Will & i

Category: Sing & Play

NPN New Moms Group

As I’ve mentioned before, putting yourself out there is a very important stay-at-home-mom skill. One way to do this is by joining the NPN New Moms Group.

By the time my group started, Will was a few months old and I was so eager to talk to other moms that I almost burst into tears when it was my turn to introduce myself. “Hi, I’m Julie, and this is Will. I’m hoping to make some new mommy friends, and get some great advice on how to be a better parent” (I’m such a dork).

A veteran NPN member led the first three meetings, which was great. She offered us support, and opened each meeting with a parenting question like, “were you surprised by how difficult breastfeeding is?”

After the first three meetings were over, we began rotating houses for play group or meeting at a play space. We’ve lost a couple of women, but the rest of us have been pretty consistent about getting together every Wednesday at 3:30.

I think the hardest thing to let go of when you join a mommy group is the nap schedule. There is never going to be a perfect meeting time, so you just have to make it work. Keep your baby up longer, put them down earlier, nap in the car ride there or coming home, or cut the nap a little short . You can always arrive late or leave early in order to work around nap time. However you can make it work, it’s worth it!

Here are some of Will’s new friends from our NPN mommy group:


Will and Ava

girls at play group

play group at Ali's

play group at ali's house

Are you part of a mommy play group? If so, did you join through a parenting network or just create it yourself?

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Chicago Birthday Venues

Birthdays have always been a big deal in my family, especially the milestone birthdays, (1, 13, 16, 18, 21, 30, 40…) so obviously, our 1st child’s, 1st birthday has to be celebrated (even though he won’t remember it).

Being new to the whole kid’s birthday scene in Chicago, I really had no idea what to expect when I started researching 1st birthday venues. Here is overview of the major venues, in order, from least expensive to most expensive based on the  private party rental price:

Kid City

kid city

Kid City (offers many packages, but only these are age approrpriate)

Semi-private party – $250, weekdays 4-6, private parent room, play space open to the public

Mayor’s special – $310, weekends, 2 hrs of private party room and play space

City Hall – $390, weekends, 2 hrs of private party room and play space, paper products, utensils, clean-up/set-up

Pajama Party – $490, weekends, 2.5 hrs of private party room and play space, paper products, utensils, clean-up/set-up

Choo Choo Train Play – $510, weekends, 2.5 hrs of private party room and play space, paper products, utensils, clean-up/set-up, birthday banner, themed tablecloth, train decorations, gift bag, train themed movie

Purple Monkey

purple monkey playroom

Purple Monkey (doesn’t offer semi-private parties)

Basic Monkey Package – $385, 2-hour private rental, 1 staff assistant, invitations, set-up/clean-up

Monkey Package Plus – $595,  2-hour private rental, 1 staff assistant, invitations, set-up/clean-up, food, drink, light decorations

Monkey Package Supreme – $825, 2-hour private rental, 1 staff assistant, invitations, set-up/clean-up, food, drink, cake, light decorations, goody bags, bubble machine

The Grand Monkey – $985, 2-hour private rental, 1 staff assistant, invitations, set-up/clean-up, food, drink, cake, custom theme and decorations, goody bags, bubble machine, glitter tattoos, and a return play pass for each guest

Kid’s Island

kid's island party

Kid’s Island – (doesn’t offer a semi-private parties)

Private Birthday Party Option A – $390, 2 hr. private rental of entire space, set-up/clean-up, decorations

Private Birthday Party Option B – $590, 2 hr. private rental of entire space, set-up/clean-up, decorations, personalized slide show, one excursion (craft, manicure, treasure hunt)

Private Birthday Party Option C – $900, 2 hr. private rental of entire space, set-up/clean-up, decorations, personalized slide show, one excursion (craft, manicure, treasure hunt), pizza, coffee, tea, juice, and ice cream

Explore and Much More

explore and much more

Explore and Much More:

Semi-private Party – $275, weekdays, private party room for food/drink, play-space is shared with the public

Package #1 – $450, Saturday or Sunday, closed to the public, set-up/clean-up

Package #2 – $550, Saturday or Sunday, closed to the public, set-up/clean-up, drinks, pizza, and cake

