Summer Fun in & around Chicago A to Z

I’m SO bored! No Mom ever wants to hear those words. Especially not in the summer.

Chicago after 14 years seemed like a big ole been there, done that. That’s when I started scouring online to find activities that appease the crowd. Faced with a full day and literally no clue where to begin, I remind you we live in a pretty great city.

Imagine…

A list so massive and so comprehensive you only need to bookmark it once and go through it!

Well, your wish is my command.

I happen to have amazing Mom Friends who actually do awesome activities with their kids. Whether you have a week to kill or all summer long to fill, we’ve got you covered.

Here is your go-to collection of summer fun in and around Chicago, tried and true by moms trying to keep em busy. We have gathered all these places together, links included, with an asterisk for the older set as those are often harder to please. A special thank you to Orah and Neeli for their amazing lists, advice and ideas. You guys are Super Moms with a  Capital “S”.

Please follow our adventures this summer break on #CampKutliroff on Facebook or feel free to visit our crafty page on Pinterest for inspired ideas for tweens and teens. Please also email me or message below to add to our list! Hoping to add reviews from our own parent-testers. So if you have anything to say about these off-the-beaten-path trips please message me and your review can be featured on the official Stretching My Limits Facebook Page!

May we all soak in the sun before school is on the horizon again!

*Adler Planetarium

*Air & Water Show

*Apollo Theatre/Emerald City Theatre

*Aqua Parks

*Architecture River Cruise

Art Institute - Stop in the gift shop first. Grab a postcard and find your art!

Atcher Island

Aurora Regional Fire Museum

*Beaches in and around Chicago

*Big Surf Wave Pool

Boat Tours – Wacky Pirate Cruise

*Bookstall at Chestnut Court - They often have children’s authors or events

*Botanic Gardens - Bring a picnic! Make it a scavenger hunt!

*Brunswick Bowling

*Bowling at Pinstripes

*Brookfield Zoo

*Bughouse Studio

Burpee Museum of Natural History

Busse Woods Forest Preserve

*Canon Tour in Cook County

Cantigny Park

Charles Dawes House Tour

Charnley Persky House Museum

*Chicago Bandits Game

Chicago Children Museum @ Navy Pier

Chicago Federal Reserve Money Museum & Tour

Chicago Fire Soccer

Chicago History Musem

*Chicago River Canoe & Kayak Rental

*Chicago’s Sightseeing Tour Hop on/ Hop off

Chicago Kohl Children’s Museum of Glenview

*Civil War Museum

Clarke/Glessner House Museum

Color Me Mine

Cosley Zoo

*County Line Orchard - Apple Picking

Cubs

*Dave and Busters

*Dave’s Rock Shop

*Didier Farm

Dinosaur Discovery Museum

Discovery Center Museum

*Drive in Movie in Kenosha at Keno Drive-In 

Dupage Children’s Museum

*Eli’s Cheesecake Factory Tour

Elk grove park district pavilion community center

Elmhurst Historical Museum - Currently have a baseball exhibit

Emerald City Theatre

Emily Oaks Nature Center

*Enchanted Castle

Exploratorium

Fair Oaks Farm in Fair Oaks, Indiana

*Fairs & Festivals in Chicago

Field Museum

Fishing and Fun at Northerly Island

*FREE Movies

*Frontier Day’s festival in Arlington Heights JULY ONLY!

*Fun Zones 

Garfield Park Conservatory

*Gilson Beach, Wilmette

*Glazed Expressions Pottery

Go Bananas

Goebbert’s Farm

*Haunted Trails

*Hidden Creek Aqua Park

*Hoosier Bat Company Tour ages 8 and up.

*Illinois Holocaust Museum

Illinois Railway museum in Union, IL

Independence Grove

Jane Addams Hull House Museum

Janesville, WI Newspaper Tour

JCC Garoon Science Garden

*Jelly Belly Center Warehouse Tour

John Deere Tour

John Hancock Observatory

Jump Zone

Kenosha Public Museum

Kiddie Kingdom

Kids Bowl Free

Konow’s Corn Maze

Lake County Discovery Museum

Lamb’s Farm

Legoland Discovery-Schaumburg

Libertyille Sports

Lincoln park conservatory and trains

Lincoln Park Zoo

Lincoln Square lanes

Little Bear Garden, Glenview

*Long Grove Confectionary Tour

*Marriot Lincolnshire Theater

Michaels Store Craft Events & Weekly Camps

*Millenium Park

Milwaukee Public Museum

*Mini Golf indoors, Glow in the dark at Hawthorne Mall, Vernon Hills

Morton Arboretum-Lisle

*Movies in the Park, Skokie

*Movies in the Park, Chicago

Mr. Singer’s Performances

*Museum of Science & Industry

*Mystic Waters

Naper Settlement, Naperville

Naperville River Walk

*Navy Pier

Nickel City

North Park Village Nature Center

North Point Lighthouse

*Oakton Water Playground

Old Town School of Folk Music – Kids Concerts & Classes

*Paper Source - Create a Summer Scrapbook!

