10 Festive Activities to Get Your Family in the Holiday Spirit

You’d have to be crazy to say you live in Chicago for the winters, but you’re not crazy to say you love the holiday season in the city. From light parades to ice skating rinks, there are plenty of blog-holiday-activities-2-main-landscapeholiday activities to help get your family feeling festive.

Here is a list of 10 holiday activities around the city for a classic Chicago holiday season:

  1. Christkindlmarket in Daley Plaza. Christkindlmarket is an open-air, European holiday market in Daley Plaza featuring traditional art, handmade gifts, German foods, beer, hot spiced wine, choirs, and carolers. Free admission!
  2. The Great Tree at Macy’s Walnut Room. Expect to wait to get a table in the Walnut Room. You can see the Great Tree from the eighth floor of the store.
  3. Zoo Lights at Lincoln Park. ZooLights at the Lincoln Park Zoo features millions of holiday lights, ice carvings, music, carousel rides, train rides, food, and gift shopping. Free entry.
  4. Ice Skating at Maggie Daley Park. Admission is free, but skate rental is $12 during the week and $14 on the weekend. The ice ribbon will be open through the first week of March.
  5. Winter WonderFest at Navy Pier. Festival Hall at Navy Pier becomes an indoor Winter WonderFest for the holidays, with music, carnival rides, and entertainment. Expect crowds. Free entry.
  6. Shopping on Michigan Avenue. View the festive lights, people watch the tourists and get some shopping done before stopping for a delicious holiday lunch at one of the city’s many restaurants in the area.
  7. A Christmas Carol. The Goodman Theatre’s annual holiday production of the Charles Dickens classic enters its 39th year with seasonal charm intact.
  8. Christmas Around the World. View more than 50 trees and displays at the Museum of Science and Industry’s Christmas Around the World exhibit, a Chicago tradition since 1942. Each tree is decorated by volunteers from Chicago’s many communities, representing their diverse culture and holiday customs.
  9. Morton Arboretum Holiday Lights. Parents and children alike will love the 50 acres of vibrant LED lights that are hung on the Morton Arboretum’s vast treescape, creating a kaleidoscopic winter wonderland. This year’s “Illumination: Tree Lights” is wowing audiences already; it’s absolutely worth the drive out to Lisle.
  10. A Charlie Brown Christmas. With The Peanuts Movie introducing Charles M. Schulz’s characters to a new generation of kids, Emerald City Theatre and Broadway in Chicago bring the classic TV special about the true meaning of Christmas to the stage.

We wish you a happy holiday season and a happy new year!

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A Day in Milwaukee with a Child with Autism

Whether you are running around the city completing errands or want to plan a family outing in the city of Milwaukee, you may be thinking how can I help my child be successful in the Blog-Autism Milwaukee-Main-Landscapecommunity? It can be stressful to take a child with autism out of the home. Nevertheless, there are strategies to help you and your child have a smooth trip.

Each child with autism has their own unique needs, therefore here are some basic guidelines to keep in mind:

Preparing for the outing

  • Pick a place.

In the city of Milwaukee there are several events going on throughout the year and many are affordable or offer discounted prices for families of children with special needs. Maybe it’s a sensory friendly movie, the trampoline park or just your neighborhood park.

  • Inform the child what to expect.

Many children with autism are more successful with transitions when they can predict what’s to come. Now that you’ve decided on a place to go, here are some tips to guide you through the process. Try logging onto the website and printing off pictures. For example, if you are going to the trampoline park, show them the equipment and tell them that other people, including children, will be there. If you are going to the store tell them they need to stay next to the cart, keep their hands to themselves, and be aware of others.

Out in the city

  • Safety first!

Places throughout the city of Milwaukee can get busy. We recognize that safety is critical, especially when out in the city. Community safety requires skills such as awareness of surroundings, crossing the street, staying within proximity of the group and asking permission. Practice these skills ahead of time, and remind them of the rules as necessary.

