14 Places to Play with Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers in Champaign-Urbana
The best places to take your baby, toddler or preschooler to play in Champaign-Urbana and surrounding communities
Ask any parent with kids of any age and they’ll remind you that toddlerhood is just a unique time in the life of a parent. Finding places and spaces to be safe and enjoy fun with babies, toddlers and preschoolers is helpful to navigating this season in parenting, and especially so if you are also caring for more than one child, too.
Some general ideas
All of our local libraries are great spaces for toddlers. The Champaign Public Library and Urbana Free Library have the largest play areas around our community and even if these are not your usual library, we know they would welcome you to visit to play with your toddlers any time.
The posts we link below have some great ideas, too. Indoor play areas are often constructed with young children, such as toddlers and preschoolers, in mind. Peruse the list below to see what you’re looking for, depending on the time of year and stage your child is currently.
Places to take babies, toddlers and preschoolers to play in Champaign-Urbana
In Champaign-Urbana, we are not lacking for options when it comes to enjoyable child play. We’ve talked to our parents of young children and put together a list of our top places to take your baby or toddler in C-U.
- Another family’s house
This one seems like it should be obvious but may often get overlooked. Going to another house means the space is already childproofed and they have toys your kids will love but may never have seen before. Find other baby/toddler parents you enjoy hanging out with and take turns visiting each other’s houses (back yards work, too!) when you get together.
- Copper Creek Church
The newest indoor playground to Champaign-Urbana, Copper Creek wins big with infant and toddler parents. The room resembles an indoor climbing area reminiscent of those that were once found in fast food places. Kids are invited to take off their shoes (make sure to wear socks) and climb to their hearts’ content.
- Colbert Park
Colbert Park is one of our favorite parks in Champaign-Urbana and especially so for toddlers! Check out the parent-child swing, the fun walking musical path, and climb up the huge hill to run or roll down.
- McDonald’s PlayPlace
Kids love the slides and tunnels at McDonald’s! The McDonald’s locations in the Champaign-Urbana area that have PlayPlaces open at this time are the one on Kirby Avenue near the Duncan Avenue intersection and the one in Rantoul.
- Toddler time at Sholem Aquatic Center
We like toddler time at Sholem. It starts early in the morning (because toddlers get up early, right!?) and is a perfectly toddler sized pool that is gated off so they can’t leave without a parent. There are no deep water areas here and it is just a spot to splash around and stay cool with other families. Held most mornings all summer long. Check their website to confirm times each season.
- Windsor Road Christian Church
This play area features a race-car themed, indoor playground. Toddlers love building with the large lego-type blocks and sliding down the big yellow slide. This playground is a nice contained area in which you can see the entire space at all times, making it a great places for a toddler parent to meet up with other parents. Bonus: This play space is open on Sunday (just for an hour). Info on hours and more here.
- Hessel Park
Another one of our top favorite playgrounds for all ages, Hessel Park has incredible playgrounds and a great splash pad. Be aware that the play areas aren’t gated off but we think you (and your toddler) will enjoy this expansive playground so much it’ll be worth all the steps chasing after them during your visit!
- Marketplace Mall Play Place
Another year-round, open any time option, Marketplace Mall has lots of padded equipment to climb and jump on. Parents can sit on benches around the play area and watch their babies and toddlers crawl, run and play. We know this is a favorite for parents that have a toddler and an infant, as this is a great spot to take a break from pushing the stroller around the mall, as well as a chance to feed the baby while the older child plays.
- First Christian Church Indoor Playground
This playground is a bit larger than the one at Windsor Road and while that means it will have you dodging some things you might not want your toddler playing on (we’re looking at you, spinning “carousel”), this is still a great pick for places to play with toddlers. You might want to put your infant in a carrier and wear them around the play area, versus pushing a stroller around the perimeter, if you are bringing a toddler and a baby with you. This is a great option if you have a small child and an older child, and just like any playground, you’ll have some things you want to dodge with your toddler. More info on hours here.
- The Stephens Family YMCA
If you join the Y, your family will be eligible for up to 90 minutes of free childcare in its excellent facilities every day. The pool also has a zero-depth area for the littles to explore, not to mention swim lessons for all ages (at an extra cost) to help them begin to manage deeper waters faster. Also, Rug Bugs Parent/Child Open Gym is BACK after several years off the schedule; just a few dollars to play and FREE if you are a Stephens Family YMCA member.
- Curtis Orchard
Open late-July through mid-December, our local orchard is a great place to visit with younger children. There are tot-sized playhouses to play in, kittens to pet and goats to feed and donuts (oh the donuts). During peak fall months, you can enjoy lunch in the Flying Monkey Cafe, too – taking one small thing off your plate for one meal and solving the “what is for lunch” dilemma.
These are purely bonus ideas, and will depend entirely your baby or toddler’s temperament as to whether this is a good option for you:
- Some area restaurants, coffee shops
Several local eateries provide a good opportunity to get out of the house and to help pave the way for a few non drive-thru meals in the future. Coffee shops in particular — such as Café Kopi, which has high chairs, games, and coloring materials — are good places to take kids from birth on up. Coffee shop menus typically offer kid-friendly items, which are delivered with speed (less waiting, of course, equals a more manageable tot).
- See some animals
Young kids LOVE animals. We are lucky to live in a community with lots of opportunities to see a variety of animals, from farm animals to more exotic creatures. In the spring, there’s baby goats at Prairie Fruits Farm. In the summertime, there is the wonderful Prairie Farm (yes that’s confusing). Year-round indoors, there’s the owls, snakes and turtles at Anita Purves Nature Center or Homer Lake Interpretive Center. There is absolutely no shame in stopping at the fish tanks at the local big box stores (Thanks, Meijer!). When in doubt, head to a pet store. Two of our favorite area pet stores to visit with babies: Pet Supplies Plus in West Champaign and Sailfin on South Neil.
- Some area grocery stores
In this town, we’re lucky to have a variety of stores where you can do some one-stop-shopping. We’ll not admit how many hours we’ve spent wandering the aisles after the cart ride had lulled the tot to sleep. Shoutout to the stores that offer free fruit and cookies (of course, your baby might not be eating solids just yet!) Harvest Market offers the combination of having an excellent coffee shop and being a great place to roam.