ROUND LAKE – A staple in Round Lake for more than two decades, a recently remodeled children’s museum is drawing new fans.
The Children’s Neighborhood Museum invites young children to town – a “tot-sized town.”
Visitors can drive a car to the market, gas up at the local gas station, be a doctor, lead a classroom and experiment as scientists. Children younger than 1 can play, too, in their own “crawler zone.”
“For me to find a place where both my 3-year-old and my 6-month-old can play is very rare,” said Amanda Vincent of Round Lake, who recently discovered the museum. “It’s just a really welcoming environment to take my kids and play there.”
The Round Lake Area Park District (rlapd.org) opened the museum at 814 Hart Road in Round Lake in 2001.
When the park district closed the museum during the pandemic, officials decided to refresh and remodel it using the district’s capital fund, said Katie Gamroth, director of Operations and Recreation for the Round Lake Area Park District.
The museum was gutted and renovated.
NorthShore University Health Systems sponsored a “doctor’s office” within the neighborhood, and other places children regularly see in the community were created, Gamroth said. The museum is geared toward children ages 1 to 6.
“The Neighborhood is one of Lake County’s hidden gems,” she said. “We’ve seen participation grow and grow over the years. It is a place where children can feel comfortable to explore, be challenged and be creative while exercising both body and mind, and parents can be confident that this is a safe place for their children to play.”
Since reopening in early March, the museum has caught the attention of new families.
Vincent, an elementary school teacher in Arlington Heights, discovered the museum through social media posts about the remodeling. It’s only about five minutes from her home, but she never really knew it was there.
“I know the power of play and how important it is for kids to have that place and time to imagine,” she said.
She likes that it’s an enclosed area and she can let her 3-year-old son Jason wander.
“He’s in and out of each of those little buildings four or five times in a play session,” she said.
Along with imaginary play and role play, the museum provides a safe space for children to socialize, said Dena Krieger, recreation supervisor for the Round Lake Area Park District who oversees the museum.
And they really do play, she said.
“They’re zonked by the time they leave. They’re so tired,” she said.
Ashley Block of Round Lake recently brought her two sons, 3-year-old Emmett and 5-year-old Brayden, to the newly remodeled museum for the first time.
“They already want to go back,” she said. “They love it, and I love having something like that so close to home.”
Admission to the museum is $5 for residents and $7 for nonresidents for children younger than 13. Admission for those ages 13 and older is $2 for residents and $3 for nonresidents. One free adult entrance is provided for each paid child entrance. Memberships at the museum cost $10 for residents and $14 for nonresidents a month for each child.
Wednesdays are a free day at the Children’s Neighborhood Museum with hours from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. Entry is first-come, first-served.