Kids Science Labs – website
Location: 1500 N. Kingsbury, Chicago, IL
The red line stop at North & Clybourn is a few blocks from Kids Science Labs.
Hours & schedule: Monday-Saturday 9am-6pm. Sundays are reserved for birthday parties and special events, and possibly classes during the academic year.
A full schedule is available online. Currently there are classes for ages 2-5 on weekdays and Saturday mornings, ages 3-12 on weekday afternoons and throughout the day on Saturdays, ages 5-12 on Tuesday evenings, and ages 10+ on Sunday mornings.
Membership: A one-time membership fee is required for all new students. A single child membership is $40 and a family membership is $75. There is an online registration form available. Membership benefits:
- Priority registration in full session & individual classes
- Use of a Kids Science Labs investigator lab coat
- $100 discount on birthday parties (when birthday child is actively enrolled in a class)
- One free class per year (beyond pre-membership free class)
- Access to Friday Night Weird Science (parents night out)
Pricing: You can register online for a free class.
Age group: Ages 2-3 Ages 3-5 Ages 5-8 Ages 8-12
One class: $30/class $37/class $37/class $43/class
One quarter: $25/class $31/class $31/class $36/class
One year: $22/class $25/class $28/class $32/class
Discounts are available for multiple classes in a week (for one child or multiple children).
Scholarships may be available to students who can not afford classes.
Parking: Free parking is available in the Whole Foods parking garage above the Kids Science Labs.
Bathrooms: There are private bathrooms. The bathrooms have a changing table and stool so kids can reach the sink and soap. There were even baby wipes available in the bathroom!
Nursing area: There is no designated nursing area, but there are several chairs in the lobby.
Handicapped/stroller accessibility: Kids Science Labs is very accessible. There is an entrance at street level and an elevator from the parking garage. The layout of the lab is very open and accessible to the handicapped or strollers.
Amenities: There is a large play area and the Parent Relaxation Lounge offers free Wi-Fi.
Food: Food is not available at Kids Science Labs (for eating at least), but Whole Foods is next door. There are several other restaurants within walking distance, including Panera and Jamba Juice, and a Trader Joe’s grocery store.
- Classes – Kids Science Labs offers hands-on science classes for kids ages 2-12. Classes for 2-3 year-olds are parent participation classes, while classes for ages 3 and up are drop off classes. Classes run 60-90 depending on the age group. There is a 8:1 student/teacher ratio and the classes use KSL’s unique LIFES curriculum (Learning, Innovation, Fun, Engineering, and Science). Sample class descriptionscan be viewed online.
- Playdates – Playdates are typically 45-60 minutes of hands-on play for 3-12 children.
- Open play – Members are entitled to free open play sessions which take place twice a week.
- Birthday parties – Birthday parties are available for up to 15 children aged 4-12. Parties include hands-on science activities; they begin at $475 for members and there are many options for add ons. Online party registration is available.
- Special events – Weird Wednesday, Friday Night Mystery Science, and a Safe Science Halloween party are offered, and organizations and groups can rent out the facility for special events.
We paid: We attended free classes for both Cooper and Dexter, so we paid nothing. To enroll both boys in a full quarter of classes and pay the one-time membership fee would cost about $500.
We arrived a little early for our classes and parked in the parking garage and the boys were excited to take the elevator. I loved that the parking was so convenient; there are special spaces reserved for Kids Science Labs so you get to park right by the elevator that takes you directly to the Kids Science Labs. The boys immediately found the toys (of course), and I was happy to find everyone that worked there was very friendly. One of the co-founders, Shegan Campbell, was sitting on the floor in the play area playing with the kids. The teachers were out in the play area before classes started playing with the kids and getting them comfortable.
I was a little concerned about Cooper because there have only been a handful of times he has been outside the presence of a family member. I’ve discussed pre-school with him (he’s turning four) and he’s terrified of being away from me, but when it came time for his class he walked out of the room with his teachers and classmates without looking back.
After he was gone, Dexter and I headed to our Problem Solvers class. We lucked out and Dexter was the only student in his age group for that class so we got a private class. Dexter donned his (adorable) little lab coat and was raring to go.
He threw sponges into a water table to see what happened to them and loved it. His teacher, Nina, was very engaging and enthusiastic. Dexter tends to be shy and clingy, but she quickly got him comfortable and active.
It’s hard to find something exciting enough for a two-year-old to surrender a water table, but Nina did. We moved on to the table where Dexter got to pour cups of water onto a tray. When the tray was full, he got to choose from toilet paper, tissue, aluminum foil, sponges, and a cloth to absorb the water. Nina talked about absorption and asked lots of questions, such as: which is heavier – the wet sponge or the dry sponge?
Dexter repeatedly chose the sponge so he obviously has a strong grasp on absorption (or he really likes sponges). After experimenting with the different items, Dexter was able to put his knowledge to use cleaning up a spill on the floor. Then he poured several cups of water into a disposable diaper to see how much it absorbed and then he got to choose an items to stuff into a cloth diaper so it would absorb a lot of liquid (he chose sponges, of course).
Cooper was very excited to tell me about his class, Fruit Smashanomics (so excited that I forgot to take a picture of his classroom; this picture is of a classroom that was a nearby classroom that hadn’t been used yet) because he got to smash fruit. His intro to physics class taught the kids about gravity, acceleration, and impact. He even had a shell he’d made in class to protect a raspberry from getting smashed, and he told me they’d tested it in class and it really worked. The teachers interacted with the kids and parents after class.
Some of the things I really liked about Kids Science Labs:
- Everything in KSL embodies their core values, which include engaging kids’ curiosity, allowing them to explore and discover, and making science fun for kids. There are no beeping, light-up toys in the play area that just entertain, but there are toys that let kids build, test, and imagine. Parts of the interior of the building have been left unfinished (such as the floor and exposed pipes along the ceiling) both to be more eco-friendly and to encourage children to explore and observe. The walls between classrooms even have science cartoon drawings on them, and every teacher we came into contact with seemed genuinely excited and invested in the core values.
- The classes are simple, but incredibly engaging and exciting. They use everyday items like water and sponges, and fruit, and allowed the kids to truly explore and do things they normally wouldn’t be allowed to do (well, at least not at my house!). The activities are simple, but help the kids learn fundamental science concepts and encourage them to think creatively.
- Have I mentioned the teachers? Oh, I did? Well I’m gonna say it again ’cause I really liked them.
After our class I got an email from Cooper’s teacher telling me about Cooper’s observations and predictions in class. I wish that we lived closer to Kids Science Labs now, and that we weren’t moving much further away from it because I think it’s a truly incredible place and I’d love to have my kids engaged in science regularly. I’m definitely motivated to try to come up with some science observations and experiments we can do at home until the co-founders Shegan and Keith decide to develop some kind of home-schooling program or add a location in the Northwest ‘burbs (hint, hint). If you’re anywhere near Lincoln Park I strongly suggest trying out a class and if you’re not maybe it’s still worth the drive.