Finding active things to do with your children is easy to do in Champaign-Urbana
There are so many variables at play when it comes to finding ways to have fun together as a family. Having fun with your children can look like a lot of different things, and for most families, is a combination of several different activities you can enjoy in a given season or stage.
In Champaign-Urbana, we are fortunate to have a wide variety of options when it comes to finding ways to be active as a family. The suggestions outlined below are going to give you a good idea of what’s available and hopefully get your wheels spinning on what your family would like to try the most. This article will focus on activities parents can do with their children, as we realize there are a great number of programs kids and adults can separately sign up for as part of an active lifestyle.
The most important takeaway after reading this post is that you take action on doing something … soon! Any day, any time of year, in any season of your family’s life is a great time to go find something to do together that involves moving your body. Not only will you experience physical benefits but the mental well-being that comes from active play is tremendously valuable for kids and adults alike.
Thanks to Christie Clinic for presenting our Get Moving guide. Staying active promotes long-term health benefits for everyone! Providing opportunities for children to be active early on puts them on a path to better physical and mental health. It’s never too late to jumpstart a healthy lifestyle. Discuss with your provider how you stay active and ways to improve your health.
Some tips to consider as you get moving as a family:
- Participate in the activity with your children. Watching them play on the playground is one thing but showing them how your feet hit the ground when you try the monkey bars or chasing them around in a game of tag is how you can choose to be active together.
- Putting your phones and devices away, or at least silencing notifications, will lend itself to a longer period of uninterrupted playtime together as a family.
- Try new things! Maybe you’ve never actually gone ice skating before, but your child has mentioned wanting to try it. Instead of signing him up for lessons, you can go participate in an open skate together to see what you both think.
- Pick a wide variety of things to do. While there are many things available in our community that make active living as a family possible for a cost, there will be endless possibilities for free, too. Pick some things indoors and outdoors alike. Dress for the weather if it’s cold so a walk isn’t ruined by whining or freezing toes.
- While it’s important that you spend time as a family unit being active together, don’t hesitate to split up for certain activities as it feels natural to do so. Not every child (or each parent) will want to do the same kinds of activities, all the time. Perhaps you have a soccer fan that wants to kick a ball around with you and the rest of your kids aren’t quite old enough yet. These make great (and free!) kid/parent dates, too.
Visit a local park district park or participate in a park district-sponsored event
We have a LOT of local parks that we love in our community. And the best part about the parks is that you don’t need to plan ahead, pay a thing or mark a specific time on your calendar. Some of our favorite parks for playing with kids include Hessel Park, Meadowbrook Park, Carle Park, Sunset Ridge Park and Colbert Park. Douglass Park in Champaign goes beyond the traditional playground offerings and has a 0.6 mile “fitness trail” dotted with pods of exercise equipment. It’s a “must try” if you want to get moving as a family!
The Champaign Park District and the Urbana Park District, while separate entities, have a reciprocal agreement, meaning that residents of Champaign or Urbana receive resident benefits at both organizations’ programs. You’ll also find great recreation programs and playgrounds in many communities outside of Champaign-Urbana so just check for residency requirements if registration is required.
Head out for a walk or run
This is another great option that requires zero pre-planning or fee to do together. If you have young children, you may get the kids in the stroller to get out for some fresh air but if you have older children, you may want to take up running with them as a hobby. You can run nearly anywhere but there are great beginner trails at Lake of the Woods in Mahomet and Meadowbrook Park in Urbana. Looking for a family-friendly track in Champaign-Urbana? Try the Urbana High School track and the U of I Armory and Track, among others in the community. There’s also the Mahomet-Seymour Fieldhouse in Mahomet.
Take a hike at our Champaign County Forest Preserve District locations like Lake of the Woods, Homer Lake or Riverbend Forest Preserve. They’re all a short drive from Champaign-Urbana but we think they are worth it.
Families love to run in Champaign-Urbana and you can mark the next Illinois Marathon on your calendar if you’d like to sign up for a running event like the 1K Fun Run or the Friday night 5K event with your kids (two particularly kid-friendly running events we know of).
Try something new together — rock climb, swim, ice skate, jump and more
Want an active family activity to do one weekend or for a special occasion? We have no shortage of those in Champaign-Urbana. Aside from special free day promotions, expect to pay a fee (amount varies) to do any of these activities.
- rock climb at the Stephens Family YMCA (day passes available) or Urbana Boulders
- swim at the Urbana Indoor Aquatic Center (excluding summer), Sholem Aquatic Center or Crystal Lake Park Family Aquatic Center (summertime only)
- ice skate at the U of I Ice Arena (a “best kept secret” in our community!)
- go rollerskating at Skateland
- Play tennis at the Atkins Tennis Center or Dodds Tennis Center
- Jump and play at Elevate
Take the leap and become a member
While there are a lot of ways to get activity in for free, you may decide the best option for your family is to become a member at one of our local family-friendly, active-living facilities. Let’s look at the Leonhard Recreation Center (a Champaign Park District facility, Martens Center (another Champaign Park District facility) and the Stephens Family YMCA.
Leonhard Recreation Center
The Leonhard Center features a fun indoor playground, walking track, gymnasiums with open gym hours and weight room (adults only). You can practice basketball with your kids, take a walk on the track and chase each other in the indoor playground.
This colorful building is the Martens Center, Champaign Park District’s new facility (opened October 2022) with an indoor track, gym, classrooms, an interactive play area, and more. We love the cutting-edge technology integrated into many of the activities at Martens Center and know that your kids will love it too!
Stephens Family YMCA
Located at the edge of Southwest Center near the Curtis Road exit of I-57, the size of the building (opened in 2012) will take your breath away as you pull up.
Some of our favorite ways to enjoy the YMCA together as a family are the open swim times during the weekend (we love Friday nights during the winter); racing each other up the rock climbing wall; and practicing basketball together. There are dozens of things you can choose from when it comes to spending time together at the Y. And even if you’re dropping your kids off at the Family Adventure Room while you take an exercise class, you’re still heading to the facility to be active together.
Membership includes group fitness classes, supervised visits for children in the Family Adventure Room (childcare), open swim, open gym and so much more. Members pay the member rate for additional programs like swim lessons, youth sports and gymnastics. You also may be interested in learning about the offerings through Larkin’s Place for families of children at all developmental levels in an accessible, accepting space.
The YMCA is a local non-profit organization that is committed to offering financial assistance to keep Y programs available to all, regardless of ability to pay. Contact the Y for more info.