Package #3- $750, Saturday or Sunday, closed to the public, set-up/clean-up, drinks, pizza, cake, goodie bag, themed paper products

Kookaburra Play Cafe

Kookaburra cafe

Kookaburra Play Cafe

Semi-private party basic room rental – $280, Monday-Saturday, private party room, shared play-space

Private party basic rental – $450, Saturday or Sunday, private party room, play-space closed to the public, valet parking,

Bubbles Academy

bubbles academy birthday party

Bubbles Academy

Open Play Birthday Party, $550-$650 depending on the party space, Saturday or Sunday, includes two-room rental, and two hours of open play

Themed Birthday Party, $750-850 depending on the party space, Saturday or Sunday, includes themed-based activites led by a teacher, two-room rental,  two hour venue rental, decorations, party leaders and assistants, free parking, set-up/clean-up

Little Beans Cafe

little beans cafe chicago

Little Beans Cafe

Semi-Private Party – $150 + $12 per kid, weekdays or weekends, private use of lounge and classroom, shared play time in playspace

Private Party Option 1 – $550, 2 hrs of private room rental, 1.5 hrs of play in playspace, food, cake, one staff for clean-up/set-up

Private Party Option 2 – $775, 2 hr rental of entire facility, 1.5 hrs in playspace, food, cake, two staff members, drinks, paper products, goodie bag

Private Party Option 3 – $1,175, 2.5 hrs rental of entire facility, 2 hrs in playspace, food, cupcakes, balloons, two staff members, drinks, coffee, paper products, goodie bag, extra 30 minutes of play

After going over all of the possible Chicago birthday party venue options, Billy and I both settled on our new home as the best option because…it’s free(!) besides food, drink, and decorations. My next task is to figure out how to make an at-home 1st birthday party great!

What Chicago Birthday venues do you like? Do you have any tips for an at-home 1st birthday party?

Kid’s Island

Kid's Island Lincoln Park

My friend, Charlotte, and I braved the cold yesterday and headed to Kid’s Island in Lincoln Park. Being that it was 5° out, we basically had the whole place to ourselves, which was great because it is a smaller than most of the play areas in the city.

A few things set this place apart from others: 1) They have an indoor sandbox 2)They serve Julius Meinl Coffee (my favorite!) 3) They have “play pals” who will engage your child in different activities around the space.

Will playing with the stroller

Not sure if Will is staring at his feet or just not feeling the car.

Will not happy about his car ride

The indoor sandbox is located behind the wooden wall, and there is a little board walk with a sink and air blower for cleaning the kids off.  The facility does an excellent job of containing the sand, and keeping it off of the carpet.

Sand box at Kid's Island

Below is one of the play pals bringing out toys for the little ones. They were great! I was able to leave Will with them for a few minutes, while I used the restroom and ordered some food.

Play Pals at Kid's Island

Charlotte’s little girl, Jade, was having a blast at the train table. How cute is that big smile?!Will and Jade

Will playing in the kitchen at Kid's IslandAfter 2 hours of non-stop play, we ate lunch from their cafe, and then played some more!

I would recommend Kid’s Island for children 5 and under. The older kids love the sand box, coloring table, and race cars, while the toddlers and babies enjoy the kitchen, train table, and interactive toys on the playmate. If you plan on giving this place a try (which I think you should!) call ahead and see how busy they are because they do turn people away if it gets too crowded.

Location: 1358 West Webster

Hours: Monday-Friday 9:00 a.m-6:00 p.m

Parking: Free street parking

Price Range: $$

***** Love it

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Open Play at Little Beans Cafe

Little Beans Logo

A few months ago, we attended a Mommy and Me Yoga class at Little Beans. You might remember me saying that it was more play, and less exercise. We didn’t have an opportunity to enjoy the open play facility at Little Beans, but it has always been on my radar as something I would like to try.

