We asked Kidlist readers: What are the best libraries for kids in the western suburbs? And wow, there are some incredible libraries nearby, all with free, educational fun. Remember that at most libraries, you can use any local library card to check things out, so don’t be afraid to check out a new spot.
Downers Grove Public Library • 1050 Curtiss Street • Downers Grove
The Downers Grove Library features a large play area featuring a train table, doll house, animal barn, large magnetic shapes, blocks, puzzles and iPads. “Miss Mouse’s Cafe” is a separately contained area with play food, a cash register, shelves, tables and other items for children to creatively play and imagine. Miss Mouse’s Cafe is large enough for many children to play and have fun together, and it is open to the rest of the children’s area making it easy for parents to still monitor their children. Near the entrance of the library is an eating area with vending machines and tables.
The library staff is very helpful and accessible. They run daily story time (including Saturday morning); some story times are drop in and others require pre-registration. Special events include infant playtime, family movie and game times, Lego building groups, guided STEM activities, and special classes for school aged children when school is not in session.
Located just south of the Downers Grove Main Street Metra stop, the library would be an easy train ride from another town. Downtown Downers Grove has many restaurants and coffee shops, making it easy to stop for something to eat after having fun at the library. -Meghan Neill
La Grange Park Public Library • 555 N. La Grange Road • La Grange Park
Kidlist reviewers loved the La Grange Park library for being clean, organized, and packed with options for fun. Friendly staff lead events including story times and puppet shows. The children’s area is large and includes tons of books, puzzles, and DVDs, as well as play spaces for little kids and bigger kids alike. There’s also a large media center where kids can play and learn on both desktop and laptop computers.
Indian Prairie Public Library • 401 Plainfield Road • Darien
Readers praised the Indian Prairie Library’s rotating selection of crafts and projects for kids to do. New and seasonal books are pulled out and highlighted, which makes it easy to find new reads to check out. There are puzzles, learning boxes, play tables (including a train table) and more.
Older kids can play on the giant chess board, camp out on the computers, or cozy up with a book in reading nooks lined with comfy pillows.
La Grange Public Library • 10 W. Cossitt Avenue • La Grange
A giant tree house packed with puzzles is the star of the kid’s section at the La Grange Library. The kid’s space is clean and inviting with squishy armchairs and tables to read or do puzzles. There are regular story times, craft workshops, music sessions, and more on the calendar. Multiple readers praised the staff for being friendly and helpful, too.
Thomas Ford Memorial Library • 800 Chestnut Street • Western Springs
Besides their collection of books, DVDs, audio books, and games, Thomas Ford Memorial Library in Western Springs has a Reading Train! Kids can climb aboard and plan imaginary trips, look through books while sitting on little benches on each car of the train, turn knobs and move valve handles in the engine. This library also has a stage with a whimsical mural and a dollhouse to play with, easily accessible green bins with picture books that little ones can look through, activity tables and a replica of the iconic Western Springs Water Tower with hand puppets to put on a show. –Annie Tandy
Elmhurst Public Library • 125 S. Prospect Avenue • Elmhurst
Elmhurst is a big, cool library that welcomes kids in with an aquarium display. Babies and toddlers can explore the super cute Learning Garden play area (with a door!), while older kids will find puzzles, computers, giant stuffed animals, and fun seating areas throughout the first floor. Check out the calendar for events like story times, LEGO club, baby playtimes, STEM workshops, and more.
There’s a cafe area near the lobby with coffee drinks and food, but you can also bring your own food in to eat at the tables. The library is is walkable from the downtown area, so it’s a great library for a longer outing, too.
Wheaton Public Library • 225 N. Cross Street • Wheaton
Wheaton has a huge downstairs kids’ area with tons of different play spaces, from a giant fruit stand to a row of activity cubes. There are tables set up with games, including a giant Connect 4 set, as well as activities including “I Spy” bottles. The lobby to the children’s area is filled with interesting displays, including a light-up diorama of the room in Goodnight Moon. The teen spaces are also worth checking out before you head back upstairs to grab a drink or sandwich from the library’s cafe.
Wheaton’s library is walkable from the downtown area, so it’s easy to turn a library trip into a longer outing. Check out the calendar for events including story times and a daily after-school STEAM program for grades 3–6.
Westmont Public Library • 428 N. Cass Avenue • Westmont
The Westmont Public Library is currently undergoing a remodel, but the children’s library is completely open. It is located on the second floor in a light filled, bright and open space. The library features a Reading Garden which has many interactive toys such as a Lego wall, puppet show, blocks, games and puzzles. Picture books are found in the Reading Garden and they are all incredibly well organized and labeled by subject areas (transportation, dinosaurs, sports, friends, etc). Most of the books are faced out showing off the colorful book covers. Overall, this is one of the best book organization systems that we have ever come across.
Outside of the Reading Garden, there are areas for iPads, computers, drawing, and building with magnatiles. There are plenty of tables and chairs of all sizes for adults and children. Many movies, games, and CDs are available for check out. The Westmont Library has weekly story times including lapsit, toddler, preschool, Spanish and French led story times. Most are drop in and the schedule can be found on the website.–Meghan Neill
Oak Park Public Library (Main Branch) • 834 Lake Street • Oak Park
The main branch of the Oak Park library has plenty of spaces for kids to explore, including a play house and a big boat. Technology got special props in our reader survey; computers and iPads in the kids’ area are pre-loaded with educational and fun apps. Check out the calendar for children’s events including storytime, baby lapsit, and a high-energy Shake, Rattle, and Read program that gets everyone up singing and dancing.
River Forest Public Library • 735 Lathrop Avenue • River Forest
River Forest’s children’s programming goes far beyond storytimes. They also have kid fitness programs, after-school snack cooking classes, crafts, gaming events, fort-building events, and more. They also serve as a connection hub for the community; at Mother Goose Cafe events, for example, parents of little ones up to 18 months old can gather for coffee and a chat before the storytime begins. Check out the calendar for events and to register.
Glen Ellyn Public Library • 400 Duane Street • Glen Ellyn
Glen Ellyn has a big kid’s area with lots of built-in activities for kids. There’s a long table filled with puzzles, block tables, a puppet stand, and more. I loved the tot-friendly activity panels installed at the ends of the rows of books. Check out the calendar for programs including kids’ concerts, STEAM programming, story times, Smart Starts, and more.
Riverside Public Library • 1 Burling Road • Riverside
The entire lower level of this historic library is now dedicated to children/youth services giving kids more space to read, study, play games and do puzzles. Situated amidst a picturesque backdrop with wooded trails and a pond where kids can feed the ducks after checking out books! Great selection of books, movies, music, games, puzzles, computers and more. Fireplace nook on the upper level is the perfect place to curl up and read with your kids! –Jill Borkowicz
Brookfield Public Library • 3609 Grand Avenue • Brookfield
Nice selection of books, movies, puzzles, books on CD, computers, music and toys, a fun fish aquarium and helpful staff. Great event offerings for babies through teens including special needs playgroup, Pint-Sized Picassos, Creative Kids, jellybean bingo, movie matinees, Legomania, book clubs, Read to the Dogs, and Gaming Extravaganza. They also offer some great STEM classes for the whole family and quilt-making for tweens/teens. Residents can take advantage of their after-school enrichment program. –Jill Borkowicz