Fresh Ideas for Safe Fun as Illinois Moves to Phase 3 on Friday

Resources for FamiliesActivities at HomeOutdoor Places to Go

Due to a rise in COVID-19 cases across the state, Illinois is moving back to Tier 3 mitigation guidelines on Friday, November 20. As a mother with three small children, this has me feeling defeated. But rather than focusing on what we cannot do during this time, I’m looking to focus on the things that we CAN do. We’re hoping that the information below will have you feeling optimistic about ways to find kid-friendly fun in the coming weeks.

Kid-Friendly Fun in Phase 3

Remember that everyone over 2 will need to wear a face covering and be mindful of social distancing rules — which are coming from state and local governing bodies, not the businesses themselves. Please remember that businesses are trying hard to adapt to these changes. Whatever your plans for phase 3, let’s all have good spirits and grace while we support our local businesses and get through this together!

Get Outside!

As the weather allows, bundle up and get outside. Rachel put together a great Map of Fun Outdoor Places to Go with Kids During the Pandemic. Make sure to click through to the organization’s link to ensure you’re up-to-date on all safety guidelines.

At this time, playgrounds will remain open. Check out a few new ones we’ve highlighted recently, such as Hope D. Wall in Aurora and Wolf’s Crossing Community Park in Naperville. In Lisle, you’ll find that the Accessible Tree House is Open at the Sensory Garden Playground is now open!

Our Ultimate Guide to Parks and Playgrounds in the Western Suburbs is perfect for helping you find any kind of park you could imagine. Just remember to keep social distancing and safety practices in mind as your family explores a new (to you) playground.

Google Maps is also a great way to find smaller, local parks that may be less crowded. Look for green spaces or things labeled “park,” then click to see photos or switch to satellite view to look for playground equipment.

Of all of our park lists, the Perfect Pairing: Local Coffee Shops with Parks Nearby is great for the winter months. Grab a to-go coffee and keep warm while your children have fun at these nearby parks.

Not wanting to worry about a crowded playground? Go for a hike! We’ve got you covered for the Best Forest Preserve Trails for Kids in the West and Southwest Suburbs, Dog-Friendly Hiking Trails, and 15 Parks with Paved Paths.

Stretch your legs and brains at these parks with Storybook Walks in the western suburbs. My emerging reader loves testing her new skills wherever she can.

Embrace the season and play in the snow! The western suburbs are full of sledding hills. If you’re feeling more adventurous, give skiing and snowboarding a try. As safety guidelines have changed, call ahead to confirm reservation requirements.

Support Local Businesses

It’s no secret that small businesses need our help. Not sure where to start? Search GoFundMe’s Small Business Relief to find local companies to help.

Stop in these Locally-Owned Toy Stores and Bookstores to do your holiday shopping. Most are even offering curbside-pickup during this time.

If your Thanksgiving plans have changed, or you’re just looking to mix up your usual meal planning, support these Local Restaurants Offering Thanksgiving Dinners + Family Meals.

Rachel just put together our Experience Gift Guide, filled with great organizations to support with memberships or individual classes. When family members ask for gift ideas for your children, consider these first. One of my favorite’s is DuPage Children’s Museum, who is offering Hands-on Programs Virtually.

Celebrate the Upcoming Holidays

With Thanksgiving coming in one week, many families have had to shift their plans. Nicole’s at-home Thanksgiving roundup will help your family enjoy your day together and maybe even start a new tradition.

If you find yourself in a position to give a little extra this holiday season, consider donating to these toy drives and donations. The pandemic has put a financial strain on many families this year. These are easy ways to help other families and to teach your children the importance of giving to others this holiday season.

Cut down your own tree this year! These Christmas tree farms will add an extra layer of adventure and excitement to decorating your Christmas tree this year.

One of our favorite Christmas traditions is to drive around and see Christmas lights. Our Best Christmas Light List covers walk-through or drive-through displays, neighborhood maps, and individual houses with displays. As of November 17, 2020 this links to our 2019 list, but the 2020 list will be added very soon!

A magical way to get into the holiday spirit is to take a carriage ride. Trolley rides are not allowed to operate during Phase 3, but we hope to see horse-drawn carriage rides continue.

Don’t forget to see Santa! While the in-person events are likely to change, Nicole’s list of Where to See Santa includes a variety of virtual events.

Ways to Have Fun at Home

Back in April, our Kidlist team assembled our ideas for an At-Home Bucket List. Enjoy an indoor picnic, do an at-home spa (my daughters’ favorite), or bake a new recipe. Look through our list to see if there are any you missed in the spring!

Ask a friend to pack up some of their favorite toys or games, and swap for a week. Your children will be excited at these new-to-them activities, and best of all, it’s free!

Friday nights are movie nights in our house. We pop some popcorn, grab our sleeping bags, and watch a new or family-favorite movie. Your local library has countless resources available online. Our ways to Let the Library Come to You with eBooks, Streaming Movies, and More will keep the options for family entertainment limitless.

Does your child have an upcoming birthday? Missing out on holiday traditions can be difficult, but Jill created this list of How to Make Our Kids’ Birthdays Special Right Now to help keep your child’s birthday exciting during this pandemic.

Pick up your groceries! While technically not an “at-home” activity, we all love a quick reset when we hop in the car and head over to our local grocery store for our items.

Explore your favorite museums, at home! Many museums, including National Museum of Natural History- Smithsonian, Museum of Science and Industry and Shedd Aquarium, have closed to align with new safety guidelines. Fortunately, they will continue to offer virtual programming and learning opportunities for curious minds.

Spread Kindness and Ask for Help

Help others by spreading kindness in ways that you may not have thought of before. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about many mental, emotional, and financial strains for families. Now is the time to reach out to your loved ones. Write a letter to a grandparent, or drop a surprise treat in a friend’s mailbox. When we can’t be together physically, our feelings of community and support for each other are what will keep our spirits high.

Schedule regular zoom calls or reminders in your calendar to send a text message out to friends. A quick check-in could be the highlight of someone’s day. Back in March, Susan Stutzman of Kid Matters Counseling in Hinsdale shared 5 Ways to Cope When You’re Losing It. These tips are great to keep in your back pocket on days when you need them most.

As you check on others, make sure to check on yourself too. Talk to a spouse, sibling or friend about how you’re feeling during this uncertain time. Don’t forget, during the COVID-19 Pandemic, Illinois debuted the Call4Calm free mental health hotline. Text TALK to 552020 (or HABLAR for Spanish) to get a call back from a mental health professional. You can also text UNEMPLOYMENT, FOOD, or SHELTER if for info on those services.

What is Open During Phase 3?

What Will Be Closed in Phase 3?

  • Theaters, performing arts centers, indoor museums, indoor dining, and amusement centers are to be closed at this time.
  • All indoor group sports and recreational activities should be paused.

This article was originally titled “Guide to What is Open Summer 2020: Planned Openings, Closings, and Reschedulings” and first published in May 2020.

Did I miss something? We love to hear from our readers. Share ideas, resources, and encouragement in the comments below, or by emailing Annie at

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2 Comments. Leave new

  • Carol Skwarek
    May 20, 2020 9:33 pm

    Cypress Cove Aquatic Park in Woodridge posted on their web site that their facility will not open for the 2020 summer season. Bummer!

  • Carol Skwarek
    May 20, 2020 9:35 pm

    Sunset Pool, Glen Ellyn – closed for the summer season. Posted on their web site today.


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