Peggy Nothebart Nature Museum

*Peoples Choice Family Fun Center

Pirate’s Cove

Planet Esme

*Ravinia Family Concerts

Richardson Farm

River Trail Nature Center

Robert R. McCormick Museum, First Division Museum

Robot City Workshop

Roller Skating

Roosevelt Collection park & shopping outdoor seating area just south of the loop

Schaumburg Airport Tours

Sci-Tech Aurora

*Second City Improv

*Segway Tours

*Shakespeare Theater

*Shedd Aquarium

*Six Flaggs

*Skokie Lagoons

Sky Deck at Willis Tower

Splash County

*Splash Landings

*Sprecher Root Beer Tour (pm only)

*Strawberry Picking – Thompson Farms

*Strawberry Picking – Stade Farms

*Starved Rock

*Subaru of Indiana Auto Tours (10 and older)

Sunset Park

Surgical Museum

The Grove

*The Glen - Sprinkler Park, Shopping, Fun

*Tipsy Paint, Glenview

Treehouse Indoor Playground

*Vertical Endeavors

Volo Auto Museum

Visit a Farmer’s Market - Let the kids make dinner with their finds!

Wagner Farm

*Waterworks Schaumburg

*Wendella Boat Rides

Wheeling Aquatic Center

*White Sox Games

Wiggleworms in Millenium Park

Wild West Town

Wonder Works in Oak Park

*Xtreme Trampolines

 

*Denotes Teen/Tween Friendly :)

Incoming Senior Parents, Take Note

Incoming Senior Parents,

You and your child are about to enter an education far beyond your wildest dreams. One that you have been both terrified of and excited to enter for about 17 years. Junior year was a stressful one for you and your young adult, so sit back and enjoy a moment of gratefulness – you both survived standardized tests, overloaded schedules and the beginning of What Do You Want To Do Next Year questions.

I want to share my experience as we are entering graduation and I already feel your nervous energy in the air. I was just you a few short months ago – so let me school you while it’s still fresh in my mind and my heart. And, while my tissues are still wadded up in my purse.

You are going to get a lot of input from various different places. School guidance counselors, parents who have been there, done that, friends of your incoming senior and lots and lots of online reading. You will vacillate between fear and excitement for what’s to come both emotionally and financially.

So buckle up, check your wallet and enjoy the ride.

The Common App

For most parents, like me, when you applied to college you simply wrote your info on a piece of paper, gathered some forms from your high school, sent in a transcript and a check and called it a day. Only ‘fancy schools’ required essays and interviews. Then, you waited for your fat envelope or your skinny. Stressful as it was, it is nothing compared to the job your child is about to get.

The Common App while seemingly an easier and more uniform central application for most colleges and universities, it can be very overwhelming.

A few facts:

  • Common App does not open officially for your incoming senior until August. That means you have the summer to begin the college exploration with your student so she can narrow down the options by application time. Your counselor may tell you or your student to ‘play around with it’ which you are welcome to do – but, any info you put in gets deleted in August, so just remember that.
  • Essays are the bulk of the work for your student after general info and you may not even know the topics ahead of time. Lucky enough for you, the Common App provides these prompts ahead of time so you can help your student get some of those nasty essays out of the way.
  • Common App is not available for every school. Make sure you help your child check that the schools he is interested in applying to are on the Common App. If they are not, you can help to identify what paperwork will be necessary from that school’s individual site.

Summer Coaching

It’s hard to remember, but this process isn’t yours. You will say you know this, you will acknowledge its truth and then want to sit down and write an essay, fill out some paperwork, make some calls and do some research. Please, take it from a parent who was just there – this has to be his project. Your job is to take on role of Coach. (Unless you are totally clueless, you may wish to look into hiring an actual coach but, I think you can handle it!!)

What does a Coach do?

