Chicago Children's Summer Activities & Organizations

by James Bolger

The cold Chicago winter and rainy spring has finally turned to warm sunny summer. The kids are out of school. Now, how can you get them out of the house? Chicago offers a wealth of recreational, educational and entertaining programs for kids in the summer. Whether your child is artistic, athletic or just wants to hang out with other kids, you can find an activity or organization that will help keep her active and interested until school starts again.

Art Camp

The School of the Art Institute of Chicago ( offers a range of summer programs for kids ages four and older. SAIC’s summer camp program is designed for kids up to age 10, giving them the opportunity to explore drawing, painting, sculpture and other artistic expression. Middle-school age kids are invited to two-week courses that explore specific art topics that match their personal interests. For instance, one program focuses on fashion and another on video game graphics. Times and fees vary by program.

Park Your Kids

The Chicago Park District ( offers more than 200 day camp programs for preschoolers through teenagers at parks throughout the city. The programs offer arts and crafts, exercise and sports, plus field trips to museums and cultural activities. Swimming and nature hikes are offered at many parks, too. Some parks offer sport-specific activities, such as golf or softball, for older children.

Animal Attractions

The Lincoln Park Zoo ( offers a variety of summer activities for kids. Conservation camp, for kids in preschool to fourth grade, teaches environmental basics and care for animals. Attendees work with keepers and other zoo staff to explore how the zoo cares for its animals and promotes wildlife preservation. The Zoo Crew, for children in middle school, teaches participants to plan and carry out animal care and conservation programs in their communities.

Fun for (and with) Sprouts

The Garfield Park Conservatory ( features a weekly drop-in program for children ages 5 and younger. Kids are encouraged to explore the children’s garden and have fun digging, planting, and learning about seeds, flowers, and other parts of the plant kingdom. Conservatory staff help youngsters learn about the beauty and importance of nature through story times and play activities. A parent or caregiver must attend with the child.

Spur of the Moment

For less structured activities, take the kids swimming or to one of the city's regularly scheduled fireworks displays. The Chicago Park District ( staffs 50 outdoor swimming pools. All feature free family swim and open swim programs from June until Labor Day. Navy Pier (, on the lakefront has fireworks displays on Wednesdays and Saturdays from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

About the Author

James Bolger has spent two decades writing on health, nutrition, golf, fitness, travel, insurance, and more. Bolger served as managing editor for "Maturity Matters," a newsletter on senior lifestyles, and "Your Health and Fitness," a consumer health magazine. He has also written on health and medical research for academic medical centers. Bolger earned his Bachelor of Arts in communications/English from DePaul University.

Photo Credits

  • Siri Stafford/Digital Vision/Getty Images