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Fun places to take your family in northern Illinois

Fun Places to Take Your Family in Northern Illinois

My family recently relocated from central Illinois to northern Illinois so we have had a blast searching down new and fun places to take the kids.  We’ve found an abundance of state parks and museums and I can’t wait to share some of our experiences with you! 

Rockford/Stateline Area 

  • Rock Cut State Park
    • canoeing on Pierce lake
    • Olsen beach swimming in summer
    • hiking trails
    • recreational opportunities
    • great place for fall family photos
  • Discovery Center Museum
    • children’s museum with large outdoor play place
    • water tables, dress up / pretend areas
    • several interactive educational exhibits, events
    • membership available (totally worth it if you ask me!)
  • Burpee Museum
    • award winning exhibits including a young t-rex skeleton
    • 4 floors of exhibits
    • admission varies by age
  • Anderson Japanese Gardens
    • beautiful gardens to visit with the family
    • evening and weekend events
    • closes for winter
    • donation days
  • Nicholas Conservatory
    • third largest conservatory in Illinois
    • sits next to the Rock River
    • 11,000 square foot plant exhibition
    • tickets available online or at the door
  • The Pottery Lounge
    • located in CherryVale Mall
    • paint pottery pieces or canvases in store (paint and cleanup included in price of piece!)
    • in store parties available
  • Carlson Ice Arena
    • skating and hockey
    • public skate
  • Sapora Playworld
    • indoor play structure for ages 5-12
    • smaller structure for ages 4 and under
    • admission fee varies by day/age, discount days
  • Magic Waters Waterpark
    • water slides, wave pool, lazy river, and more
    • area for ages 6 and under
    • cabana rental available
  • Klehm Arboretum and Botanic Garden
    • year round garden
    • handicap accessible path
    • snow shoeing and cross country skiing in winter
    • butterfly garden in the summer
    • admission fee varies by age
  • Belvidere Parks
    • this smaller town near Rockford has some beautiful parks along the Kishwaukee River that I recommend checking out
  • Byron Forest Preserve
    • hiking, sledding, and star gazing are among the options you have in this quiet forest preserve, just outside of Byron
  • Parks along the Kishwaukee River
    • head south of Rockford and you will find an abundance of parks and nature preserves just off of the Kishwaukee River
  • See more (including event calendars) at Go Rockford

 

Oregon Area

  • Blackhawk Statue
    • located in Lowden State Park, you will find the iconic Blackhawk Statue.  This statue is impressive with its size and serves as a great family trip.  There are nearby hiking areas as it overlooks the river. 
  • Lowden State Park
    • Enjoy scenic views of the Rock River from the Blackhawk Statue or hike the four mile trail!  Campsites are also available. 
  • White Pines Forest State Park
    • Lodge in one of the cute little cabins at White Pines Inn and check out the teepee on the grounds.  Enjoy wildlife watching along one of the park’s two steams, or hike one of the seven hiking trails. 
  • Castle Rock state park
    • A beautiful place to practice photography, Castle Rock State Park is also a fantastic place to take your family on a hike or enjoy the serene scenery.  The views are amazing! 

 

Chicago Area

  • Shedd Aquarium
    • indoor aquarium with 32,000 aquatic animals
    • changing special exhibit (your visit will always have something new!)
    • ticket prices vary, membership available, EBT cardholders receive free admission
  • The Field Museum of Natural History
    • one of the largest natural history museums in the world
    • 65,000 exhibits including temporary traveling exhibits
    • tickets available online and at the door, $3 admission via Museums for All (EBT) program
  • Museum of Science and Industry
    • over 2,000 exhibits in 75 major halls
    • 3,500 foot fall model railroad
    • domed space theater
    • relics from the Titanic
    • tickets available online and at the door, limited tickets for free via Museums for All (EBT/WIC cards)
  • Adler Planetarium
    • three full size theaters
    • space and science exhibitions
    • antique collections
    • Doane observatory
    • tickets available online and at the door, basic pass available for those with EBT or WIC cards through Museums for All Program
  • Navy Pier
    • landmark with 50 acres of attractions including outdoor Ferris wheel, restaurants, cruises, IMAX theater, park, and more
  • Millennium Park
    • outdoor ice rink (winter)
    • outdoor art and theater
    • famous “Bean” sculpture
  • The Skydeck
    • located in the Willis tower (formerly known as the Sears tower)
    • glass viewing area on the 103rd floor with glass floor
    • open all days of the year
    • tickets available

 

Schaumberg

  • Woodfield Mall
    • LEGO store
    • fun eateries including Dave & Busters and the Rainforest Café
  • FireZone
    • anything and everything firefighters…just for kids!
    • check the activity calendar for “drop in” times as some times are reserved for events
    • admission for children (1 adult free per child)
  • LEGOLAND Discovery Center
    • play zones
    • 4D cinema
    • rides
    • tickets available online and at door, discounts for homeschool weeks
  • Pirates Cove Children’s Theme Park
    • open June – August
    • 18th century pirate ship you can climb aboard
    • children’s paddle boats
    • Castle playground
    • rock climbing
    • admission fee for ages 1-9, adults are always free

 

Bloomington-Normal

While this is more “central” than northern Illinois, I wanted to include Bloomington-Normal because there are some fantastic places to visit here.  Maybe you’ll pass through the area on your way to or from northern IL, or maybe you will just want to take a day trip to check out these places.  Regardless, I couldn’t leave them off the list. 

