Family Fun

7 Ways the Chicago Park District Is Keeping Families Entertained

Garfield Park Conservatory/Photo by Bradley Kirouac

In the age of coronavirus, when we’re all confined to our homes and yearning for fun in the sun, the Chicago Park District is adapting quite nicely. No, you can’t hit the playgrounds or beaches quite yet, but the parks department has pivoted into virtual experiences aplenty, providing family-friendly entertainment while we’re all cooped up inside. And with spring upon us, there are lots of seasonal activities and at-home programs you can check out, too. Here are the unique virtual experiences from the Chicago Park District.

Story Time With Eileen Tull
The drama instructor at Berger Park, Tull brings lots of high-energy spirit, laughs, and fun to her charismatic reading of the children’s book The Monster at the End of This Book. In case the kids are a little bored with the same old books, she does a fantastic job showcasing her acting abilities and creating a storytelling experience filled with upbeat entertainment. Check it out here.

Learn How to Make a Baby Yoda
Regardless of whether or not you’ve got kids, chances are high that you’ve at least seen Baby Yoda. The inescapable character from The Mandalorian is all the rage with folks of all ages, especially since the little cutie is on the Disney Plus streaming service, which is surely getting a lot of play these days. Inspired by the character, the Chicago Park District put together a fun interactive video that shows kids how to make their own Baby Yoda at home, using some basic decorative items like construction paper, glue, and, yes, toilet paper rolls. I know you’ve got them stockpiled.

Photo courtesy of the Chicago Park District/Facebook

Shop for Park District Swag
One thing that certainly hasn’t dwindled during times of quarantine is online shopping, and the Chicago Park District has a nifty little online store all its own, filled with cute trinkets and merch. Just in time for spring, the shop is fully stocked with new items, like a Jackson Park bag emblazoned with cherry blossoms, a Maggie Daley Park shower curtain, and an I Heart Chicago Parks thermos. There’s also lots of other perennial goodies, including art prints, blankets, throw pillows, V-necks, hoodies, buttons, mugs, and even phone cases bedecked with vintage imagery of Washington Park, Humboldt Park, and Grant Park.

At-Home Games and Activities
The Park District has rounded out its website with a new lineup of fun kids’ activities that you can download and play, including word searches, bingo, and coloring sheets. Adorably, the word search has a “hero” theme, with words like brave and lifeguard to look for. Another fun activity is the disco-themed coloring sheet, featuring a dancing Luna the owl, aka the “Night Out in the Parks” mascot. The premise being once your kids finish coloring it in, you can hold a little impromptu dance party of your own.

Learn Ballet
Let’s face it, it can be quite intimidating to take a dance class, what with the potentially awkward movements and fear of messing up in front of a bunch of strangers. Fortunately, all those fears go out the window thanks to the Park District’s virtual ballet class. Taught by John Phil Martini, supervisor of Indian Boundary Park, the class is an abbreviated 20-minute intro to ballet, covering the basics and getting you on your toes.

Tour the Garfield Park Conservatory
Just because the beautiful Garfield Park Conservatory is closed right now doesn’t mean you can’t experience this beloved attraction from afar. Meandering around the varied plant-filled rooms has always been a restorative and emotional respite for me when I need it most, often in the doldrums of winter. Now the conservatory has virtual tours you can take, to whisk yourself away to the desert, the jungle, and flower-filled gardens.

Zen Out With the Sounds of Palmisano Park
It’s the simple things that bring the most pleasure, especially during times of stress and uncertainty. I love that the Park District features a YouTube video that’s nothing but the pure, peaceful sounds of one of the city’s most cherished neighborhood parks. If you put it on repeat in the background, it has a nice calming effect, like a sound machine.