Tuesday, December 29, 2009
So for you parents who are looking for a short term commitment for kids activities, there are some great events being offered in the coming weeks at Bellybum Boutique - 4347 N. Lincoln Ave in Chicago - one of my favorite stores. Plus, they offer some free demo classes to try before you buy!
Itsy Bitsy Yoga Toddler / Itsy Bitsy Yoga Infant:
You can try out a free demo on January 4, and then sign up for a 4 session class. The classes are taught by a certified Itsy Bitsy instructor, and are part of a developmentally-centered program for young children.
Dance With Me Toddler:
For toddlers ages 1-3, this class gets baby moving. You can register for 4 sessions starting on January 6, or drop in for $15 on Wednesdays at 11am (Jan 6-27)
Sign & Sing with Baby:
4 sessions starting January 21. I'm a BIG fan of baby sign, even though we only taught my daughter a few signs. Had I know how useful the signs she learned would be, I would have taken a class. And in this class, signing is taught along with music to increase ease of learning. I highly recommend giving this a try if you a have a little one!
Other classes for moms include Child Led Potty Learning, How & Why to Cloth Diaper Your Baby, Going Green for Me & Baby to Be, and more. Check the web site for more details on these and MANY other fun events: www.bellybumboutique.com/calendar
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
I loved the store right away. It's set up nicely, and there's room to browse yet you can see from the games stacking up high that there's a LOT to choose from here. They've got a fantastic selection of puzzles and games, and boast of an expanded collection based on lots of research and customer feedback. There's lots of great games and puzzles for adults too, including some great classic, strategy and fantasy games. The selection for kids Mia's age was not too expansive, but they did have a really nice assortment of things we already love. They have a nice selection of wooden Haba toys and games, and lots of brain-exercising puzzles and toys even for the little tots. We were helped by a very knowledgeable staffer who gave us some suggestions based on Mia's interests. I think in just a few months we'll be able to head back and find a lot more things that she will love.
The store does a game night, but this is more geared toward adults. However there are tables set up and games out to try, so it's a fun place to visit with your kids.
Monday, November 9, 2009
We finally tried out Fantasy Kingdom a couple of weeks ago. We invited a few friends to join us, and brought a few treats to share. Fantasy Kingdom has a nice clean kitchen area for parties or for just giving your kids a snack while they're playing.
Mia just turned 18 months old, so I wasn't quite sure what she'd be into at a place like this. It's a nice big space, mostly to the theme of a castle/kindom. In addition to the castle theme there is a police station, firehouse, and grocery, complete with costumes, slides, climbing areas, and plenty of little nooks and crannies for kids to explore. There's also a special separate area for the pre-crawlers and crawlers, with plenty of toys and things to keep them busy.
Mia was too young for a lot of the pretend play, but she found a few things that kept her completely enthralled. She had never ridden in a pretend car before, so she absolutely loved getting in and out of the pretend emergency vehicles. She fell in love with a plastic rocking horse, spent a good 15 minutes pushing around a lawn mower, and she became obsessed with a few of the realistic plastic animal toys. These aren't earth-shattering toys and activities, but they were the things that she ended amusing herself with for nearly 90 minutes!
I'm looking forward to going back and seeing how her interests change as she gets older. There are definitely toys and features for kids at every level up to age 6.
The parking is convenient there - we happened to luck out with street parking, but there's a huge indoor lot that's just $5 with validation. Regular admission is $12 per kid during open play hours.
Check out the web site at http://www.fantasykingdom.org
Monday, October 19, 2009
At any rate, we're back now and getting ready for winter, and I realize that trips to the park aren't going to be happening quite so often in the cold weather. So I'm making a commitment to get Mia out of the house so that we can check out new places to go with kids around town.
We've already started with Wiggleworms, which I'll write about in a separate post, and we're planning some outings to other family destinations in the coming weeks. So check back soon and I will have some more to blog about!
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Her dad and I dropped her off for a night at Grandma and Grandpa's in the suburbs, and on Sunday they took her to Wagner Farm, located at 1510 Wagner Road in Glenview. She had a great time seeing the cows, horses and other animals close up.
My parents report that the farm was a ton of fun, super clean, and that Mia was completely captivated by the animals. They can't wait to take her back, and now I'm planning to take her there as well!
At her age, seeing the animals is the exciting part, but there are lots of ways that older kids can get involved.
Kids can visit the Milking Lab and Parlor and see milking demonstrations, learn about growing common farm crops, see how mechanization changed farming into a commercial endeavor, and do hands on activities and learn more about how farms work and the roles that they play in the world.
