Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Make-A-Messterpiece - Messy, Creative Fun

When it comes to making a mess, my nearly 3-year-old daughter Mia is NOT interested. If there's a crumb on her shirt, a speck of paint on her fingers, or essentially anything out of place, her world gets knocked out of alignment. At just one year old, she was already insisting on being given paper towel pieces to wipe up microscopic dots of milk from the floor. Common phrases in our house are "I don't want to be messy!" and "Wipe me! Wipe me!"

So when my mom started taking Mia to Make-A-Messterpiece, near her home, for occasional visits, I couldn't fathom what Mia was doing there. Last week I took Mia there myself to check it out firsthand, and I couldn't believe my eyes... my daughter with paint on her hands, not freaking out!

Make-A-Messterpiece is a hands-on art and fun space offering a variety of mess-making activities. Not counting the indoor play area - since Mia simply can't pass up a good slide - we spent our time in two areas: at the Splat-Tacular Tables, and at Bubbleology.

The Splat-Tacular Tables are simply an area where kids can pull up a chair and freestyle, with all sorts of tools at their disposal like crayons, paint, stencils, sponges and other items. Kids can experiment with all sorts of techniques, and Mia made 3 great pictures that we brought home.

The Bubbleology area is Mia's favorite. Mine too. Bubbleology looks like a futuristic lab, with huge canister-shaped columns hanging over rounded metal sinks, spewing colorful bubbles onto whatever paper you put below them. Kids can choose the color column they want, then take a piece of paper, attach a stencil if they desire, and then put the paper under the "spout" while the bubbles come out. The bubbles land on the page and eventually pop, creating magical images that are actually frame-worthy.

Mia picked a snail - here's her experience and final product:

Other creative areas include a Creative Kitchen, where kids create edible artistic treats; Drum Roll, where kids play paint-filled drums; Experimentation Station, which lets kids do experiments and learn cause and effect lessons; and Lil Sprouts, where budding gardeners learn the concepts of reduce, reuse, recycle and sustainability.

Learn more at

Monday, March 21, 2011

Last Chance to Skate in the Sky

It's hard to think about winter activities when it feels like spring is in the air.
But if you didn’t get to ice skate at the John Hancock Observatory’s indoor rink, there's still time! The rink is open through March 31, from 9am-11pm, with the last ice skating tickets being sold at 10pm. Skate rentals are only $1, and next Monday will be your last chance to enjoy a free skating lesson from the Chicago Blackhawks Youth Hockey coaches.

And there's one last taste of winter that you can enjoy when you're done skating. Walk across the street to Ghirardelli's and savor a cup of their frothy hot chocolate. And if it's too warm for hot chocolate by the time you do this, then bring on the ice cream sundaes!

With this last winter activity out of your system, let the spring weather begin!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Spring Break Camps

It's nearly Spring Break - don't panic! There are plenty of ways to keep your kids busy during their spring break, no matter which week it happens to be.

Spring Break Musical Theatre Bootcamp
at Metropolis Performing Arts Centre
111 W. Campbell St, Arlington Heights
(847) 577-5982 x221
March 21-25
This fun 5-day workshop focuses on one number from a contemporary Broadway show. Students will learn choreography, singing and acting from a musical theatre professionals and then perform their polished routine for family and friends on the Metropolis main stage.
Grades K-3: Mary Poppins
Grades 4-8: 13 the Musical
Grades 9-12: Fame the Musical

Smarty Party
1846 West Belmont, Chicago
(773) 687-0521
March 21-25
Don't let your kids pass a single day being bored over spring break. Each camp day at Smarty Party offers fun, games, arts and crafts, snack, outside time (weather permitting), story time and more.
For ages 4 and up
9am - 1pm
$50 per day.

Lincoln Park Zoo
2200 N. Canon Drive, Chicago
(312) 742-2000
Weeks of March 21-25, March 28-April 1, and April 18-22
Kids can enjoy a wild spring break right at home with special Lincoln Park Zoo programs. The zoo offers programs during multiple weeks to accommodate different spring break schedules. Programs may feature:
Monday: Zoo Babies (Suitable for 4-5-year-olds)
Wednesday: Mystery in the Zoo (Suitable for first-third graders)
Friday: Exploring Ga'Hoole: Owls and More (Suitable for fourth-sixth graders)
Pre-registration is required for all programs and registration closes three days prior to program start.