  • Praise/reward appropriate behavior

Recognize your child’s good behavior! This could be done in several ways. Bring attention to the child’s behavior by commenting on what they’re doing. For example “great job staying next to me in the parking lot.” Try setting up an if/then situation, such as rewarding the child with a favorite item for demonstrating good behavior. Some examples are If you hold my hand while we walk to the park then you can have 15 minutes of TV time before bed.” “If you wait by the cart when we walk through the grocery store, then you can pick out one piece of candy.” This strategy will keep the child motivated to follow directions. Other examples of goals could be accepting no to a desired item or waiting in line for play equipment at the park. The more specific you are when giving your child goals, the more they will understand and be successful. Most importantly, when your child accomplishes these goals be sure to reward them with a highly preferred item!

  • Dealing with challenging behavior

A child with autism may have an alternative way of communicating. Some examples of challenging behaviors include crying instead of telling you why they are sad, screaming instead of explaining what is making them angry, or running away instead of telling you when they don’t like a situation. This can be difficult to handle while in the community. It’s helpful to develop proactive strategies (see above) for these behaviors. We know that all behavior happens for a reason, so being able to identify why a child is displaying a specific behavior will help you determine how to move forward in responding to that behavior.

Take your trip & have fun!

After going through these steps with your child, it’s now time to take your trip! You’ve picked a place, prepared the child for what they will see and do, and you are prepared to handle challenging behavior and/or praise your child for good behavior. Now it’s time to confidently make your trip out into Milwaukee one to remember!

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (847) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!


Sensory Tips for Sporting Events

Summer is a great time to enjoy sports! Whether it’s going to a Bear’s pre-season game at Soldier field, aSensory Tips ball park, or even a sibling’s soccer game, sporting events come with a large variety of sensory experiences. This can be a great part of the event, or one that makes some children want to run for the hills. If your child has sensory processing difficulties, you may need to prepare your child (and be prepared!) for what’s ahead.

Here are some sensory tips for kiddos whose ideal Saturday may not be spent cheering in a roaring crowd at a sporting event:

For the child with auditory sensitivities:

  • Bring along noise canceling headphones or ear plugs to help drown out the loud sounds.
  • Tell your child when to expect a loud buzzer so they can cover their ears (e.g. watch the clock count down at the end of a quarter/half/period).
  • Give them “quiet breaks” where you take them to a quieter part of the stadium/arena, like the bathroom or concessions, to allow them to regulate.

For child who just can’t stop moving:

  • Give them movement breaks! Let them walk up and down the stairs and time them to see how fast they can do it; take them with you when you’re going to get food or to the restroom.
  • Give them a wiggly cushion seat that allows them to wiggle while still staying seated.
  • Make sure to incorporate a lot of movement activities before the event to help them be able to sit longer (e.g. animal walks, wall pushes, hokey pokey)
  • Let them stand. Some kids can pay attention better when they’re allowed to stand. Let them stand at their seat or find an area where they are allowed to watch while standing.

For a child who is sensitive to tactile input:

  • Let them be comfortable. If they insist on wearing a particular type of sock or their shirt inside out, this is not the time to say no (within reason). Allow them to be as comfortable as possible so there are no meltdowns in the middle of the 2nd
  • Let them sit in the middle of the family; some children are sensitive to light touch and may become upset if they are constantly being brushed by passers-by while sitting on an aisle.
  • Wear long sleeved lycra shirt: rushing through crowds bring along a lot of unwanted light touch. Wearing-sleeved shirts (i.e. Under Armour) can help lessen that aversive sensation.

For a child sensitive to visual input:

  • Bring sunglasses. Even if the event is indoors, the bright lighting may be overwhelming if they are exposed to it for long periods of time.
  • Bring a hat. A jacket with a hood also works and gives the option of blocking out bright lights and other distractions.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!


What Are Disorders of the Corpus Callosum?

This guest blog post was written by Amy Connolly, RN, BSN, PCCN of a community hospital in Chicago.