After being stuck inside for 3 days thanks to the polar vortex that hit Chicago, Will and I were ready for a change in scenery. Therefore, a couple of girls from NPN and their little ones met me at Little Beans on Wednesday afternoon. This turned out to be a great time to go, because there were probably 10 kids total in the whole facility.


Crawlers are designated to a small fenced-in area, which felt crowded with 4 moms and 4 babies. First thing I had to do when we got in the crawlers area was make a pathway through the mass of toys. Second thing I had to do was move some random wet clothes (gross!).

Even though most of the toys were out of batteries (I’m so over plastic toys!), Will still had a blast rummaging through every toy in the play area. I have to admit, I was a little envious of the other moms sitting at the cafe tables, sipping their latte’s and watching their older kids play in the walkers section, while I sat on a rubber mat, surrounded by toys that have had a little too much love.

Will standing up at Little Beans

Will playing at Little Beans

Finally, the sign on the crawlers section that is supposed to keep walkers out, is not enforced, which makes the play space feel even smaller. My final verdict: avoid this place until you have a walker.

P.S I looked into this place for a potential 1st birthday party space for Will. Who knew that a kid’s birthday party could cost $550-$1,000! I think our house will do!

Location: 1809 West Webster

Hours: Monday-Friday 9:00 a.m-6:00 p.m

Parking: Free parking lot

Price Range: $$

*** It’s Okay

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Mommy and Me Yoga at Little Beans


Looking for an intense workout? Then Mommy and Me Yoga is probably not for you. It was fun, social, safe, (somewhat clean) and a great distraction during the witching hour, but as you can see from the pictures below, there wasn’t much exercising going on.

If your child is rolling, scooting, or crawling, you’ll be lucky if you’re able to do half of the yoga moves. Luckily, the room is padded, so the kids can safely wander while you attempt to hold a downward dog position.

I would recommend this class for babies 0-5 months, because your child can stay in the baby carrier and you can take them out as your please for some of the mommy and me yoga poses.

Location: 1809 West Webster

Hours: Wednesday 3:30-4:25

Parking: Free parking lot

Price Range: $$$

*** It’s Okay





will pose

Bucktown Music


Last Thursday evening, my friend Lindsay and I took our little ones to Kindermusik at Bucktown Music. This was Lindsay’s first music class with her 6 month old daughter, Sadie, and the two of them really enjoyed it!

We attended the Cuddle & Bounce class, taught by Patty LeClair, which was specifically for ages 0-1 years, but I would recommended waiting until your child is at least 3 months old before attending. The room was cozy, intimate, and very clean (we like clean)!

Patty has a beautiful voice, which you’d think would be a prerequisite, but I’ve been very surprised by some of the music classes I’ve attended. I liked how the class didn’t overwhelm the kids with props and instruments. The babies were given really neat looking bells, and Patty came around to each child and let them play with the wind chimes (as seen in the pictures below). Patty also read a story, and incorporated hand motions and sounds for each animal.

After class, Patty came over and formally introduced herself and told us how she got started at Bucktown Music. The owner, Jessica Solares, also introduced herself and spoke to us about membership. If I lived closer, I would sign up for this class in a heartbeat. As a bonus, they are running an enrollment special where babies under 8 months receive a Mini-Monkey membership of unlimited play for one month at the Purple Monkey.

Location: 1890 North Milwaukee Ave.

Hours: M-W at 11:30, Thursday at 5:30 and Saturday at 12

Parking: Parking meters on Milwaukee

Price Range: $$$

***** Love it




Musical Magic

musical magic

My friend Libby, and her 2-month old son David, invited us to tag along for a free-trial class at Musical Magic. I first heard about this studio while attending a Stroller Barre class. Miss Katie, the owner, joined our class and entertained the little ones with music and puppets, while we exercised. I wish she could attend every class because she was awesome at keeping Will and the other kids distracted and happy : ) I would recommend attending Miss Katie’s class if you have the opportunity to try out Musical Magic.

Libby and I decided to try Miss Erin’s Boogyin’ Babies class on Tuesday at 11:45. The big group of moms, dads, babies, grandmas, and even uncles filled most of small carpet space in the studio. Most of the babies were around Will’s age, and there were a few crawlers. Miss Erin sat at the front of the circle and sang along to music from a keyboard. She only moved about the room when it was time to collect instruments and other props.