For more information about visiting the farm, go to http://www.wagnerfarm.org.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
The Kids part of the fest takes place near Milwaukee and Evergreen. Kids will have a chance to let their hair down and rock out with Psychobaby in the Rock 'n Roll Kids Tent, featuring Punk Rock Hair Styles, Create Your Own Band Tees and Custom Photo Shoots.
Musical entertainment goes on all day at the Beat Kitchen Kids’ Stage. The lineup includes Mary Macaroni, Lindsey Weinberg, Jeremy Babcock of the Dream Shakers, Little Miss Ann, Laura Doherty, Karen 4 Kids and more.
Here's the schedule:
Saturday July 26th
Noon- Mary Macaroni
1:00- Lindsey Weinberg
2:00- Beazley Phillips
3:00- Jeremy Babcock of the Dream Shakers
4:00- Bucktown School of Music
5:00- Little Miss Ann
Sunday July 27th
Noon- Mary Macaroni
1:00- Kid's Yoga with Soulistic
2:00- Chang's Martial Arts
3:00- Mad Science of Chicago
4:00- Laura Doherty
5:00- Karen 4 Kids
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
The store is absolutely adorable, from the outside right on in. Containers of candy fill the store, and you can fill your bag with whatever you like. They had every type of gummy candy, from bears to fish to fruit rings, hard candies, chocolates, lollipops - you name it! It's great for kids, so you can just let everyone fill up their own bag with whatever they want.
They also do gift and goodie bags. A friend of mine has used them before to make goodie gift bags, and she said they did a great job.
Unfortunately it was over 90 degrees the day we stopped by, and since I'm a chocoholic I couldnt' really stock up too much or everything would have melted. So of course we will be returning soon on a cooler day!
Saturday, June 13, 2009
There's a kid-sized grocery store and Potbelly's that kids can play in, pretending to be employees and customers, which I thought was pretty great. That was way over Mia's head though, so we looked for activities that should could enjoy. For some perspective, Mia is 13 months old - and thankfully she's walking, because it was too crowded to push a stroller around.
We found quite a few activities that Mia was able to enjoy, and we can see that she's going to grow into many of the other areas. She's not quite old enough to do a lot of the things at this museum that make things happen - like pull a lever, push a bar, etc - but she was able to enjoy watching what happened when we did those parts for her.
The Water Works area let kids explore water, and the tables where lots of the water flowed was just low enough for Mia to check it out and enjoy it. She liked the simple things - like just pulling balls out of the water or watching bubbles moving. I can see how she's going to really enjoy this room when she gets older!
We spent a lot of time in the Music Makers area, since Mia's pretty musically / rhythmically inclined, and it was very noisy which was a bit overwhelming for her. There was one small room off to the side in that area where we were able to play with just a few little drums at one time and it wasn't so crowded. She loved this, and it was nice to have a little space that wasn't so overwhelming to her. She really liked banging on some funky xylophones too.
We ended up finding activities that she liked and that worked for her age throughout the museum. There were quite a few things that caught her attention in the temporary Color Play exhibit. A globe full of colorful feathers that blew all around; patterned wheels that she could spin and watch; and even big spotlights of color on the wall were pretty exciting for her!
I was really impressed by how much kids can actually learn, once they're old enough to understand. This is all lost on Mia now, but there's so much hands on learning about how things actually work, like color, water, and light. Overall, even for a one-year-old, this was a really fun museum and it kept Mia very entertained for an hour. We could have spent more time exploring, but Mia was starting to get tired. We'll definitely be going back, and my parents were kind enough to get Mia a membership (this also ensures that we bring Mia up to their place to visit more often!) The membership which will also get us into the Chicago Children's Museum at Navy Pier, which I'm very excited to check out!
Here's Mia peering out at us from inside the hollowed out trunk of a big plastic tree. She has no idea where she's supposed to be, but since it was quite conducive to Peek-a-Boo, she loved it.
Friday, June 5, 2009
Some new residences have sprouted up at The Morton Arboretum! Animal Houses is open, and eleven gigantic human-sized animal house are ready for inspection.
If your kids wonder where all those squirrels go when they're done running around your yard, they can climb through a "squirrel drey" and see how the squirrels live. A 20 foot raccoon den shows kids where raccoons go off to sleep, and an oversized rotting log shows kids all sorts of different animals that make this their home.
