Babies and toddlers love to explore the world, as do kids of all ages, but they have different needs than bigger kids. For babies who aren’t walking yet, it’s all about finding places where they can see, touch, and (let’s face it) taste safely. Toddlers need spots where they can stretch their legs and explore! And parents, nannies, and caregivers with babies and toddlers need to leave the house, too.
Keep reading for details on all the best things to do with a toddler or baby!
Stroll Down a Paved Path
Our list of Parks with Paved Paths is great for finding new destinations for a stroll. It’s nice to get out in the fresh air, even if you have an infant who is too small to play at the park.
Head to a Tot-Friendly Playground Together
Once babies can sit up unassisted and have the neck control to use the baby bucket swings, it opens up a world of possibilities for outings together.
First of all, check out our 2023 list of the 9 Best Playgrounds for Toddlers! It goes deep into tot-friendly playgrounds with details on what to expect at each location.
Use our list of Mud-Free Playgrounds to let your toddler or crawler roam around without the worry of what will end up in their mouth. At these parks, you’ll find a rubbery surface that’s good for little hands and knees.
Worried about your runner? Fenced-In Parks keep your toddler contained so you can both enjoy an afternoon at the park! It has a whole section dedicated to ‘tot lots’: little parks made specifically with the youngest children in mind.
Opt for an Easy Outing
Annie put together a great guide to unexpected places where parents can go for a trip with little ones, full of savvy tips like the kid-friendly displays set up at the Abt in Glenview.
Take a Class Together
Parent-child classes are a gentle way to introduce young children to a structured class environment. Our list of local parent-child classes includes music, dance, swimming, preschool programs, and more.
We recently updated our list of Classes for Little Kids 0-5 Years Old, too! Check it out for tons of ideas designed specifically for young children. Ages are noted throughout so you can find the right class for your child’s age.
See the Animals at the Zoo
Stop by these zoos to have their favorite nursery-rhyme animals come to life!
1356 N Gary Avenue
Wheaton, IL 60187
Cosley Zoo is much smaller than Brookfield or Lincoln Park, and you can get much closer to the animals. It’s also quite stroller-friendly.
There’s a stable with farm animals like goats, pigs, and horses, and larger exhibits with bobcats, deer, and more. Check out our article on Cosley Zoo ahead of time for tips. Kids and Wheaton residents (with proof of residency) are free.
Phillips Park Zoo
1000 Ray Moses Drive
Aurora, IL 60505
Stop at the reptile house, visit the bald eagles, or see the turtles. The zoo also shares its grounds with some amazing playgrounds, including Mastodon Island Peninsula Playground, so it’s a great destination for the younger crowd.
8400 31st Street (1st Avenue and 31st Street)
Brookfield, IL 60513
Brookfield is the biggest zoo in the area. With more and more exhibits reopening, your child will love seeing all their favorite animals. The Hamill Family Play Zoo is also an awesome destination for young kids and provides a welcome break for families with little ones!
Lincoln Park Zoo
2001 North Clark Street
Chicago, IL 60614
Lincoln Park Zoo has all the variety of Brookfield Zoo, but has a smaller layout and the best price (free!), which makes for the perfect day trip into the city.
Randall Oaks Zoo
1180 N. Randall Road
West Dundee, IL 60118
A visit to Randall Oaks Zoo is full of excitement for toddlers. Feed the animals, many of which come right to stroller level at the fences.
Go to a Local Children’s Museum
Children’s museums have countless opportunities for hands-on play with your baby or toddler. While toddlers will definitely keep busy, some of these places may be a bit too much for non-walkers, especially given the fact that many charge admission prices for parents and children 12 months and up. To get more for your money, check the Kidlist events calendar before you plan your visit. There are plenty of events like concerts, story times, and crafts (often at no additional cost) if you go at the right time.
If it works within your budget, consider a membership to your local children’s museum. The three children’s museums listed below, along with the Children’s Museum in Oak Lawn, Kidswork Children’s Museum in Frankfort, and Discovery Children’s Museum in Rockford have reciprocal admissions agreements for members as part of their CLIMB network. You’ll have access to six great spaces for the price of one membership, which often pays for itself after only a few visits.
DuPage Children’s Museum
301 N. Washington Street
Naperville, IL 60540
This museum has dedicated areas for crawlers and younger toddlers, which are a lot of fun. Combine these with some of the other exhibits, like the water play area or bubbles, and you’ll have plenty to do during your visit. DuPage Children’s Museum is currently requiring online reservations for both members and non-members.
Kohl Children’s Museum
2100 Patriot Boulevard
Glenview, IL 60026
With a grocery store, water play room, nursery, veterinary clinic, and so much more, your day will be full of fun for toddlers. Their infant areas are sectioned off with foam padding on the floors and benches next to the main exhibits. The museum is free for kids 12 months and younger, but you’ll have to pay the $19 admission price for yourself.
6445 West North Park
Oak Park, IL 60302
Wonder Works in Oak Park is a shoe-free museum, so you won’t have to worry about little hands on the ground. Please note, this is a peanut-free space. This hands-on space has six permanent exhibits that will give your child plenty to explore.
Tumble Safely at Local Open Gyms
Open gyms allow kids to roam free and test what their bodies can do in a safe, cushy space! Many have times specifically set aside for little kids to explore without worrying about bigger kids practicing their cartwheels. Click here for all the open gym locations, days, and times.