  • Coach can provide a timeline that all items need to be complete. You can feel free to research deadlines for individual schools, gather together checklists and itemize things for your student. Then pass that list on to them and back off.
  • Coach can be a sounding board for a myriad of questions, overwhelmed moments and research guides. Many students have ZERO clue what or where to begin in this process. You can be the gas to get things moving but, let them take the driver’s wheel from you.
  • Coach is a gentle reminder (and sometimes a kick in the pants). Summer is both long and short for teens. They have a lot on their plate socially and these lists and essays can be cumbersome. Make sure some headway has been made by August – even if it’s just creating a plan of action.

Word on Visits

College visits are a great way to garner info as to what is wanted or wished for in their college choices. But, they can also be tremendously costly, time consuming and difficult to organize if your student’s list is all over the country. My suggestion – go local.

Every city has a Big College Campus, a small campus, a city school and a private. Take advantage of what you have locally to start your student thinking about likes/dislikes. You may even luck out and have your student love something local and affordable!

My son chose to visit out of town schools only after he was accepted. He felt it was a waste to visit a school he had no option of attending. Now that we are on the ‘other side’ I would say he was 100% correct.

Once accepted, visits are vital if you can afford it. My son was convinced he wanted school A. But, after a visit to school B, he was blown away. Visits are an important part of the process and let your student get excited about their own future. If visits are not possible, many schools even offer Virtual Tours now so you can access the flavor of the school virtually.

Stress Vs Fun

One of the major points to remember is this stress is huge for some, but not for all.

It’s a major life change to choose to go to college, especially if he is leaving home for the first time.  It is imperative to your student’s health, and your own, to keep fun available. When things become overwhelming (and they likely will) it is important to take some time for light-hearted nothingness. Stop the apps and college talk and claim a moratorium on it now and again. Keep home a stress-free zone whenever you can.

If your child is only into fun and not the reality of college –  Make sure that your child is mature enough and filled in enough on what’s to come. College is a big step and very expensive. If you’re the parent of one who isn’t into the hoopla or isn’t ready for the challenge of life on their own yet –  it’s possible a Gap Year may be in order, or a talk about the future.

College isn’t for every teen graduating high school. Know your child and help him navigate what’s best for him, not what’s ‘expected’.

Financially Fit

College is damn expensive. Navigating the whole FAFSA, Financial Aid, Loans Guides and your own savings (if any) is probably one of the hardest and most confusing and overwhelming things I have ever had to deal with. Be open and honest with your student on what you can and can’t afford – while at the same time allowing them to apply within those limitations. 

Many teens have no idea what taking on debt really looks and feels like. College debt is at an all-time high and it is real. Sagging them down now may seem like no big deal in their eyes as they don’t know what 100K or 200K really means.

If that’s the path you are entering show them this (and you watch too!)

Yes, you never know if he’ll get a full ride. But, chances are small that there will be enough financial assistance to make college easy to pay. Allowing your student insight into your finances will open a door to the beginning of some serious money talk that is vital to teaching responsibility, reality and respect. It’s hard as a parent to close doors on ‘dreams’ but, it is also priceless to teach children to accept their financial limitations and live within the family’s means.

Just a note on Social Media

While we are all Facebooking, Tweeting and Pinning – let’s remember so are admissions counselors. Before we started the application process this past year I had my son do a ‘sweep’ of his social media to ensure no inappropriate photos, language or otherwise unacceptable items lurk around for counselors to find. Remember if you can find it on Google – so can they….

Additionally social media is an amazing way to gage school pride, info and reviews. Follow (and suggest your student do it too!) schools your child is interested in on Twitter, check out Facebook pages (lots of schools even have special pages for parents) and websites. College Confidential is just one of dozens of sites devoted to offering insight into schools, financial info and even the Happy Factor of current students.

Relax & Enjoy

If I haven’t stressed it enough – the key to enjoying this process (if you can) is to relax. Remember that this is a chance to impart some valuable lessons on responsibility to your child while still remembering he is still sometimes just your little boy (or girl). Grab moments to be proud of all the efforts, lay off the guilt and love the young adult he is becoming. This is a loooooong and emotional year (lots of tissues) but, it will be worth it all in the end when he gets that fat envelope in the mail (or that email, nowadays!)

Talking Positive Body Image With Your Daughters

 

Overheard in my kitchen the other day…

14 Year Old Friend of My Daughter – Man, can you believe how many calories are in these cookies? Oh, I wish I could eat just one of these peanut butter crunch balls. They looks soooo good.

Later, while looking through magazines on the couch – I cannot believe her tush is so tiny. I would die for a tush like that!