Animal Houses are open through November 14.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
There's a resource that I've been using for the past year that I feel most moms must know about - but I'm realizing that this isn't the case. It's Meetup.com - a web site where you can find thousands of groups with common interests that schedule meet-ups.
There are many of these groups for moms, themed by geographical location, interests and even by religion. Some groups are more active than others, but the gist of it is that there's a main organizer that heads up the group, and that organizer and other members offer to host meet-ups.
A few of the first groups I joined were the "New Mom Network Chicago Meetup Group", the "Chicago Stay at Home Moms Meetup Group," and most recently, "Bucktown Babies Playgroup." Events have included meetups in the park with dozens of moms and babes, small playdates hosted in private homes, field trips to the Nature Museum or other family locations, strolls in the park, storytimes, and even moms-night-outs with game nights, potlucks and dinners out.
One of the most active groups that has a really great calendar is the Stay at Home Moms group - I'm embarrassed to say that I check the calendar all the time, but haven't been taking full advantage because so many of the wonderful events occur during Mia's naptime or on my work days. I'm hoping to do more of these events in the summer, as Mia is 1 now and needs some play buddies besides our cat Chloe!
And aside from mom groups, you can find other groups for whatever your special interests may be. Check it out and if you ever see that I'm attended an event you're at, be sure to say Hello!
Monday, May 4, 2009
Mia loves Baby Einstein characters, so we decided to do a Baby Einstein themed party. I didn't want to spend a lot of money, so I needed to get as many party accessories as possible on a budget. I found that Birthday in a Box had a ton of great, affordable party items, and we ended up getting plates, utensils, napkins, a big Happy Birthday party banner, and a really cute little Baby Einstein caterpillar candle, all for under $50! They also have party favors, balloons, pinatas, invitations/thank you notes, crafts and activities and more.
Check out this article for great tips on how you can save money on your children's birthday parties.
Full disclosure is that I get a percentage from anything purchased thru my links to this site - but I am writing about it because I really loved it!!
Saturday, April 25, 2009
I loved this store from the moment we walked in - it is jam-packed with toys, and we didn't know where to begin! The selection is incredible, and what I loved the most was just how many different kinds of toys they had for every age range. Mia just turned one, and we got some great recommendations for some toys for her. We started small, since I know we'll be back - we walked out with a mini maraca (she grabbed it early and put it in her mouth, so at that point we knew it was hers), an Educo "Spring -A-Ling" handheld maze toy, and a great set of baby keys with real metal key parts and sound effects.
This store had a great selection of quality toys, including some of our favorite brands like Haba, Melissa & Doug, and Priddy board books. They had an impressive selection of bathtub toys, musical toys, hand puppets, Sesame Street characters - really they've got everything, and LOTS of everything! This will be the place we go for any upcoming birthday gifts, for kids of any age.
Monday, April 20, 2009
The sale is taking place on the 6th floor of the Apparel Center at 350 Orleans, which is right across the street from the Merchandise Mart. It's going on through this Wednesday, from 9am - 4pm. Happy shopping!
Saturday, April 18, 2009
This is a great store if you're a new or expecting mom. They've got a great section of items for moms-to-be, including nursing supplies, slings, cloth diapers, organic baby products and nursing bras and tops. If you're interested in learning about cloth diapering or babywearing, they offer classes that teach you about these subjects. While I was there, I saw a pregnant woman getting a quick lesson on slings with a very lifelike baby doll.
Their class offerings are great too - they offer instruction on natural childbirth, breastfeeding, infant CPR, baby sign language and much more. I might sign my mom up for an upcoming infant safety class.
The product selection overall is really wonderful - adorable baby clothes, toys, and gift items, and they've got a huge selection of wooden Melissa and Doug puzzles - our favorites - and other natural wood toys. I managed to escape with only one item, although it would have been easy to fill entire trunk. I found a great wide-brim sunhat for Mia, which for the life of me I couldn't seem to find last year.
So if you're an expectant or new mom, or looking for a great gift, be sure to stop in some time! Located at 1654 W. Roscoe. http://www.bebybaby.com/
Friday, April 17, 2009
On Monday we went to Gymboree class. We've been going to the Gymboree on North Avenue and Kingsbury since Mia was about 2 months old. I've been really happy with it, and have especially enjoyed the covered parking through the winter! We're up to level 3 classes now, and have really loved the different classes and especially our instructors. However, I'm now interested in finding some music classes for Mia, since she seems to be very musically inclined - I think more than normal. The music classes at Gymboree don't fit into my work schedule, so I'm planning to try out some new options in the coming week.
