Monkey Playroom
2040 N. Western Ave.
Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 772-8411

Be sure you're heading to the Purple Monkey PLAYROOM and not the tattoo and piercing shop with the same name and you'll find drop-in play best for kids ages 0-5. Purple Monkey's smaller size and sense of community appeals to caregivers and the facility allows outside food and drink so locals like to stay through the lunch hour, go home for a spell, and then come back again on their same day pass. Through the end of November, 2017, Purple Monkey is offering half off a 10-visit pass for new clients (to be purchased on the first visit). Consider the Art of Chicken for lunch, or Margie's Ice Cream and GBD Bakery for a treat in between or after play sessions. Kids and parents give the birthday parties held here a colossal thumbs up.

Related: Best Toddler Clothing Stores In Chicago

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