7 Weird Roadside Attractions around Chicago

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With family road trips making a gigantic comeback, you might want to add these weird and wonderful roadside attractions to your list of “must-see” this summer.  Thank you, Chicago Parent of the great ideas!

CP Note: Due to COVID-19 concerns, some locations may be closed or only offer limited access with extra precautions. Please check each location’s website (if available) for more information.  

The Leaning Tower of Niles6300 W. Touhy Ave, Niles
Just 15 minutes northeast of O’Hare, there’s a replica of the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa that stands at about half the height of the real thing, but still makes for great Instagram ops.

The Home Alone House671 Lincoln Ave., Winnetka
If you haven’t already, introduce your kids to the fun of The Home Alone movie series and take a quick drive by the original Home Alone house.  This is still a real residence, so make your visit brief.

Paul Bunyan and Bessie the Cow14245 W. Rockland Road, Libertyville
Outside Lambs Farm stands an imposing 15-foot-tall Paul Bunyan Muffler Man statue with a giant ax alongside a cow, who is apparently named Bessie.

World’s Largest Wagon6515 W Grand Ave., Chicago
This massive Radio Flyer stands in front of the company’s headquarters. If the gates are open, you can walk up and take an up-close photo of the 27-foot long wagon that can fit up to 75 children.

Par-King Skill Golf21711 N. Milwaukee Ave., Lincolnshire
When your kids set eyes on this great, tall pink suburban castle, they might actually believe a princess lives there. It’s actually home to Par-King Skill Golf.

Big Monster Door21 S. Racine Ave., Chicago
Behind this massive yellow door is Big Monsters Toys, a toy and game design studio in the West Loop. We could only imagine the exciting things that go on inside! In the meantime, you can snap a picture outside the door.

Superdawg Drive-In6363 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago & 333 S. Milwaukee Ave., Wheeling
This drive-in hot dog joint has been around for decades, so you’ve might have spotted the restaurant’s hot dog mascots, Maurie and Flaurie, on the rooftop before.

Get more information about each place here.

Longing for a Good Night’s Rest? Try These Tips

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Even if you are no longer waking up to feed a newborn or trying to lull a fussy toddler back to sleep after a bad dream, you still may be longing for a time when you will get a good night’s sleep.  You’re not alone—studies show that the majority of parents struggle with getting enough sleep at night.  Which, of course, often leads to less than productive days.

Here are some tips from Parents.com on how you can have better nights and more energized days:

Turn Off the Bright Lights
To wind down faster, lower the light level (nothing brighter than a 15-watt bulb) an hour or two before bedtime. If you have to get up in the middle of the night, use a dim night light that you can turn on or off.

Stop Checking Email
Getting immersed in regular daytime tasks such as checking email right before bedtime makes it hard for your body to switch gears.  Keep your computer and other home-office equipment out of the bedroom and avoid activities such as watching disturbing TV news, reading a thriller, or discussing big issues at bedtime.

Limit the Caffeine
That late afternoon coffee could be keeping you awake at night. Caffeine consumed any time after midday can do a number on your body so pay attention to your intake of coffee, sodas, and even chocolate (yikes!) after Noon.

Forgo the Nightcap
Although alcohol is initially sleep-inducing, it also stimulates your nervous system.  Alcohol fragments your sleep and may cause you to wake up startled from a dream or—because it is also a diuretic—make extra trips to the bathroom.  Try a week without beer and wine and see if that helps you sleep more soundly.

Avoid Over-the-Counter Sleep Aids
The list of medicines that interfere with sleep is long, but we often don’t think an OTC sleep aid would be part of the list.  While an occasional over-the-counter sleep aid probably won’t hurt, prolonged use could cause “rebound insomnia” when you stop.  In addition, many of OTC sleep aids contain antihistamine diphenhydramine, which could leave you groggy the next day.

Schedule Worry Time
It never fails, the minute your head hits the pillow every worry you’ve ever had starts running through your head.  Schedule time earlier in the evening to officially “worry”, making a list of concerns or jotting down things you need to do the next day.  Use the time closer to bedtime to quiet the mind with yoga or meditation.

Pay Attention to Hormones
Hormonal changes—whether because of pregnancy, PMS, or menopause—can make for strange dreams and elusive sleep.  Pay attention each month to see if there is any correlation between your sleep and your hormones, taking special care of yourself during those days to help ease the discomfort.

Stop Watching the Clock
When you wake up in the middle of the night don’t look at the clock.  Clock-watching takes you from sleep to awake without any transitional period, making it difficult for your mind to turn back off can rest.  Consider putting your clock in a drawer or under a towel.