  • Discovery Museum
    • three floors of hands on exhibits for toddlers through preteens
    • paint wall (just washes away when you are done!)
    • Ag area, water table, and more
    • admission for ages 7 and up, works together with membership of some other museums
  • Grady’s Family Fun Park
    • 18 hole mini golf, go karts, kiddie rides, batting cages, adult/big kid rides and more
    • price varies depending on activity, wristbands available
  • Pepsi Ice Center
    • hockey and ice skating classes, free skate
  • Miller Park Zoo
    • wide variety of animals including wolves, reindeer, Sumatran tiger, and river otters
  • Upper Limits Rock Climbing Facility
    • 20,000 feet of climbing space indoor and outdoor
    • 110 feet tall routes
    • Classes, parties, membership, and day passes available

 

Other activities and places to visit in northern Illinois

 

Free Summer Activity: Kids Bowl Free

Free Summer Activity: Kids Bowl Free

 

Kids Bowl Free is the perfect free summer activity for families across the U.S.  Participating bowling alleys offer two free games per kid per day, from May until August!

I admit I haven’t taken my kids bowling as much as they would like to because otherwise it’s just so expensive.  After paying for a couple of games for the four of us (my husband and I included because why should we miss out?) and paying for shoe rental, I am exhausted thinking of how much I spent.  But through Kids Bowl Free, I can guarantee two free games per day for my kids. 

I highly recommend heading to Walmart for a cheap pair of shoes that can serve as bowling shoes.  Buy something that has a light sole and only wear them for bowling.  You’ll save so much on shoe rental!  At $3 per kid each day we bowl, it adds up.  Instead, I bought $12 shoes for each of them and after 4 games, we would have paid that just for rental.  Now we will also have a spare set of shoes for the school year! 

Now what about the parents?  Kids Bowl Free has special deals for you too.  It’s not quite as awesome as the free two games a day, but you can get some significant discounts.  Take advantage and join in the fun with your kids – you deserve it and they will love it! 

(I also recommend buying a pair of shoes to serve as bowling shoes for you also if you plan on bowling…seriously you’ll be so much more comfortable too!) 

 

Free summer bowling for kids!

5 Skills Young Children Develop from Video Games

 

5 Skills Young Children Develop from Video Games

 

When I was a child, I was jealous of my cousin who had a Nintendo video game system.  It was so much fun to play, but my parents wouldn’t buy one.  My husband, however, grew up with video games.  After we married, he told me that he wanted to make sure our kids have access to technology and video games just as he had.  I couldn’t really understand the reason why, but now as a parent of young children, I can see how video games can serve educational value and encourage the development of new skills in a fun way!

 

Math Skills

Several games require the player to earn coins or points to move forward in some way, whether that is to level up or to purchase additional characters or items in the game.  This teaches basic math skills to my sons, helping them also learn to save up when necessary. 

 

Reading and Language

Instructions and character dialogue teach language skills and reading skills.  My 5 year old, has learned to read simple commands on the screen to complete a task or mission.  My 7 year old can read specific instructions on the screen to the point that he rarely needs our assistance.  They have also have developed a greater communication with each other.

 

Teamwork and Collaboration

Have you seen young brothers work together and follow each others instructions without a problem or fighting?  I have, and it is amazing to watch them work together!  Many of the “missions” in their games require them to work together closely and complete certain tasks at the same time in order to progress.  It took them a little while to figure it out but they have learned that teamwork is the best way to get something done.

 

Map Reading and Navigation Skills

Most games will have some sort of map to see where to go next or where another player is. My 5 year old has learned to navigate and compare his movement from that on the screen to the small map.  They can find each other across New York City in LEGO Marvel Superheroes and it is absolutely amazing to see these skills at work at such a young age!

 

Hand-Eye Coordination

You might think it is easy to press a button and move around on the screen but for a young child, it can improve their hand-eye coordination drastically!  Button configuration varies per game so the memorization and ability to press the buttons automatically takes patience and practice.

 

These skills can and will still be learned elsewhere, but I love seeing my children learn together while not even realizing it.  It will always be a controversial topic on the amount of screen time children should have, whether they should play video games, etc, but I believe that there are definitely benefits.  Check out these kid-friendly video games and see what you think!

10 Kid-Friendly Pandora Radio Stations For Road Trips

10 Kid-Friendly Pandora Radio Stations For Road Trips

10 Pandora Stations that are Kid Friendly - perfect for road trips!

 

Summer’s almost here which means road trips and vacations for many! The first thing I think of when planning a road trip is how I will keep my kids entertained. Finding a good radio station is always key for my family.  Most cars have the ability to hook up to your phone for music input, or may even have internet radio built in.  My personal favorite free streaming music is Pandora Radio and here are a few of my favorite kid-friendly stations!  

  1. ABC (The Alphabet Song) Radio
  2. Baby Einstein (Children’s) Radio
  3. Disney (Children’s) Radio
  4. Family Musicals
  5. How Far I’ll Go (From “Moana”) Radio
  6. Kids Christmas Favorites (Holiday) Radio 
  7. Mozart’s Lullaby Radio
  8. Radio for Kids
  9. The Piano Guys Radio 
  10. Toddler Radio

Remember to use the thumbs up and thumbs down in order to make the station more customized for your family.  

10 Kid-Friendly Pandora Radio Stations for Road Trips

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