Great Museums for Children

Things to Do — By adamgauzza on December 1, 2011 at 3:33 am

Chicago is home to many world class museums, so whether you’re looking to expose the little ones to art, science, or history, you’re bound to find something fascinating.  Here’s a rundown of some of the city’s best museum’s for children.

Chicago Children’s Museum

Photo courtesy of Smart Destinations

The Chicago Childrens Museum is definitely hands on!

Located at the western end of Navy Pier, the Chicago Children’s Museum connects learning and playing to create a great experience for a the whole family.  In addition to housing several permanent exhibits, the museum frequently opens temporary “experiences” that only stick around for a few months.  “Move”, currently open through January 22, features large, oddly shaped pieces that move and connect allowing fort-builders of all ages to live out their dreams while challenging their minds and bodies.  Climb three-stories of ship-rigging at the Kovler Family Climbing Schooner or dig for bones in an authentic excavation pit in the Dinosaur Expedition.  Parents note–each experience includes an age recommendation, and many have a special area designated for babies, toddlers, and pre-schoolers.  Make art to take home, design a flying machine or a building, hide in a treehouse, but most importantly have fun!

Museum of Science and Industry

Photo by Annette Stahelin

The beautiful grounds at the Museum of Science and Industry

Hyde Park’s Museum of Science and Industry, the western hemisphere’s largest science center, offers exhibits, films, and live experiences on a daily basis.  With over 20 exhibits at a time, the museum will engage everyone age 0+.  The newest permanent installation, “Science Storms”, explores some of nature’s most powerful phenomena: tornadoes, fire, waves, lightning.  Use your SciPass (printed on your admission ticket) and scan it throughout YOU! The Experience to save all of your adventures to access online as you make a self-portrait as you imagine yourself, design an ad according to your own tastes, play a round of mindball, see a bionic arm, and see a giant heart beat along with yours. Visit the baby chick hatchery and learn about genetics, take a tour through Chicago’s greenest home, and climb aboard the U-505 (the only German submarine in the U.S.).  It’s all available to you in this 14-acre Chicago landmark.

The Art Institute of Chicago

Photo by Elfboy

from the AIC's Thorne Miniatures collection

The Art Institute of Chicago houses some of the world’s most iconic works of art including Wood’s American Gothic, Seurat’s A Sunday on La Grande Jette, Hopper’s Nighthawks, to name just fraction of the museum’s incredible collection.  Take your children to visit these familiar images up close and in person.  Follow that up with a tour through the Arms, Armor, Medieval, and Renaissance collection to see the knights in shining armor (armor that encompasses 500 years of European metalwork).  Bring them down to the Thorne Miniature Rooms to see what a dollhouse dreams of being: impeccably designed interiors spanning 13th century European through 1930’s American with scale of one inch to one foot.  You’re bound to pass through galleries full of breathtaking works of art along the way, and your kids will thank you for it.

Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

Imagine walking into an enormous atrium full of pools of water, tropical trees, and over a thousand butterflies from 75 exotic species…

photo by Benni Mazur

A Cairns Birdwing (Ornithoptera euphorion) resting in the Judy Istock Butterfly Haven


Welcome to the Judy Istock Butterfly Haven at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum set in Lincoln Park at the southeast edge of the North Pond Nature Sanctuary.  With a focus on the local, the museum’s permanent exhibits explore the birds, waterways, and marshes of Chicago.  The Extreme Greenhouse and Hands-on Habitat give kids a chance to interact live plants and animals and learn how we all affect one another.  Visit the outdoor exhibitions in warmer months to play in the restored native prairie and to see how the museum keeps green technology at the forefront of its mission.