Top 5 Things to Do with Your Baby or Toddler in Chicago

A teacher with several toddlers picking out toys

Looking for the best ways to enjoy Chicago with your baby or toddler? Discover how you can explore, learn, and grow together. Whether you’re looking to spark your little one’s imagination or enjoy the city’s natural beauty, there’s something for everyone. We’ve rounded up some of the best family-friendly activities in Chicago, along with our musical offerings designed specifically for little ones.

1. Attend a Storytime

The benefits of reading to babies are tremendous, so why not enjoy a storytime at one of the best children’s libraries around the city No matter where you are in the city, there’s likely a branch of Chicago Public Library nearby! The Lincoln Park branch hosts weekly storytimes specifically for babies and toddlers. If you’re near Merit, the West Loop branch has lots of programming available; check out their upcoming events.

You can also catch Merit’s Early Childhood faculty performing a Musical Storytime Our talented team of performing artists engage the children and promote early literacy development with a unique blend of music, movement, reading, and fun. Check out our calendar for more information for Musical Storytimes and other child-friendly events.

2. Visit a Museum

Spark your child’s natural curiosity with at one of Chicago’s many children’s museums! Check out the sensory-rich environment and educational programming at Kohl’s Children’s Museum, or visit the Chicago Children’s Museum at Navy Pier, where all exhibits are baby-safe and many areas are designed specifically for the youngest visitors.

3. Explore the Natural World

There are so many ways for you and your baby to connect with nature. You can introduce your child to the animals at Lincoln Park Zoo, with immersive sensory features and a kid’s play area. Lincoln Park is also home to the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, where kids can enjoy Nature’s PlaySpace, designed for little ones under seven, and a beautiful butterfly haven. Check out Garfield Park Conservatory, home to a children’s garden as well as padded play spaces.

Chicago is also home to dozens of beautiful parks throughout the city, many with excellent programming and events for the whole family. If you’re in the West Loop, be sure to check out Mary Bartelme Park, right across the street from our home at the Joy Faith Knapp Music Center.

4. Shop at a Farmer's Market

A stroll through your local farmer’s market can provide your baby with an exciting sensory experience with plenty of new sights, smells, and tastes to discover. In addition to fresh foods from local vendors, many of these markets offer family-friendly programming.

You may even see Merit students performing or our Early Childhood presenting a Musical Storytime! Be sure to look at our calendar and come see us at a farmer’s market near you.

5. Take a Music Class

There are many developmental benefits of music classes for babies and toddlers, but it’s also a great bonding experience for you and your little one. Our Early Childhood classes help your baby or toddler learn essential musical building blocks and take their first steps on a lifelong journey of musical appreciation. Whether you opt for Jugamos Juntos, our mixed-age Spanish bilingual music class, Music Explorers for babies 0-16 months, or Tuneful Toddlers for toddlers 16-24 months, you will share a special time with your little one as they enjoy a multi-sensory experience that introduces them to the world of music, develops coordination and motor skills, and sets the foundation for language and literacy.

A parent holding a baby in front of a mural with a smiling sun and music notes

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