2312 W Roscoe St., Chicago
(773) 348-9474
Weeks of Mar 21st, Mar 28th, April 18th and April 25th
Wishcraft offers a variety of workshops to meet many different interests - and many different spring break schedules! These creative, part-day programs include hand-sewing/embroidery, super-hero camp, machine-sewing, green accessories, and ecocrafts for Earth Day.

Springglass Camp at Lookingglass Theatre
821 N Michigan Ave., Chicago
(773) 477-9257, ext 193
April 18–22, 9am–3pm
Mornings are spent learning physical theatre skills, which may include juggling, stilt walking, and stage combat. During the afternoons, campers adapt their own versions of stories from Alice in Wonderland.

Search the Calendar of Events to find more options for things to do when your kids are out of school.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

St. Patrick's Day Family Friendly Festivities

Chicago is never short on St. Patrick's Day festivities, and there are plenty that are fun for the entire family. Here's a few of our top picks for you to try out this weekend:


St. Patrick's Day Fireworks
Navy Pier, 600 East Grand Avenue, Chicago
Spend the day finding a variety of family fun activities at Navy Pier, and then at 7pm enjoy a special winter-time fireworks display. The 10 minute show will be set to a themed soundtrack featuring traditional Celtic songs and modern Irish artists.

Dyeing the Chicago River
It's an annual tradition, and until you've seen it in person you can't fathom just how "green" the river can be! Starting at 10am, the dyeing can be best viewed from the East side of the Michigan Avenue bridge, the West side of the Columbus Drive bridge or upper and lower Wacker Drive between Michigan Avenue and Columbus Drive.

St. Patrick's Downtown Parade
After you see the river dyed green, shop a bit until the main event starts at noon. The parade begins at Columbus Drive and Balbo and then heads north to Monroe.

St. Patrick's Festival
Irish American Heritage Center, 4626 N Knox Ave, Chicago
Make a downtown day of it - after the big parade, head over to the IAHC for this large-scale, family-oriented event that includes traditional and contemporary Irish music, dance, food and children’s activities. The festivities begin at 1pm and go until midnight, with live entertainment by Chicago Irish music groups and family friendly fare like the Wiggleworms and the Trinity Academy of Irish Dance. More details at

Naperville St. Patrick's Day Parade
Starting at Naperville North High School, 899 N. Mill Street
The parade kicks off at 10 a.m. from Naperville North High School then continues south on Mill Street, east on Jefferson Avenue, south on Main Street and west on Water Street to the Municipal Center.


St. Patrick's Northwest Side Parade
Starts at Onahan School, 6633 W. Raven St.
The Northwest Side Irish host their 8th annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade, with this year's participants including The Jesse White Tumblers, The Emerald Society Band, Mullane Irish Dancers, St. Patrick’s High School Jazz Band, Trinity Irish Dancers and more. The parade starts at noon at 6633 W. Raven (Onahan School) and will run south up Neola Avenue to Northwest Highway north to Harlem Avenue, ending at Harlem Avenue. The after party is from 1-5pm at Immaculate Conception Elementary School, 6211 W. Talcott. Tickets for the after party are $5 for kids 10 and under, and $10 for adults. Learn more.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

NPN's Wake Up and Boogie Down Family Festival

NPN's annual fundraising event is back this Saturday at the Cubby Bear from 9:30am - 12:30pm. You're invited to "Wake Up & Boogie Down" with live music performances, hands on kids' activities, games, rock-n-roll makeovers and tasty snacks and treats.

On hand will be some of Chicago's best kids resources. Take part in the Cultural Care Au Pair rock-n-roll makeover station; capture the moment with a photo from ThinkLeigh Photography; decorate cookies with COUNTRY Financial; and explore activities and giveaways hosted by many other local favorites like the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, Shedd Aquarium, Multilingual Chicago and more.

Get your tickets in advance, because this event can sell out! Tickets are $20 adults/$10 kids for members, and $25 adults/$15 kids for non-members. (infants under age 1 free). You can get tickets at All funds raised will enhance NPN’s programs and member services.

NPN is a fantastic resource for Chicago area parents. In their words:
"NPN offers expectant, new, and seasoned parents connection and support for the everyday challenges of parenthood. A trusted destination for parent-to-parent interaction, school choice resources, childcare options, parent education opportunities and local community development, NPN helps strong families build strong communities!"

And in my words: This is the FIRST place I've turned each time I needed a new nanny; I met the moms in my regular moms group through NPN events; their uber-active discussion forums provide me with dozens of responses within hours of my posts; and their preschool fair and information are priceless! If you aren't a member, please consider joining and supporting this great resource.

Our family will be attending on Saturday - maybe we'll see you there!