Find Soft Play at Indoor Play Spaces
Indoor play spaces are the perfect opportunity for letting kids explore safely. Check out our full list of indoor play places. The ones below are especially good for the younger crowd. Don’t forget to bring socks for you and your children!
4314 E New York Street
Aurora, IL 60504
Kiddy Club has sand, ball pits, slides and on soft, climbable play structures. See pricing page for passes and other discounts.
572 N Michigan Street
Elmhurst IL 60126
Kaitlyn recently reviewed this new indoor play place, which offers tons fun for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers in a colorful playspace.
While you may usually think of trampoline parks as being meant for older children, Sky Zone in Aurora has designated toddler time on Saturday mornings, while the Elmhurst location is open for toddler time on Friday and Sunday mornings. The price is slightly reduced from their usual rates, and their weekend times may even have a character visit.
Kids Town Play and Party
212 Stratford Square Drive
Bloomingdale, IL 60108
Kids Town is tons of fun for older toddlers, as they have separated themed areas, including inflatables and an indoor play structure. (Prices vary depending on age of child and length of stay. Hourly or unlimited time can be purchased.)
Jumps ‘N Giggles Indoor Playplace and Pavilion Carousel in Elk Grove Village
Jack A. Claes Pavilion Center
1000 Wellington Avenue
Elk Grove Village, IL 60007
Jumps ‘N Giggles has a big playground that older tots will love, and a smaller play structure and toys for younger toddlers. Unlimited rides on their beautiful carousel are also included in admission prices.
25 South La Grange Road, Unit A
La Grange, IL 60525
A train table, designated baby area, play house, and countless other toys will be perfect for a visit with your littlest ones. Be sure to check website for hours of operation.
Playroom Cafe Two
2075 Calamos Court
Naperville, IL 60563
Playroom Cafe Two is simply gorgeous. Beautifully decorated, it’s full of a toy grocery store, ride-on toys, ball-pit slide, and designated baby area, this place is a must see.
864 S Route 59
Naperville, IL 60540
Ball Factory is a big place, but there is the separate area just for toddlers and babies. There is usually a staff member standing at the entrance to ensure bigger children stay out of this space. Older toddlers might also be interested in some of the bigger-kid areas.
CubHouse Indoor Playground
Oak Park Park District’s Stevenson Center
49 Lake Street
Oak Park, IL 60302
CubHouse is planning to reopen in October 2023. Check with the Park District for details!
Forest the Fox’s Playbox at Westchester Park District
10835 Wakefield Street
Westchester, IL 60154
Open play time is available daily to residents and non-residents. ($2/child, age 2 and under are free).
The Chick-fil-A playgrounds are great for toddlers, as they are smaller and have activities for toddlers. Many McDonald’s playplaces have a tot area, too. They tend to be calmer during weekdays when the big kids are at school. Stop in for an ice cream cone, cup of coffee, or a full meal.
Hit the Mall
With so much walkable indoor space, the mall is a favorite destination for parents who want to get out and moving when the weather makes it hard to be outside. In addition to doing laps with the stroller, many local malls have activities especially for kids, including several free play spaces.
Play Space at Fox Valley Mall
195 Fox Valley Center
Aurora, IL 60504
The Family Play Space at Fox Valley Mall is a free spot for kiddos to roam. It’s full of low, climbable structures and soft, padded surfaces. Fox Valley also has a Family Lounge in the restroom area of the food court, complete with areas for nursing, children’s shows on TV, and toys.
Fox Valley tends to rotate in other kid-friendly spots regularly, too. Last time I visited, they had a Storybook Nook set up with little chairs and books, as well as an Imagination Playground with soft blocks for building in an empty storefront. (The carousel in the food court is a local favorite, but the size and price make it a better choice for preschoolers and up.)
PLAY at Yorktown Center
203 Yorktown Center
Lombard, IL 60148
PLAY (located on the Lower Level in Center Court) is perfect for toddlers! There are tons of sensory play options low to the ground that fits the height of any toddler or crawler. Because this is an open space, there is no size/age restriction of other children, so keep an extra close eye on tiny hands and feet.
Yorktown also has a colorful children’s dining area located at the rear of the food court. That’s also where you’ll find the family restroom area, which has cushy changing tables, a lounging area with a couch and children’s TV shows playing, family bathrooms, and nursing rooms.
Peppa Pig World of Play
5 Woodfield Mall
Schaumburg, IL 60173
Yu Kids Island
5 Woodfield Mall
Schaumburg, IL 60173
A pillow pool, waterfall slide, and fenced in play-areas are perfect for your tiny visitor. Punchcards can be purchased, and discounted rates are offered on special days during the week. Check website for details.
Read and Play at the Library
The libraries in the western suburbs are incredible for small children, and not just for the abundance of books. Puzzles, toys, puppet shows, and story time can fill your morning with literacy fun.
We asked our readers and rounded up the Best Libraries in the Western Suburbs. The best part is that you don’t need to be a resident to visit any of these libraries. Don’t forget your library card, as you may even be able to check out books from a neighboring library. Our favorites are the Downers Grove and Nichols Library Naperville branch.
Looking for ideas for older kids too?
Check out our Activities by Age page so you can find local places to go for preschoolers through kindergarteners, elementary school-aged kids, and tweens/teens!
Comment below if you have a favorite place for you and your baby or toddler. Also share if your babies are grown, but you remember a favorite destination!