As a mother of three girls, 1 teen, 1 tween and 1 tot, I have always known that body image is an uber-important part of raising my daughters healthy and confident. I was also afraid to ever sit down and have a specific ‘talk’ about body image as I didn’t want to draw too much attention to the topic at all. But, upon hearing her friend’s hyper-sensitivity (and this girl is a very healthy looking fourteen year old who needn’t be so careful with her calories) I felt the time was overdue for a talk with my own daughter about body image.

In researching this many times for various articles and my own mothering, here are some best bets for broaching body image with your daughters, appropriately.

Body Image Starts In Your Own Mirror

When you look in the mirror and declare, “I look fat” your daughter watching gets the message loud and clear. When Mommy doesn’t like how she looks it will be impossible for her to get the message to like what she sees herself. Play up your positives, find something on your body you feel good about and declare that in your mirror. Let your daughters hear you complement yourself, so she can learn to embrace her positives too. No more, does my butt look fat?  I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard a mom ask that to their little girl in the dressing room.

A little too little doesn’t always mean Anorexia

Yes, as a parent of girls we worry about images they see in magazines or on television. We worry that anorexia is just a mere skipped meal away. But, try not to jump to conclusions when your daughter pushes away a meal or jolts out of dinner early. Just watch for signs such as extreme weight loss and be vigilant about teaching healthy eating habits and making nutritious well-balanced meals.  You may be inclined to talk about anorexia and bulimia specifically with your daughter. But, studies show that in-depth discussions with young girls about anorexia and bulimia, or too much discussion about eating and health, can actually do more harm than good. Child psychologists recommend you emphasize a positive attitude towards her body and the food she eats, and not to dwell on disorders — unless you believe your daughter has a serious problem.

A Moment on The Lips, Not Necessarily Lifetime on the Hips

I firmly believe in healthy eating habits, but I also believe in the art of a good indulgence. Show your children that your relationship with food is healthy by partaking of nutritious meals but, also allowing yourself desserts here and there or treats. Never add guilt to your meal as instantly you’ve put that guilt on her.

“Avoid counting calories or labeling particular foods or your own eating habits as ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ ” psychologist and author, Catherine Steiner-Adair says. Watch out for phrases like, “I was so bad today — I ate a hot fudge sundae,” or “Let’s be good and skip the dressing.”

Banning Magazines Won’t Save the Day

Some of my friends insist that magazines are the bane of the teen girl’s body image. While I do agree that those girls on the cover aren’t real or something to aspire to, I think what we have to know is that we shouldn’t hide a teachable moment. Would I love if there were ‘normal’ healthy girls on those covers with hips, thighs and curves like the rest of us? Of course! But, as of now, those twigs are everywhere and banning magazines aren’t going to make them go away.

When People arrives in my home, my teen and I discuss photoshop, fashion and the whirlwind magic of hairstylists and makeup. We talk about reality versus artistry and she understands it’s fun reading, not reality.

If girls don’t see it and talk about it, it becomes taboo.

Case in point. My tween’s one friend who cannot read magazines in her house, immediately grabs a pile in my house and runs to my daughter’s room to devour the pictures. In my house it’s a read, laugh, point out the photo-shopping and trash it. No biggie.

The Talk Has To Happen Eventually, Let her Take the Lead

“Listen to her opinions,” says Steiner-Adair, “show appreciation for her uniqueness, and as often as possible, allow her to take the lead. Listen to who she is, what she wants, what she is curious about, and help her cultivate her interests and figure out what excites her. Help her develop herself into the person she wants to be.”

So, I finally sat down with my daughter and asked her about the whole calorie-obsessed friend. All I did was ask her how she felt about it. It went like this:

Me: Hey, I was just wondering how you felt about X talking calorie talk and tush size today.

Her: Oh, yah. I hate that! It’s so annoying. I just wanna enjoy a little snack and she and some other girls at school are like totally ruining it for me. I wish they’d just get over it. They’re all so pretty and there’s no reason to obsess at all.

We talked for a while and I get the sense that my daughter really has a firm understanding of who she is and what her body has in store for her. She shared that she thought she was very pretty (she’s actually, beautiful I told her) and that no one is ever perfect – and that’s okay.

So, score- 1 for positive body image, today. Time to go look in the mirror and tell myself something nice. I hope you’ll do the same!

Where Is My Been There, Done That Mom?

 

One of the best and worst parts of being a young first time mom is the naiveté. Too stupid to realize just how silly you are to worry about every hiccup and diaper change, yet not experienced enough to feel good about the job you’re doing.