Keep Exercising
The more fit you are the better you will sleep.  Although evening exercises may energize more than relax, late afternoon movement often improves your sleep.  If you do feel the need to get some late evening exercise in, consider doing something more meditative such as yoga.

You can read the entire Parents.com article here.

The Moms Network: Is It Typical Toddler Behavior or Something More?

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On this month’s episode of The Moms Network, the co-hosts welcome guest Dr. Alison Escalante of DuPage Medical Group to talk about typical toddler behaviors.  See a clip from the show below.

Later in the show, the co-hosts will talk about birth order—do you exhibit the personality traits associated with your birth order?  What about your children?

The full episode will air on NCTV-17 at 9 PM on July 1st or available on-demand here.

Thank you to DuPage Medical Group for being a sponsor of this month’s episode.


Moms Network – July 2020 – Promo – Toddlers – (30 Sec) from Naper Shows on Vimeo.

5 Unique Ways to Celebrate Fourth of July

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Although your July 4th plans may have changed a bit, there are still plenty of ways to celebrate all the fun this summer holiday has to offer—and still keep your family safe and healthy.  Here are 5 ideas for how you and your family can celebrate this weekend:

Host a Patriotic Movie Night
Each family member gets to choose one of their favorite patriotic movies (you can get some ideas here) for an afternoon/evening of movie fun.  If you are hosting a larger group, move the movie outside for socially distanced watching.  Another fun idea?  Everyone gets to choose a red, white, or blue snack to share.

Decorate Your Bike
Even if your neighborhood celebration has been postponed, you and the family can still have your own patriotic parade.  Have the kids decorate their bikes with streamers, flags and ribbons and take a few laps around the block.

Have a U-Pick Picnic
Plan a trip to a local berry picking farm (find a good list of local spots here) and head home to create a picnic of berry-inspired creations.  From salads to sweet treats (get some recipe ideas here), your family will have a great time using the literal fruits of your labor.

Create a Hot Dog Eating Contest
Be inspired by a Fourth of July tradition, Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest, and create a contest for your family. You can even create your own “Mustard Belt” for the winner.

Have a Patriotic Concert
Whether they use real instruments or homemade ones, your family will have a blast belting out some of your favorite songs.  No instruments? No problem.  Make your own patriotic song list and have a lip sync competition.  Spotify has a great list here.

Let us know how you will be celebrating this weekend.  Share your pictures on The Branch Facebook Group.

Best Way to Keep Your Kiddie Pool Clean

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With community pools and beaches still closed, many families have moved the summer water fun to their own back yard and have purchased an inflatable pool.  Whether your pool is just the right size for your toddler or big enough for the whole family, here are some tips from it clean (and safe!) all summer long:

Have a “Rinse Feet” Policy
Keep a small bucket near the pool where little ones can rinse their feet before jumping into the water.  This will minimize dirt and grass from getting into the pool.

Use a Skimmer Net
But, because not all grass and dirt will be kept out of the pool….get a skimmer net to scoop out dry grass, insects and dirt that your little swimmers bring into your inflatable pool. You can find skimmer nets in most pool-care aisles, but you can also use a clean aquarium net.

Cover Your Pool at Night
One of the best ways to keep items out of the pool at night is to cover it.  But you don’t need to purchase a fancy pool cover for your inflatable pool—fitted sheets work great!

Clean It Often
Yes, even your tiny kiddie pools should be emptied and cleaned on a regular basis.  Simply dump or drain the water and wipe down the surface with a solution of bleach (or detergent) and water (read the label for the right ratio).  Rinse thoroughly and dry the inside bottom and sides with an old towel. Leave the pool in the sun for further disinfection before filling it up again.

Enjoy your summer water fun!

4 Things to Do If Your Child is Lonely

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Even as we begin to venture out into our “new normal”, the lack of summer sports and other group activities may lead your child to boredom, anxiety, and isolation.  Our partners at Edgewood Clinical share these tips for helping your child if he or she is lonely:

Make Time for Play
Whether you have to learn to play Minecraft or get through 20 games of Candyland, put in extra playtime with your kids. Toss the ball around, have a tea party, build a fort…don’t be afraid to get silly and have fun in ways you normally wouldn’t.

Allow More Screen Time
While you may limit screen time in most circumstances, now may be a time to use technology to your advantage. FaceTime, Zoom, video games, and online hangouts are great ways to help your kids connect with peers

Give Them Solo Projects
Help children engage in projects they can enjoy in their own solitude. As an example, making any kind of art helps cope with stress. Even when someone is not talented, artistic expression reduces anxiety.