The corpus callosum is the large bundle of nerve fibers that serve as a pathway, connecting the right andCorpus Callosum left hemispheres of the brain together. Disorders of the corpus callosum, or DCC’s, are “conditions in which the corpus callosum does not develop in a typical manner.” This important brain superhighway is usually formed by 12 to 16 weeks after conception. However, there are some people born without a corpus callosum at all, this is otherwise known as agenesis of the corpus callosum. My 4 year old son has hypoplasia of the corpus callosum, which means that his corpus callosum is thin and therefore may be less efficient. A few other included disorders are partial agenesis, as in partially absent, and dysgenesis, or malformation, of the corpus callosum.

DCC’s, like Autism, are a spectrum disorder, where there is no textbook answer to how happy or healthy someone will be just based off of diagnosis. Many parents are finding out during pregnancy due to the advancement in technology and equipment. Unfortunately, they are not always getting the best advice or support, due to the lack of knowledge on provider’s part. My best advice to them is to be proactive with recommended testing and therapies, but not to stress over the diagnosis itself. Having a disorder of the corpus callosum is nothing to fear in itself.

Every individual with a DCC, will have their own paths and abilities. The diagnosis should not define them or stop them from reaching their true potential, whatever that may be. There are plenty of people who found their diagnosis after a MRI or CT scan was done due to headaches or some type of accident. Someone with a DCC may live a pretty ordinary life and you would never have even been able to tell that they had a “special” brain, if they did not have a diagnostic test for some reason or another. Many people with a DCC have trouble keeping up with their peers when they get closer to their teen years. They may be socially awkward and they may not get the punchline of jokes right away.

For others with a DCC, a lot of therapy and repetition will help them to tell their story. Many of those with a DCC may also be diagnosed with ADHD, Autism, depression, anxiety, and so forth. Some who haven’t had an MRI or CT scan may only be diagnosed with one or more of the other things and do not even know that they have this disorder. Many people with the disorder may also have seizures, low muscle tone, and sensory disorders. Other midline defects can also be common such as eye or vision problems, heart problems, thyroid or growth disorders, and the list goes on. Some people with a DCC may also have feeding tubes as children and they may or may not still need them as they get older.  There is a lot we still do not know about disorders of the corpus callosum, but what we do know is that people with them are pretty awesome! They may usually have to work harder to make those important brain connections, but they always continue to put smiles on our faces no matter how big or small their accomplishment may be in someone else’s eyes!

The National Organization for Disorders of the Corpus Callosum, NODCC, is a nonprofit organization that strives to find out more about people like my son and to spread awareness about the disorder. The NODCC holds a conference every other year in a different U.S. location for individuals living with a DCC, families, professionals, and anyone else who would like to attend. There are multiple sessions on different tracks going on at the same time. This year approximately 600 people are expected to attend. Attendees will be from all over the U.S., with some even flying in from abroad. The conference is at the Marriott O’Hare in Chicago from July 22-24, 2016. For many with the disorder, and their families, conference is like a home away from home. A place where everybody gets each other without having to say a word. High functioning, low functioning, we are all functioning. Together.

To learn more about disorders of the corpus callosum, please go to www.nodcc.org.



Amy CAmy Connolly RN, BSN, PCCN lives in Franklin Park, Illinois.  Amy is a registered nurse at a community hospital in Chicago.  Amy is also stepmom to Patrick (16), mom to Jesse (6), Jake (4), and Marcey (2).  Jake, now age 4, was diagnosed with hypoplasia of the corpus callosum at ten months of age, after a MRI was done due to delayed developmental milestones and a lazy eye.  Amy’s nursing experience did not prepare her to navigate the world with a child with special needs.  She has learned a lot over the last four years and enjoys sharing and learning more with other families.  Amy is also actively involved as a volunteer for the National Organization for Disorders of the Corpus Callosum due to her strong belief in their mission and values.

