Your little ones aren’t so little anymore. There’s no more “T” in their clothing sizes and their favorite toys have suddenly become too babyish. Now that your child is in grade school, he or she doesn’t want to go to storytime and would rather be dropped off at birthday parties. It’s enough to make this mama cry! When your first through fourth grader is looking to get out of the kiddie pool and dive into the deep end, I’ve got a list of my top five fun places for young elementary-age kids that we still enjoy together as a family.
Fun Places for Your Young Elementary-Age Kids (first through fourth grade) in Lake County
Wildlife Discovery Center
1401 Middlefork Drive, Lake Forest | (847) 810-3663
My kids have loved this living natural history museum that specializes in reptiles since they were toddlers. Except now instead of hearing, “Look mama a snake!” I hear, “Mom did you know reptiles are oviparous?” You can’t knock the public education system.
The center takes up just a few rooms and an outdoor space at the beautiful and historic Elawa Farm in Lake Forest. What it lacks in size it makes up for in hands-on experience, as any of the staff is happy to answer questions and allow you to pet some of the creatures. Also, it’s FREE!
Learn more about the Wildlife Discover Center in my 2012 review. Their annual fundraiser and live exhibit, Reptile Rampage, takes place this Sunday, March 12, 2017 from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the Lake Forest Recreation Center Gym.
Climbing Mountain at Libertyville Sports Complex
1950 N. Highway 45, Libertyville | (847) 918-7275
Sure they still love the jungle gym, but if they are ready for a bigger (and taller) physical challenge then it’s time to check out the climbing mountain at the Libertyville Sports Complex. This is no simple rock climbing wall, it’s a four-sided mountain with a bouldering cave in the middle.
You don’t need any special experience or equipment to participate. During Open Climb hours, staff will assist you with getting into a harness which is provided, help you clip in and belay (i.e. applying tension to a climbing rope to prevent falling.) It’s a great family activity with just enough challenge to make them feel big and brave, but with all the safety assurances even the buzziest helicopter parent can feel good about.
On Saturday mornings they offer a Youth Climbing Class.
Kristof’s Entertainment Center and World of Fun
421 W. Rollins Road, Round Lake Beach | (847) 546-2512
It’s impossible for the kids to get bored at Kristof’s in Round Lake Beach, but they could get overstimulated! My kids like the newly updated bowling alley with black lights and how you can take your photo in the lane and animate it. All the fun of Snapchat without the creep factor.
There’s also an arcade where you can collect tickets for prizes (Note: There are shooting games as well.) and in-season, enjoy go-karts, miniature golf and batting cages.
Adults can take advantage of a full bar with both macro- and microbrews, a pool hall, darts and a full menu including appetizers, pizza, sandwiches and salads.
Kristof’s is a local business in operation for more than 40 years. I’ll take that over an animatronic rat any day!
Bella’s Bouncies Indoors
1600 N. Milwaukee Ave. (Rte 83), Lake Villa | (847) 838-3644
Did you know, I’ve actually met the REAL Bella? She does a mean somersault. If your kids love to somersault, jump, climb and in general, just bounce off the walls, then Bella’s Bouncies Indoors in Lake Villa is where you need to go.
Parents and caregivers are always free. As long as you take off our shoes and wear socks you can join the kids on the equipment, but leave the high jumps for the kiddos…
If you’d rather sit back and relax while the kids blow off steam, there is Free Wi-Fi. A great option if the kids have off of school but you still need to work remotely.
Bella’s Bouncies Indoors is also a perfect location for parties. Check out Melissa’s 2013 review of her birthday party experience.
1800 North Sheridan Road, Waukegan | (847) 360 – 4700
Are your kids jaded by your neighborhood pocket park? Prepare for oohs and ahhs when you take them to Bowen Park in Waukegan. There’s a reason it’s ranked number one on our list of Jaw-Dropping playgrounds.
When I first brought my kids as toddlers, I’ll admit I was a nervous wreck. While there is a small, secluded play area for toddlers and preschoolers, no child will be able to resist exploring. Everything from the 40-foot tube slides, the giant two-story web climber and the Allegro Spinner elicits awe, but if you feel the need to hover you’ll quickly become exhausted keeping up. Young elementary kids have the gross motor skills to tackle the playground equipment without giving mommy a heart attack.
For more info about the park’s features, visit our Bowen Park Playground Profile.
Worth the Trip
For those willing to venture outside of Lake County, exciting physical challenges await!
2050 Tower Dr., Glenview | (224) 432-5435
Melissa took her big kids and they had a blast! It’s “a climbing wonderland for kids, best for ages eight and older… There is also a soft play area that is specifically for children ages eight years old and younger, if you have a mixed age family.” Check out her full 2016 review.
Junior Ninja Warriors Chicago
2915 W. Montrose Ave., Chicago | (773) 877-3524
Kids with dreams of being the next American Ninja Warrior will flock to Junior Ninja Warriors in Chicago. According to Little Lake County Writer Chad, “Kids ages 6-14 all across Chicagoland can now feel what it’s like to take on the warped wall, quintuple steps, jumping spider, climbing wall and more as they take part in an open gym session or a class at this popular new gym.” Learn more about what he and his boys enjoyed in Chad’s recent review.
Where do you like to bring your young elementary-age children to have fun in Lake County?