On Thursday we did a trial class at Bubbles Academy. Again, the music class that I wanted to try didn't work with my schedule, so we tried a general class for babies 12-24 months. I'm pretty certain that Mia was the youngest in the class (she'll be one year old next Wednesday), but we had a lot of fun! I think that the new venue was exciting, no doubt simply because it was new, but also since it's a huge open space with great colors and images. She definitely enjoyed running around, and she was fascinated watching the older kids. I talked with some of the other moms in the class, and many have been going to Bubbles for a long time and really love it. There's parking available here too, which is a plus for a venue in the city!
I'm not sure yet where we're going to end up signing up for class, because I'd like to try a few other options. I'm hoping to try a class at the Suzuki school, as well as Wiggleworms which I have consistently heard great things about. A place called Bucktown Music recently opened in our neighborhood and will be offering Kindermusic classes, which I was VERY excited to hear. However, it sounds like the class for babies will be at 10am, which is prime naptime in our house. I'm hoping that perhaps if I can get some other moms together who would prefer a different time - maybe 4pm or so - we can get another class going. If you're interested, please drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know!
Monday, April 13, 2009
This started on Friday and continued every day through the weekend. She refuses to ride in her stroller or sit in a shopping cart. She has a raging fit, which she's never done before (well, not until last weekend's 5-day "i refuse to go in my crib" phase) Nothing seems to work except picking her up and holding her. I tried letting her ride it out in the stroller one day, but that did not end well (it ended with Mia throwing up and me having to clean it up with my mittens and a diaper) Three days of outings were cut short or cancelled. I'm concerned that I'm never going to be able to leave the house with her again.
I'm going to keep on trying this week. We've got lunch plans and Gymboree today, and Thursday we're going to check out a class at Bubbles Academy. Hopefully there will also be some stroller walks this week, but that's up in the air for now!
Saturday, April 4, 2009
While I'm excited to eventually plan our first trip to the Shedd, today we just wanted to do something simple, so we headed over to Wells Street to see the Old Town Aquarium. First, we grabbed some lunch at Old Jerusalem, where Mia enjoyed her very first taste of a french fry and falafel. Then we headed north up Wells St., and stopped at the Collar and Leash pet store. They've got cats and dogs for sale, and while we've got 2 cats at home, Mia had never seen a dog really close up. Unfortunately for us, the animals were on the 3rd floor, but it was worth the climb as I believe Mia enjoyed it.
Then on to the Old Town Aquarium, which was perfect - enough tanks and colorful fish to let Mia get an idea of what real fish look like. In the middle of the store there's even a little goldfish pond, with huge goldfish swimming around. There were lots of other parents with kids there, just like us. So until we have our first real trip to the Shedd - which I think Mia will appreciate more in just a few months - this was perfect!
Thursday, April 2, 2009
Hoohobbers opened a storefront about a year and a half ago at 1657 N. Elston. It's easy to miss - it's in an industrial-looking area with almost no foot traffic, and a small sign that you could easily miss while driving by. The interesting location is because this is where they actually manufacture their products. They've been in business since '81 and sell their merchandise mostly through other retail outlets. You may have seen some of their products in stores like Lazar's and Beautiful Beginnings.
They boast of their reputation for quality and uniqueness, the fact that they've never had any products recalled, and that all their great stuff is made right here in Chicago USA. They make kids' bedding, cribs and Moses baskets, rockers, lamps, ottomans, tables and chairs, baby bags, bibs and more.
Some of the more unusual that items I saw were the adorable soft fabric insulated lunch boxes, funky foldable monogrammed baby director chairs, and gorgeous infant rockers. The rockers are available in dozens of beautiful fabrics, making them appear somehow super soothing and comfortable. They make gorgeous Moses baskets - had I seen these before I committed to my plastic bassinet (which I did love), I might have considered this option!
They can even custom create their products for you using fabric that you choose. I'm thinking I might have them make one of their cute floor lamps for Mia in the extra fabric I have from her curtains!
They're having a sale now, and you can check back on ChicagoKids.com soon for a coupon code that I'll be posting. If you're looking for some really adorable, beautiful, non-gimmicky stuff, check out the store or the web site at www.hoohobbers.com.
On the web site, use coupon code "ChicagoKids09" for 15% off through April 30.