Autism Friendly Activities in Milwaukee

With school out, parents may have mixed feelings about the summer ahead. What will my child do all Milwaukeeday? How can I keep them entertained? What can I fill their time with educationally since they are not in school? Well, fear not parents, there are a lot of fun, but educational activities you can do for your child with autism this summer in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

AMC Sensory Friendly Films

Mayfair Mall’s AMC movie theater features a few sensory friendly films each month, ranging from animated kid’s movies to action/thrillers. During the films, they keep the lights on and turn the volume down, which allows families safe access to the bathroom and alleviates any sensory tolerance concerns. Follow the link below for a listing of the upcoming films.


Betty Brinn Children’s Museum

Betty Brinn Children’s museum has several rooms filled with educational toys as well as a rotating seasonal exhibit for your child to explore. Betty Brinn Children’s museum understands that access to educational and social opportunities for children with special needs can be difficult. As a result, they created a Family Focus Membership, that families can apply for, that provides free access to the museum for children with autism. If your application is accepted, you will need to attend a mandatory class at the museum, but then you will be given free access to the museum for a year. Follow the link below for more information on the Family Focus Membership.


Kids in Motion

Kids in Motion is an indoor play area for all children. They have several themed rooms with a variety of educational toys, a snack counter, and a main gym area that has a slide, tubes to climb in, and a roped in ball area. Kids in Motion in Brookfield, WI offers half off admission on Sundays for special needs families, which includes half off admission for siblings that are not on the spectrum. Follow the link below for more information on Kids in Motion.


YMCA- programs for special needs kids

Several local YMCAs offer programs for all children, including special needs children, during the summer months. Whether you are looking for a class or all day summer camp, the YMCA has several different opportunities for children with special needs. If you are looking for a baseball camp, a great option is the Miracle League of Milwaukee, which accepts all children regardless of ability or prior experience. Follow the link below for more information on the Miracle League of Milwaukee.


While all of these options are affordable or free, there are several other great activities you can take part in Milwaukee with your child, such as the Milwaukee County Zoo or attending one of the many festivals Milwaukee has. In addition, Milwaukee County Parks are always free and can be fun for daily trips or to the Farmer’s Markets. While the summer months can seem long, keep all of these great opportunities in mind as you plan your summer months.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

To schedule an Applied Behavior Analysis assessment, complete the form here.

White Sox Benetti

Living the Dream | An Interview With Chicago White Sox Announcer Jason Benetti

Every day at NSPT, we welcome families into our clinics. Each child is so incredibly unique with their Jason-Benettitreatment, their diagnosis, the challenges they may face, the strengths that they have, etc. We are often told by parents that their biggest question is “what’s next for their child?” “Will they succeed in life?” At NSPT, our mission is to help each and every kiddo reach their maximum potential…whatever that may be.

Jason Benetti, the newest addition to the broadcasting team for the Chicago White Sox, is living his own childhood dream. At a young age, Jason was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy. Like our families, there was a point in time where maybe his family had the same questions about “what’s next?” He recalls at a young age going through a few surgeries and spending time at the Rehab Institute of Chicago. “Everyone there was just wonderful,” said Benetti. A typical week at a young age included Physical and Occupational Therapy and focusing on building range of motion.

Benetti grew up on the Southside in Homewood and is a graduate of Homewood-Flossmoor High School. Initially, he was a member of the band playing tuba. “That probably wasn’t the best thing for me to be doing,” joked Benetti. It was at that time the band director asked him if he would be interested in sitting in the press box during games and calling out the next set as the band was performing. This was the beginning of a growing passion for broadcasting. Homewood-Flossmoor was one of few high schools that had their own radio station, so Benetti was able to further pursue and develop his skills.

Upon graduation, Jason attended Syracuse University to pursue a career in broadcasting. While there, he was able to continue to build his skills as the Triple A announcer for the Toronto Blue Jays. But nothing fits quite like being able to land your dream job with your favorite team growing up. We were able to sit down with Jason and ask him about what it’s like to be a broadcaster for his hometown team, the Chicago White Sox.

