Things to Do with Preschoolers: Local Activities for Kids 3–5 Years Old

Outdoor Activities

Preschoolers are curious, active, and ready for fun! I have a 3-year-old and a 5-year-old, and we’ve found so many fun things to do together all across the western suburbs. From amazing opportunities for nature play to early experiences in art and music to absolutely bananas playgrounds, our area has so many places to explore together.

Things to Do with Preschoolers in the Western Suburbs

Enjoy Nature

Local nature centers are a great starting point for an outdoor adventure with preschoolers. Sometimes, we never even make it out onto the trails! But visitor centers offer a great spot to get advice on kid-friendly trails and take a bathroom break before heading out.

Hidden Oaks Nature Center in Bolingbrook is a great choice for preschoolers with an age-appropriate outdoor nature play area. Knoch Knolls Nature Center in Naperville has a big playground with a soft, spongy surface and easy access to short trails, too.

We also have a great list of the Best Trails for Kids. Taking a walk through the forest preserve and talking about plants and animals you see along the way is fun with this age. Fullersburg Woods and Waterfall Glen are a couple of our favorites, but you can check out the full list for even more ideas.

Cantigny Park and The Morton Arboretum are also great places to enjoy nature. Cantigny Park is $5-10 per car depending on the time of year and offers free parking on the first Wednesday of each month.

Cool Off with Water Fun

Splash pads and spray parks are great choices for kids who can’t swim solo just yet. Some are even fenced in (such as the splash park at Maryknoll Park in Glen Ellyn, Wolf’s Crossing Community Park in Naperville, and the Ty Warner Park Spray Park in Westmont).

Looking for some lake-front fun? Last year, Nicole wrote up some amazing tips for doing a boat rental for a day on the water with the whole family. For a shorter outing, paddleboat, kayak, and canoe rentals are great fun for the preschool set. Of course, you’ll be doing most of the work, but they’ll love being along for the ride.

Jamie recently took her kids for a good old-fashioned creek stomp in Oswego! I love this kind of outing for preschool kids: one cool outdoor thing to do, plus a playground to help the fun last longer.

Find Good Playgrounds for Preschoolers

Explore our readers’ picks for the 15 best parks and playgrounds. In our family, the Sensory Garden Playground in Lisle, Harvester Park in Burr Ridge, and Darien Community Playground are all favorites! Local playgrounds with coffee shops nearby are also excellent for caregivers who want a morning pick-me-up before starting all the fun for the day.

Nature playgrounds are amazing for this age range. Preschoolers need to explore and get their hands dirty! My kids can spend hours at spots like The Morton Arboretum’s Children’s Garden, Bison’s Bluff in Schaumburg (check their website for summer 2021 reservation info), and the Prairie Patch Play Area in Wheaton.

Celebrate Seasonal Fun

The changing seasons are so much fun to explore with preschoolers. They’re old enough to begin to recognize the changing of the seasons, but young enough that there are so many “firsts” to experience.

Farmers markets make for a great summer outing with preschoolers. While the weekend markets can be quite crowded, the weekday markets tend to be much more open. Go early to avoid the crowds and heat! Every Saturday, we walk over to our local farmer’s market and let both of our kids pick out one treat and one fruit or veggie. It’s been a really fun way to try have the kids things like purple cauliflower, asparagus, and heirloom tomatoes . . . but of course, donuts usually win out for their treats!

In the fall, a trip to pick apples or choose a prize from the pumpkin patch is a fun outing for preschoolers. Many spots have activities, too. (They’re also less spooky than some of the other seasonal goings-on!) Fall fests also offer a great chance to experience autumn classics like caramel apples, hayrides, and pumpkin patches.

In the winter, don’t let a little chill keep you inside! Many preschoolers adore going sledding; we’ve got a round-up of local sledding hills to get you started on a snowy day.

Good Zoos for Preschoolers

Brookfield Zoo is a huge local attraction and offers tons of fun for kids. It’s definitely an outing! Brookfield Zoo currently requires reservations. Check out Annie’s recent Brookfield Zoo trip for tips.

Cosley Zoo in Wheaton is another smaller zoo with Illinois wildlife. Reservations are required as of August 2021. Kids are free; if you don’t live in Wheaton, you’ll pay $7 per adult. It’s my personal favorite for little kids; check out tips from my recent trip with my family.

Finally, Philips Park Zoo in Aurora is a little free zoo! There’s a splash pad and giant playground onsite to make for a fun outing that’s very manageable with little ones.

Explore Classes for Preschoolers

We’ve got a whole guide to classes for little kids 5 and under! It’s full of great options for young kids, and each class option lists the starting age, too. Handy, right?

Your local park district is another great resource for classes. Often, park district classes give kids a taste of a new activity or sport for just the season — which is great for fickle preschoolers.

Check Out a Children’s Museums

Local children’s museums are by and large back open! Preschool is really the sweet spot for these fun destinations. Many also have areas for babies and crawlers, so if you’re juggling a younger kiddo as well, that’s a huge relief. Plan ahead; as of August 2021, most museums are requiring masks and advance reservations to make sure there’s enough space to play safely.

photo courtesy of DuPage Children’s Museum

Head to a Farmers Market

If you have one within walking distance, make the walk part of the outing! Otherwise, there are plenty of markets to choose from with all kinds of fruits, vegetables, and treats to snack on. We always publish the schedule with details for each market and you can find it here: French Markets and Farmers Markets.

See Animals at a Farm

There are plenty of farms in our area that are open to the public, some even with extra attractions. Blackberry Farm has a train, play area, and historic learning opportunities, Kline Creek Farm has baby lambs in the spring and also regular events with old-fashion fun, and Honey Bee Gardens Farm is not open to the public, but offers tours for a fee. Click here for the full list of farms to visit.

Ride the Train

There are a lot of kid-friendly stops on Metra’s BNSF line. Katie put together a great list of each stop worth checking out with suggestions of where to go. All aboard! Head to our article about train stops to get some great ideas.

Amusement Parks for Preschoolers

Pirate’s Cove, Santa’s Village, and Grady’s are good amusement parks for this age, with Pirate’s Cove being the smallest of the three if you aren’t up for large fairgrounds.

Indoor Play Areas

We have an epic list of the best indoor play areas, which are perfect for preschoolers. We even included some open gyms on that list, so there’s a good variety to check out.

Visit a Conservatory

Get some fresh air and enjoy the warmth of a conservatory no matter what the weather is doing outside! Oak Park Conservatory has talking parrots in addition to winding paths and a great playground right across the street. Wilder Park Conservatory in Elmhurst is small, but a nice escape and in the same area as a playground, the library, and Elmhurst Art Museum. Garfield Park Conservatory is the largest and most impressive conservatory if you want to head to the city. We love all the rooms, waterfalls, and kids area there.

Let’s keep the ideas rolling in the comments! Let us know your favorite spot for the preschool-age crowd below.

Looking for ideas for another age group?

See all of our Activities by Age Articles for local places to go for every age range.

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