Sunday, March 29, 2009
So today I will blog about the one thing that helped us get through the week: our Laurie Berkner Band DVD. We rarely put Mia in front of the tv, but when she was feeling so horrible and nothing seemed to help, this was a phenomenal distraction. We mostly just listen to the music, but this week we watched the video as well. Mia LOVES these songs. I give this dvd full credit for Mia clapping her hands any time she hears the words "Clap your hands" - even if it's in the middle of a song she's never heard before. It's also the reason she says "Moo" or "Oink" any time he hears mention of a cow or a pig.
I don't play just baby music for Mia. We spend time dancing almost every day to my iPod, and she's getting exposed to a completely random mix - Britney, the Killers, Beck, KT Tunstall, Arcade Fire - and my personal favorite for dancing with Mia, Jai Ho from Slumdog Millionaire. Yet the songs on this kid DVD are catchy and fun, and while I don't really understand what Mia likes about the visual parts of this DVD, she can't take her eyes off of it.
As I write this, however, I wonder if I'm the last parent to learn of this DVD. We had friends over for dinner a few weeks ago (grownups), and found out that we weren't the only parents with "Victor Vito" constantly running through our heads. And just last weekend at the zoo, we overheard a mom singing "Let's go swimming" to her little girl.
The DVD came with a bonus CD which we keep in our car, and that has helped us with many grouchy car rides. And I should probably be embarrassed to say that on several occasions, I have found myself out driving by myself, only to realize about 10 minutes into the ride that I am listening to a baby CD. And singing.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
I'm still fairly new to having a little girl, so I haven't yet been exposed to all the girly-girl stores. So this was my first - and I loved it. They've got everything you can imagine for a budding princess: pretty slippers, tiaras, sparkly princess wands... and an amazing selection of dresses and tutus. I realized early on that Mia would eventually need a tutu, but I hadn't realized just how many ballerina/princess-wear choices we would have.
A Fairytale Ballet offers classes for kids as young as 2, and they even have Fairytale Princess camps. It looks like the Princess Club web site isn't up and running yet, but you can visit www.afairytaleballet.com.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
We shopped here before Mia was born, at which point I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. The salespeople who helped us on our various trips to the store were incredibly knowledgeable, and were clearly experts on the products. We ended up getting our car seat, stroller, convertible stroller, glider chair and lots of accessories here.
The thing that I still personally love the most about Lazar's is actually MY baby furniture. I'm talking about the furniture that I've had since I was a child in the very early 70s! My furniture set followed me from my parent's house to the various apartments I've had in Chicago, and it now occupies what I consider to be our very cozy guest room. I will say though, it doesn't seem like anyone really makes furniture quite like this set anymore, but it certainly did endear Lazar's to me in additional ways. Here it is, after all this time!
Friday, March 20, 2009
From the moment I walked in, I knew that the items in this store were special. They've got everything, from baby clothes to nursery furniture to toys, books, gear, baby care and lots of great accessorites. giggle takes pride in the fact that they have done all the hard work for moms out there, weeding through the overwhelming amount of products out there to bring you only the best of the best.
You'll find lots of organic, natural, earth-friendly products here. It's probably not the best bet if you're on a budget, but if you're looking for the most innovative and stylish baby products, this store's for you.
And if you're looking for a great baby registry, you should definitely check this place out.
The store opened a few months ago, which I only realized a few weeks ago when I was passing by. I stopped in, expecting to find a fairly standard kids clothing/gifts/accessories store, and was surprised that it was devoted exclusively to printed onesies and t-shirts. These weren't your ordinary designs - they're super cute, original and whimsical, and there's a style for everyone.
The best part is how the designs end up on the apparel. Designs are submitted online by anyone that wants to create something, and then web site visitors vote on their favorite designs. Designs with the most votes are selected, and the designer gets $2,000 per design that is used!
So if you're looking for some cute, original, casual duds for your kids, this is a great place to look. And if you've got a creative streak and want to see your artwork on kids apparel, start creating submit something!
You can order from the web site at http://www.threadlesskids.com/, and submit your designs as well.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
The first thing I should blog about is my own web site: ChicagoKids.com. I launched ChicagoKids.com in Fall 2001. The idea for some sort of network for parents about kids' activities first occured to me several years before the site launched, when I worked in marketing at Brookfield Zoo. Up until the birth of my daughter, I produced the site on the side of other full-time jobs. I've built it into a highly trafficked site, and it was even named one of "Chicago's Best Web Sites" by Chicago Magazine last year.
Finally, I'm actually not just compiling family information, but I'm also using it for my own family. I'm getting to experience firsthand many of the places that I promote on my site, and when I come across places or things that I love, I want to share the information with others.