Were there any broadcasters you wanted to be like growing up?

Benetti: There were a lot of people, Hawk Harrelson was the guy I would mimic with catchphrases walking around saying, and “You can put it on the board, YES!” But I’m not particularly a catch phrase guy myself. So Hawk was the guy. He has been so encouraging of me doing half of the games with Steve Stone, just genuine and kind.

When you first expressed interest, what did people around you say? Was there adversity or support?

Benetti: As a radio guy, no one cared what I looked like. Viv Bernstein did a story in early 2010 and asked me if there was a ceiling with regards to TV. It took time for people to warm up to the fact that I can’t look into the camera or have a commanding strut walking into a room, so perceptively there was an adjustment period for people. I quickly found great allies with Time Warner in Syracuse and ESPN. Once they got to know me, they were supportive. It just takes one person.

If you could call a game for any baseball player, who would it be? Retired or current.

Benetti: Growing up Robin Ventura was my favorite player, so in a way, I now get to call games for him.

What are you most looking forward to this season?

Benetti: I’m looking forward to the development of the rapport between myself and Steve Stone. We have only had one game so far, but I felt comfortable after and am excited to have the partnership develop. Steve has such a wealth of knowledge. It’s going to be a lot of fun.

What was it like sitting in the booth at US Cellular Field for the first time?

Benetti: It was just like another game, but with way more people interested. I’ve done so many baseball games and baseball is baseball. There weren’t really nerves, just a new experience.

What is it like working alongside hall of fame broadcaster Steve Stone?

Benetti: Anyone who is creative grows up wanting to be around other people like that. Steve Stone and crew fulfills that 100 percent. To be in a room with everyone wanting to do great work, to work with someone who expands like Steve, is everything anyone could want in a partner doing games.

Do you ever meet with or talk to young athletes? Or young individuals with CP or other disabilities? What is the one thing you tell them?

Benetti: I would tell them if you think people perceive you a certain way, you are not crazy and they might be, but do everything you can to disregard that and get past it, it could be damaging to the relationship. It is happening, but trust yourself to get past it.

And one final question…you heard it here first…Prediction…will it be a Cubs vs. White Sox World Series?

Benetti: I’m going to say yeah, it would be great fun. The Billy Goat couldn’t be blamed. Someone would have huge bragging rights for a long time.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview, Lake Bluff and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

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Springtime Activities in the Suburbs

After a long and dreary winter, it’s finally springtime in Chicago! With warmer weather on the way and Blog-springtime-activities-Main-Landscapesummer just around the corner, parents and children alike are looking forward to heading back outdoors for springtime activities. While the city has endless parks, museums, and theaters to choose from, the north shore and western suburbs also have a plethora of well-known play places, as well as hidden gems for suburban families. If you are looking for a quick answer to the “What are we doing today?” question, here are some great places that your kids will love! All of the locations mentioned would be fantastic places for both toddlers, as well as older children to discover.

If you are looking for a little inspiration for your budding Picasso, or your superstar just needs to burn off some additional energy, here are some great locations for the arts as well as sports-themed venues.

Arts & Sports:

Color Me Mine – Glenview

Sunshine Arts & Crafts – Highland Park

Art Reach – Palatine/Schaumberg

Marriott Theater – Lincolnshire

Fairytale Ballet & Academy – Evanston

Hi Five Sports Camp – Highland Park

Rec Center of Highland Park

North Suburban YMCA – Northbrook

Arctic Splash – Wheeling

Splash Landings – Glenview

Key Lime Cove – Gurnee

Big Blue Swim School – Select locations

Foss Swim School – Select locations

If your family is still recovering from the cabin fever experience all winter long, below are some great fun and educational locations you can explore.


