Chicago With Kids: Notebaert Nature Museum

Do you ever have one of those days when you just don't want to get out of your pajamas? My 3 1/2 year old E did today. Perhaps he is a little out-of-sorts with his dad gone for two weeks, maybe he's tired after last night's bedtime marathon or maybe it's just because he's wearing his favorite pajamas. I can tell pretty early on in a discussion when E has his mind truly set on something, so rather than risk a having our first meltdown before we even left the hotel, I let E explore Chicago in his PJ's today. It makes for some cute pictures, don't you think?

The Lincoln Park neighborhood seemed like a lovely place to spend the day exploring with the kids. Not only is the zoo located there, but there is also the conservation-minded Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum and the quiet and kid-friendly Lincoln Park neighborhood.

We started our day at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. The Nature Museum is all about getting kids engaged with nature at their level. We started in the enclosed rooftop butterfly habitat, were I imagine the tropical warmth would feel wonderful on a cold winter day. We're lucky to have a butterfly habitat back home at the Pacific Science Center, so this wasn't novel for the kids, but they enjoy seeing the butterflies up close, watching them fly, and learning how they eat. For the first time E seemed to really respond to a kid-focused exhibit about how butterflies go from being an egg, to a caterpillar, to a cocoon and a butterfly. We also stopped in a huge and light-filled craft room that must be a great way for local kids to pass a wintery afternoon. What I really loved about this museum, though, were the frequent opportunities for the kids to get close to the animals. On a busy Monday morning, even with school already started for the fall, it seemed like there was a new activity every 30 minutes. We didn't join all of them, but the frequency made it easy to mix in activities with free-play. The kids got to touch a turtle, watch a frog being fed, and listen to stories in a very intimate group.

Just as I was starting to think about moving on to the zoo, it started pouring. As with our first day this was serious rain, not a Seattle style drizzle so we stayed on, and on, and on, visiting the water play area, an indoor playground, and every fish tank or reptile tank you could possibly imagine. Somehow we managed to pass most of the day here, and though I was stir crazy, the kids still didn't want to leave when it was finally time for dinner.

Related Links:
City Guide: Chicago With Kids
Chicago With Kids Day 1: Rain Rain Go Away
Chicago With Kids Day 2: Millennium Park and Chicago Art Institute
Chicago With Kids Day 3: Lego Store and More
Chicago With Kids Day 4: Field Museum and Jazz Showcase
Chicago With Four Kids: What to See and Tips for Making it Work
Map & Itinerary: Lincoln Park With Kids

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  1. Linda (minnemom) on October 4, 2008 at 7:33 a.m.

    Wow--you spent the whole day at the Notebaert Museum? I'm sure the kids were fine with it, as there is a lot to do there, but that's a long time!

  2. Toni on October 4, 2008 at 9:36 a.m.

    I have a funny story about the Notebaert museum - my youngest, who was 3 at the time, was TERRIFIED of the butterfly pavilion's residents. One of those, "I really want to laugh but can't" moments.

  3. Debbie on October 4, 2008 at 4:45 p.m.

    @Linda I was bored to tears after a few hours, but the kids loved it. They cried when I finally made them leave to go get food.

    @Toni I always think it's so funny how these "amazing experiences" I plan for the kids turn out to be a bust & then they are in love with a paper towel holder or something.

    E is a little afraid of the butterflies, but he does ok. D has a shirt that a butterfly landed on once and whenever she's wearing that shirt she pulls on it and yells for the butterflies to come. She's sure that if they just knew she was wearing the special butterfly shirt, they'd be all over her.

  4. Erica Johansson on October 6, 2008 at 11:27 a.m.

    I was so close to saying yes to an aupair job in Chicago a few years ago. If I had, perhaps we'd have gone to the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum.

    Good post. And the picture is great. The kids look so curious!

  5. Debbie on October 6, 2008 at 10:17 p.m.

    @Erica Thanks! Chicago seems like it would be a particularly fun city to raise kids in. I'm sure there are lots of difficulties too, but I loved the huge selection of activities.