Will was having a rough morning because I decided to play with his nap schedule, so he was less engaged than usual, and I spent half the class feeding him a bottle. He also wants everything in his mouth, and WATCH OUT if you try to take it away from him. He was not a happy camper when we had to give back the instruments, puppets, scarves and hats. Luckily, Miss Erin, let us hold onto a few instruments until the end of class, when I could distract him with the bubble machine. He loves bubbles!

This music studio is in a prime location, so you can attend a class, and then grab a coffee with some new mommy friends!

Location: 2255 West Roscoe

Hours: Times vary depending on the day

Parking: Parking meters on Roscoe or free parking in the neighborhood until 6

Price Range: $$$

*** It’s okay

music 2

music 4

Music Class at Bubbles


Yesterday was our first chilly day in Chicago, so it was the perfect opportunity to try out Bubbles Academy in Lincoln Park. Will and I attended the Bubble Music Babies class, which is a 45 minute class for 1-12 month olds. Surprisingly, Will was one of the oldest babies in class. Most of the children were 2-5 months old.

The scheduled teacher was out sick, so Ms. Kim taught our class. I’ve heard she is the best, so I was happy to have her teaching. Ms. Kim incorporated a large variety of props into her class including: shakers, drums, stuffed animals, and clappers.

What sets this class apart from other music classes was the use of the guitar, parachute, and the large projection screen. The large screen is used to project the words to each song, which is helpful for a newbie like me. Will’s favorite part was definitely the bubbles that Ms. Kim blew at the beginning and end of class. A heads up for those of you planning to attend a trial class-don’t forget the free parking pass from the front desk-I ended up paying $12 to park.



bublbles 1

Location: 1504 N. Fremont

Hours: Times vary depending on the day

Parking: Parking lot across the street

Price Range: $$$$

**** Like it

Music Playhouse



Last week, my friend, Ashley and I attended an evening class at the Music Playhouse. This business is conveniently located right next to Explore and Much More. So, if you want to be mother-of-the-year, you can take your kids to a music lesson followed by playtime at Explore and Much More. I was given a free trial of the class, but of course had to pay $1, because once again I remembered socks for Will, but not for myself. I hope you are seeing a pattern here: 1) All of these activity centers require socks, and 2) I’m overly prepared for Will, but can’t remember simple things for myself.

Anyway, I think we were both pleasantly surprised at how engaged the boys were in the lesson. Julie, the owner of the company, was also the teacher of our class. Her lovely voice and sweet demeanor made the little guys smile. She paid attention to each and every child in the class, and made them feel special. At the beginning of class, the kids were given time to play with a large drum and run around the room. During class, the teacher used a variety of instruments and played some really fun, interactive songs. I was ready to buy a 10 week pass by the end of class, but then remembered that there are so many others places I want to try first.

Location: 3829 N. Southport Avenue

Hours: Monday Friday: 9:00-5:00

Parking: Metered parking on Southport

Price Range: $$$

***** Love it

photo 2

photo 1-1

photo 2-1

Active Moms Club-Biceps, Babies, and Buggies

Biceps, Babies, and Buggies is a workout class in Oz Park that focuses on toning the core through lunges, squats, planks, and balancing exercises. The majority of exercises are done on a large concrete square near the tennis courts. The strollers remain stationary for a lot of the class, which was difficult for Will-he likes to be on the move. Don’t make the same mistake as me, and wait a month before purchasing the required band and small weights needed for this class.  I recommend Megan’s class because she leads the exercises with confidence, and pushes you to complete multiple reps. The owner, Cassandra does a nice job of brining in local businesses who provide free picnics for the mothers after class. These picnics were a great way to meet new moms.

Location: Oz park in Lincoln Park

Hours: Monday-Thursday at 9:30  and 11:00

Parking: Street

Price Range: $$$

**** Like it

"Biceps, Babies and Buggies" playgroup

“Biceps, Babies and Buggies” playgroup