Kohl Children’s Museum – Glenview

DuPage Children’s Museum – Naperville

Chicago Botanic Garden – Glencoe

Lambs Farm – Libertyville

Wagner Farm – Glenview

Elawa Farm – Lake Forest

Morton Arboretum – Lisle

Cantigny Park – Wheaton

The Grove – Glenview

Independence Grove – Libertyville

Cosley Zoo – Wheaton

Naper Settlement – Naperville

Spring Valley Nature Center – Schaumburg

Since the start of spring brought Chicagoans a few additional snowy days, springtime weather can be somewhat unpredictable. Below are some suggestions of places to visit when the weather turns sour.

Indoor Play Places:

The Chicago TreeHouse – Lake Zurich

Little Beans – Evanston

Jammin’ Jungle – Highland Park

Gymboree – Select locations

Pump It Up – Select locations

Jump Zone – Buffalo Grove

Lego Land – Schaumburg

Exploritorium – Skokie (Part of the Park District)

Go Bananas – Norridge

*Opening Soon: Funtopia – Glenview

In addition to the above mentioned locations, the park districts and libraries in the northern suburbs have plenty of fantastic resources for toddlers and their older siblings. With sunnier days on the horizon, most cities offer outdoor festivals, special events, and farmers markets, so be sure to check out what your town is offering. If you and your family have another favorite hot spot that you would love to share with others, please let us know about it in the comments below.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview, Lake Bluff and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

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Top 5 Reasons to Visit the New Lincolnwood Pediatric Therapy Clinic

North Shore Pediatric Therapy is proud to officially open its 6th location in Lincolnwood, IL.  The Lincolnwood clinic was chosen after many local schools, parents and pediatricians expressed the need for services such as speech therapy, physical therapy, social work, applied behavior analysis and occupational therapy closer to the Lincolnwood, Skokie, Winnetka, Wilmette and Park Ridge neighborhoods.  Neuropsychology is also part of the team.Lincolnwood, IL Now Open

5 reasons you should schedule a tour of the North Shore
Pediatric Therapy Clinic in Lincolnwood, Illinois:

  1. If you are thinking of therapy services for your child, here is your chance to see what a state of the art facility should look like. The Lincolnwood clinic has brand new, top rated therapy equipment for gross and fine motor, sensory, language, attention, emotional development and more.  A fun environment and relaxing family lounge for mom, dad, and nanny.
  2. Meet our Family Child Advocates and our Therapists. The multidisciplinary team cares about you from the second you connect with us.  We have graduates from Rush, UIC, and Northwestern, and a top educated and caring team.
  3. Get Caffeinated! Kuerig Coffee is complimentary at any visit.  We want you to feel like you are in a home away from home in Lincolnwood, Illinois NSPT’s clinic.
  4. Bring your child to get acquainted with the clinic. Feeling comfortable in your new space is quite helpful.  It will bring peace of mind to you and your child.
  5. All scheduled tour visitors will automatically be entered into our Contest for a $50 Old Orchard gift certificate. Your Lincolnwood or Skokie home could use a lot of fun things to buy or a great time to stop for lunch before or after therapy!

To schedule a tour and enter our drawing, click here:

Schedule a tour at Lincolnwood

Services Offered at Our New Lincolnwood Location:

chicago 2015 holiday activity guide

Winter Break 2015: Chicago Family Activity Guide

Ahh the Holidays! It really is my favorite time of year. I love all the traditions, music, and the Holiday spirit! This can be an especially fun time when you share it with little ones. I love to see the joy on their faces as they experience a bit of that holiday magic! That is until they are faced with boredom and cabin fever, then no one is happy! Luckily there are plenty of options for holiday fun for all ages in the Chicagoland area. There are too many options to name, but here are a few good ideas to get you started for a fun holiday break with your family.

Holiday Lights

Okay, okay. Maybe I’m stating the obvious a bit here. Holiday Lights are probably the first thing that jump to your mindchicago 2015 holiday activity guide when looking for a great winter weather activity, but read on all the same. Maybe there are some new options to consider.

