Chicago with Your Toddler: Top Three Spots for Toddlin’ Tots at the Museum Campus

Traveling with a toddler in tow is not always easy. Luckily, the three stars of Chicago’s Museum Campus – the Shedd Aquarium, the Adler Planetarium, and the Field Museum – all offer fun and educational play areas and activities for even the tiniest tots in your family.

My toddler and her tween brother love taking the train to the Museum Campus, and I like avoiding the costly parking. Simply hop on a southbound Red, Orange, or Green Line CTA train and exit at the Roosevelt Road/Museum Campus station, where you can transfer to the #146 Museum Campus bus.

Planet Explorers and One World, One Sky at the Adler Planetarium

The Adler Planetarium manages to bring planetary and space science down to a toddler’s level at its Planet Explorers play space. Kids can take an imaginary journey to a mysterious planet, where they will work to recover debris, explore tunnel systems, man a rocket ship and more. A comfy reading area is the perfect place to chill out after travel-induced overstimulation. Don’t miss One World, One Sky, a 25 minute movie that plays twice per day in the Definiti Space Theater: little viewers can follow along with Sesame Street faves Big Bird and Elmo as they learn more about the sun and the moon.


Dora and Diego Catch that Robot Butterfly and the Polar Playzone and Jellyfish at the Shedd Aquarium

The 4-D theater at the Shedd is perfect for toddler cinephiles (read: tots that can manage to sit still and watch a kid-dazzling 8 minute show). My daughter loved seeing two of her fave characters, DO-Rah and Gay-GO (gotta love her pronunciation!) on the big screen in Catch that Robot Butterfly! You’ll fly and bump through the jungle; be on the lookout for Swiper! My daughter managed to keep the 3D glasses on at 18-months, but the younger tots in the audience seemed to be having a tough time. Burn off some energy at the Polar Playzone: overlooking the cute Shedd penguins, this play area features a slide slipping down an iceberg climbing area that’s just right for toddlers, as well as a submarine for even the youngest explorers. Afterwards, we checked out the latest exhibit, Jellyfish. Our entire family, including the toddler among us, was struck by the bright, illuminated colors of these intricate creatures.

Crown Family PlayLab at The Field Museum

This imaginative play space encourages a child’s natural curiosity with its array of hands-on fun: bang on an African drum, crawl through a log, or gather and sort interesting artifacts. Play house in a Pueblo, don a costume and transform yourself into your favorite animal, or examine and identify dinosaur bones. The art studio offers a changing menu of craft projects that can be tailored to fit the age and ability of every kid on your family. The Crown Family PlayLab is free with Basic admission and is open Thursdays through Mondays from 10am to 4pm, last admission is at 3pm.

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