5 Things to Do with a Toddler in Chicago

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Toddlers are wonderful. They have boundless energy, are full of curiosity, and are always on the go. Let’s be honest though, that energy, those questions, and the constant movement from one thing to the next can get pretty exhausting for adults.

If you don’t effectively channel that toddler energy and curiosity into something constructive, it can quickly devolve into room-wrecking play and major meltdowns. That’s why it is so important to find fun, stimulating activities to do with your toddler. But what to do with these little balls of activity?

If you live in Chicago or are visiting this wonderful city with your toddler, you’re in luck. The Windy City has so much to offer little tykes. There are things you can  

Here are five fun and stimulating things to do with a toddler in Chicago.

1. Lincoln Park Zoo

Toddlers love animals which is why they love zoos. You can run a toddler around a zoo all day while keeping them engaged and tiring them out at the same time. Also, most zoos have handy signs in front of each animal so it is easier than normal to answer all the questions about each species.

In Chicago, the Brookfield Zoo is great but not much beats the Lincoln Park Zoo. This zoo opened in 1886, making it one of the oldest zoos in the country. There are over 1,000 animals in the 35-acre zoo which is located in the heart of Chicago’s famous Lincoln Park. Best of all, it’s free to visit!

You can take your toddler on a tour of the animal kingdom and the world here while strolling through exhibits such as the Arctic Tundra, Penguin Cove, African Journey, Birds of Prey, Swan Pond, and the Primate House. Also, with toddlers, don’t miss out on the part of the zoo designed especially for them, the Pritzker Family Children’s Zoo.

2. Chicago Children’s Museum

There are a ton of things you can do with your toddler on Navy Pier but one of the best things you can do is visit the Chicago Children’s Museum. It is a wonderful place filled with everything a child could dream of for creative play.

Born in the early 1980s as a response to local creativity and arts programs being cut in local schools, the museum is now, as they say, “a place that has provided arts programs, STEM experiments, imaginative play, and more to over 11 million children and their parents and caregivers.”

You can spend hours here with your toddler as well as other children of all ages and abilities. It is incredibly entertaining and fun but it is also a place where kids’ minds are engaged and challenged. It is a wonderful place to spend an afternoon and is so cool that both you and your toddler will want to go back soon.

3. Daycare

Hey, sometimes parents need a break! If you’re looking for the best daycare providers in Chicago, Cool Things Chicago has a list that you’ll find helpful. Finding a reliable daycare for toddlers is incredibly important, especially for working parents. You want to find one that, first and foremost, makes you and your child feel safe and secure.

After that, you want to evaluate any of the aspects of the daycare to see how it works for you. There are plenty of great daycares in the Chicago area but they may not all be great for your needs. You want to evaluate the type of care provided, the hours, the staff to child ratio, the location, and any other factors you might feel are important.

4. Margie’s Candies

Ok, so getting toddlers all hopped up on sugar may not seem like the best idea but the look on your toddler’s face when they see their first Atomic Sundae, the craziness that ensues will all be worth it. Take the whole family (or as many people as you can) because you will need it to finish this enormous half-gallon ice cream sundae.

There are two locations you can visit for this original Chicago treat. The original is in Bucktown has been around since 1933. The “new” Margie’s, opened in 2005 by the original owner’s son, can be found in North Center. If you can get to the original, you should. While your toddler won’t appreciate that the Beatles ate at this Chicago landmark, they certainly will never forget the experience.

5. Family Sundays at a White Sox game

Chances are, your kid will never suit up for the Cubs and play at Wrigley Field. However, you can take them to a White Sox game and let them run the bases while they are still a toddler. The White Sox offers Family Sundays during the season where kids get specially-priced tickets, there is kid-centric entertainment before and during the game and the young ones even get to run the bases afterward.

It is a great way to enjoy a Sunday afternoon with the family and develop your kid’s love of the local teams. These family games are day games too so it won’t interfere with bedtime. It is a fantastic experience for the whole family.

Your toddler might not be able to sit through an entire baseball game at this age but they will love exploring the park and seeing all the sights and sounds. And, at US Cellular Field, there is more room to roam around the stadium with kids because there are so many fewer fans at a game than across town. (We kid, Sox fans!)


When you have a toddler, keeping them busy and yourself sane can be difficult at times. Hopefully though, these five tips on great things to do in Chicago with your toddler can help next time you are struggling for ideas. Any of these things are great for young kids and most will be enjoyed by the entire family. You can even plan some of these events for a grandparent trip and then kick back and relax knowing you sent them on an awesome adventure and you have some free time.