I always wished that there were another mom, a just-slightly-older but, not too old to be a fuddy-duddy, Mentor Mom that could share her tips of the trade before they actually happened to me. The Been There,  Done That Mom answering the ever-permeating question of my mothering life, “Is it normal [insert worry here]?”

At 21, I was the first of my friends to have a baby. Over the years, this has allowed me to be their Been There, Done That Mom, but I was not privy to have one.

Was it normal for baby to walk at 15 months? Was it weird if he didn’t like sports? Would he be okay as the youngest in school? After a clueless husband ‘shrug’ to my myriad of freak out questions, I realized that there really was no one for me to ask. So, I turned to my go-to for info, books.

The problem with trusting parenting books is that for every Ferber Method, there is an Attachment Parent and you really have to navigate an ever-contradicting world that you are simultaneously the worst and the best parent out there.

So, I navigated best I could through early toddler years, tween years, awkward adolescence trusting gut instinct, weighing popular opinion against tons of reading material. I hid my veggies in his eggs, like Seinfeld’s wife wrote. When his educational needs weren’t well addressed in school, I brought in Mel Levine’s book to back me up. While my friends were bleary eyed after night 3 of Ferber-izing, I was well-rested having Dr. Sears allow me to snuggle up with my baby in bed.

For every action, a reaction and a PhD-backed author to back me up.

But, as my son hit about 14, I realize that the parenting materials changed drastically. No longer were my books about ideas, self-actualization, promoting confidence – now, they were suddenly about Survival. The titles in these manuals were both laughable and scary:

Surviving the Teen Years

Leave Me Alone, But First Can You Drive Me & Cheryl To the Mall?

Why Do They Act That Way?

The Curse of the Good Girl.

So Sexy, So Soon

Boys Adrift

Of course, the teen years are hard, anyone knows that. But, I had a feeling that if I had a Been There, Done That Mom she would assure me that there has to be more to it than just Surviving and being “cursed”. I didn’t want them to be So Sexy, So Soon! I waited and hoped there would be more to it than a promised horrific nightmare from 14-18.

I spent a doozy of time living in fear of those years. But, I have learned that there is so much more to it than that. I have shared with my own friends, as their ‘Been There, Done That’ that teen years are difficult, yes, but also very happy and often easier years than raising a toddler. Conversations are deeper, more meaningful. Moments to see that what you’ve learned and put into practice is actually working and when it doesn’t work? Well, then moments happen that will challenge you in a way you’ve never been challenged before. Rewarding, fulfilling and yes, very survivable.

So, as I prep for teen #3 on my roster coming up to bat soon for the Teen Team, I realize that even though I never had the luxury of that Been There, Done That ‘fairy godmother’ Mom, I think I’m doing a pretty decent job with my repertoire of author-fairies and my husband and my techniques combined. At this point, I could write my own parenting book (and perhaps, when they all leave the roost I may just have the time to do that!) and could have saved many a Mother from the pit of parenting despair.

Have you become a Been There, Done That Mom or were you provided a mentor from Day One?

A Mother’s Work is Never Done

Rubbing belly, full of dreams and wishes

Turns quickly into wiping noses, doing dishes.

“I can’t sleep” little one whispers.

Crawls into your bed, next to her sisters.

A Mother’s Work is Never Done.

 

Getting up early to start the day.

Trying to be cheery while in their bed they stay.

Rip off covers, demand respect.

Up they go screaming Child Sleep Neglect.

A Mother’s Work is Never Done.

 

Drive to school. Kiss, kiss goodbye.

Off to work, or at least to try.

The phone rings quick.

Little one’s sick.

A Mother’s Work is Never Done.

 

Sneaking veggies into dinner.

Eyes roll, as they’d rather get thinner.

Try so hard to keep ‘em healthy.

Dreaming of days when I’ll be wealthy.

A Mother’s Work is Never Done.

 

Carpool rides to and from friends

Sat night that never ends.

Waiting for cars to return to park.

Teens coming home when it’s so dark.

A Mother’s Work is Never Done.

 

Folding clothes that got too small.

Taking down band posters from that wall.

Painting rooms, as tastes do change.

Finding space, time to rearrange.

A Mother’s Work is Never Done.

 

Prepping for some graduations.

Nursery, 8th and 12th , Congratulations.

Happened in a blink of an eye.

Time is really passing by.

A Mother’s Work is Never Done.

I hope.

 

Happy Mother’s Day to all who wipe noses, clean vomit and wait up nights for kids to come home. You’re awesome!

 

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