Morton Arboretum – Lisle, IL – I pass this location every day during my commute, and I always get excited when the lights start to go up. This is certainly one of the most beautiful displays I’ve seen. They do offer events for young children, but this may be a better option if you have older kids who would enjoy this more than the blinking cartoon displays at other locations. This seems a bit more “classy.”

Zoo Lights – Chicago, IL or Brookfield, IL – This is a great evening outing for the entire family. Zoo lights are even better than most light shows, because you can see animals, and participate in other activities as well. Just bundle up, and be prepared for a bit of walking. I recommend you bring a stroller or wagon. Even if your little one is at that “I wanna walk by myself” age, you may want to bring the stroller as backup.

Holiday Trolley Express – Carol Stream, IL – This is a great somewhat indoor option that can help you avoid sensory overload or cranky fits from frozen fingers. The Carol Stream Park District offers a festive trolley ride to enjoy some of the beautiful light displays in the area, followed by some holiday fun.

Christmas Around the World – Museum of Science and Industry – This is a fabulous option, not only for great light displays, but also for tons of other fun stuff to do. Museum of Science and Industry sets up beautiful trees with decorations from around the world. Check their website in advance, because they also offer free holiday concerts or other events. When I went last year there was a Russian Children’s Choir performing holiday classics in Russian. It was beautiful, and a nice relaxing retreat from the hustle and bustle of the museum.

Santa Claus

Ho! Ho! Ho! Again, I’m probably stating another obvious one here. Everyone knows you have to visit Santa at Christmas time! But what if your child can’t handle the sensory overload of a busy shopping mall or wait in the long line without a meltdown? Don’t worry. Santa doesn’t just sit at the mall all day! He likes to get out and meet kids at Holiday parties or pancake breakfasts. Here are some other Santa alternatives.

Breakfast or Lunch with Santa – Check your local listings. Many park districts, Boy Scout troops, or even rotary clubs offer pancake breakfasts with Santa for a reasonable amount. I even found one in Rolling Meadows that is free if you bring a canned food donation. Sit back and enjoy a nice breakfast with your family, and wait your turn to meet Santa in peace. Sometimes he may even have a chance to come over to your table and greet you!

Holiday Express – Again, check your local listings. I started to look at all the options, and there were too many to type! Almost every park district seems to be offering a fun “Polar Express” type outing this year. Enjoy a nice holiday train ride (Hooray, another indoor light show option too!) to the North Pole and meet Santa. Many of these train rides are also a pajama party like in the movie, and offer hot cocoa or other goodies.

Hannukkah Fun

Hanukkah oh Hanukkah! There are lots of fun ways to enjoy the Festival of Lights in the Chicagoland area. Here are a few of the most exciting suggestions I found.

Menorah Workshop – select Home Depot locations – enjoy Hanukkah snacks while you learn to make your own menorahs!

Hanukkah Concerts – There are many options out there for concerts as well, but I recommend you look into the one at the Chicago Botanic Gardens.

Hanukkah Happenings – Vernon Hills, IL – raffles, crafts, photos, dreidel spinning, and more!

Hanukkah Party: A Special Time for Families with Special Needs – Northbrook, IL – I couldn’t have been more excited when I heard about this! This is a great opportunity for some of our own families from here at North Shore Pediatric Therapy to get together and enjoy the holiday. Celebrate with music, games, a candle lighting, and the Hanukkah story.

Indoor Alternatives

Candy and Craft activities – check your local park district, library, Home Depot, craft store, or candy store. Many are offering free or inexpensive classes to make candy, holiday cookies, ornaments, or holiday decorations.

Doll Tea Party (with Fancy Nancy) – Arlington Heights Park District – I went to many Doll Tea parties as a girl, and I loved them! Let your little one dress up like their doll for extra fun.

Holiday movies – many of the small local theatres offer a free or $1 screening of holiday classics. Check with your local theatre for more information.

Frozen® party – Heller Nature Center – Highland Park, IL – Let it go! Let it go, and let the kids go have a blast. This sounds like a ton of fun. It makes me want to braid my hair and hug a snowman, but unfortunately this ones for kids only. Darn it!

Grinch’s candy cane hunt – Park Ridge, IL – Why wait until Easter when you can have a candy cane hunt right now?!

See, there is no reason to get the Winter blues! There are plenty of exciting options out there. For more great ideas check out Oaklee’s Guide or Chicago Kids, or check with your local library and park district. Whether you stay in, or go out, enjoy your holiday season. Happy Holidays!

Chicago Ice Cream

The 8 Best Ice Cream Spots in Chicago




As we enter August, what better way to remind us that we still have a little touch of Summer left then to list some favorite ice cream shops around Chicago!

While I have not “tested” all of the places listed below, most I have visited and are guaranteed to be delicious!

1)    Scooter’s Frozen Custard–Roscoe Village, Chicago

Started by a husband and wife who quit their jobs working in sales, they opened in 2003 and most days you will find a line out the door! There is a “Flavor Schedule” so each day is different (which means more than one visit is needed!). Their “Concretes” are heavenly and big enough to share. Open seasonally, make sure to stop by between March and the Friday after Thanksgiving.

2)    Tom and Wendee’s Italian Ice–Lincoln Park, Chicago

I knew when my best friend, who doesn’t eat chocolate, took me here to have the Chocolate Italian Ice that this was a special place! It is open seasonally, March to October. Some favorite flavors are Black Cherry, Chocolate Coffee Toffee, and Watermelon. If you can’t decide, they can do ½ and ½!

3)    Capannari Ice Cream–Mt. Prospect

A hidden gem in the suburbs, this place is a true “ice cream parlor”. It is family owned and the ice cream is made on-site. They host a lot of events, especially in the community, which is always nice when local places give back. Their list of “standard” flavors is quite large and there are also rotating flavors!

4)    Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams–Lakeview, Chicago

Having gone to The Ohio State University and having lived in Ohio for many years, I knew about this terrific place before they branched out to other states.  Yes, it is a bit pricey, and the flavors are quite unique. Stop in and you will see what is meant by this quote from their website: “Jeni and our kitchen team make every ice cream, sorbet, and frozen yogurt from the ground up with grass-grazed milk, local produce, American bean-to-bar chocolate and select ingredients from around the world”.

5)    Original Rainbow Cone–Beverly, Chicago

A favorite at the Taste of Chicago, the rainbow cone, consists of the following flavors all mixed together (in a cone!): Chocolate, Strawberry, Palmer House, Pistachio and Orange Sherbet. Open seasonally from March to November, there are other items on their menu…but why not treat yourself to 5 flavors all together!?

6)    George’s Ice Cream And Sweets—Andersonville, Chicago

Ahhhh, with a place so close to home, George’s is certainly a favorite! Their fun, unique flavors are sure to please, especially the Fat Elvis (banana ice cream, peanut butter ripple, and liquid chocolate chips) or Horchata. With plenty of seating inside the shop, you can relax and enjoy your ice cream. BTW, the staff also allows you to “taste” as many flavors as you want…handing you numerous tiny spoons with smiles on their faces!!

7)    Homer’s Homemade Gourmet Ice Cream –Wilmette

With so many flavors to choose from, you can’t go wrong!

Another great thing is you can share the fabulous flavors with out-of-towners—they ship via Fed Ex. You can also find it locally in some grocery stores!

8)    Paciugo—Lincoln Square, Chicago

I discovered this place as I was walking with friends after dinner and wanted something sweet. To my amazement, their gelato hit the spot! The flavors rotate daily and are divided by category (Milk, No Sugar Added, Soy, Water-Sorbet) so there is something for everyone! The best part is you can do a small cup and choose 3 flavors…and it is 70% less fat than ice cream. Hey, why not order a medium?!?

Click here to get the official scoop on ice cream and nutrition!