Trust Your Child Will Be Okay
Kids are resilient, especially if they’re surrounded by supportive adults. A temporary bout of loneliness is normal even without a pandemic, so don’t create a victim mentality.

Read the entire blog post from Edgewood Clinical here.



Ideas for Celebrating Dad and Summer

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This year, Father’s Day just happens to coincide nicely with the first day of summer—giving us extra daylight to celebrate our favorite guy.  Here are a few ways you can celebrate Dad and summer all in the same afternoon.

Have a Backyard Picnic
Fill a basket with your Dad’s favorite foods, grab a blanket, and find a nice spot in the yard for an alfresco lunch or even dinner.

Play Outdoor Games
From Simon Says to a family bag tournament, prepare your outdoor for a little family competition.  You can even just move traditional board games out onto the porch, patio or yard.  Candyland is even more when you are outside!

Make “Sun” Art
We are sort of in love this idea from NASA: sun paper.  With just a few items (get the list here), you can make marbled paper that looks just like the sun.  Dad can frame it as a keepsake of the day.

Create a Summer Playlist
Work together as a family to create a playlist of songs that contain the word “summer.” Some songs you may want to add: “Summertime” by Sam Cooke, “Summer Nights” by John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, and “Cruel Summer” by Bananarama. Take your speakers outside and have your own dance party.

Make Ice Cream in a Bag
Nothing says “summer” and “celebration” more than ice cream! If you don’t have an ice cream maker you can still make this delicious frozen treat in a plastic baggie.  Yes, a plastic baggie.  Get the recipe and directions here and grab some of your Dad’s favorite toppings.

Share with us how you will be celebrating this weekend!


5 Tips to Address Diversity with Your Kids


We can all agree that having a more inclusive community—whether that be in our cities, schools, or even with our personal friend groups—leads to a better world.  Chicago Parent shares a great list of ways we can help our kids break through racial, ethnic, and religious barriers. Here are a few of their suggestions:

  • Mix your media.
    Choose books, toys, shows and music that include people of different ethnicities. And if you spot racial stereotyping in your media, point it out to your children.
  • Widen your circle.
    Populate your life with varied friends. If you don’t live in an integrated neighborhood with organic opportunities to interact, consider signing your kids up for extracurricular or volunteer programs with a diverse group.
  • Explore your world.
    Expand your horizons by visiting museums with exhibits about a variety of cultures and religions or make plans to attend a multicultural festival or concert.
  • Encourage discussion.
    Don’t shy away when kids ask tough questions about race. “You have to take an educational approach, not get anxious and realize kids are learning.”
  • Check yourself.
    Are you sending mixed messages to your children? Be mindful of how you talk about other races and cultures. If you hear anyone — a friend, relative or your own child — use derogatory or stereotypical language, speak out.

Click here to read the entire article.

5 Books to Help You Talk to Kids about Racism


Talking to your kids about racism can be tough, but necessary.  Mommy Poppins gives us a great list–separated by age–that will help you start the conversation and get your kids thinking.

The entire list is great, but here are 5 to get you started.


A Is for Activist by Innosanto Nagara
Because it’s never too early to teach kids about inclusion and diversity, this board book is the perfect baby shower gift.

Early Readers

Don’t Touch My Hair by Sharee Miller
This book celebrates a young black girl’s hair and teaches the reader to respect her personal space and style.

Giant Steps to Change the World by Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis Lee
Activism isn’t just for grown-ups. This picture book encourages kids to take their own steps toward change.

Middle Schoolers

Ten Miles Past Normal by Frances O’Roark Dowell
When Janie’s parents move to a goat farm in the country, she befriends some former civil rights workers who help her look at race differently.


Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds
This remix of the award-winning book Stamped From the Beginning explains how racism is embedded in the very fabric of our society. It is delivered in a conversational and engaging manner. A book that should be in every home.



The Ultimate Family Bucket List for Summer


If your summer vacation plans have changed, you can still have a summer of fun by creating your own family bucket list—filled with fun at-home activities you and the kids want to do before the summer season ends.

Need some ideas?  We loved this list from POPSUGAR.  Here are 10 of our favorites:

  1. Camp in the backyard.
  2. Project a movie outside.
  3. Make a backyard scavenger hunt.
  4. Fly a kite.
  5. Take photos of your favorite things in your neighborhood.
  6. Run through sprinklers.
  7. Paint pet rocks.
  8. Build an indoor fort on a rainy day.
  9. Catch fireflies in a jar.
  10. Write and put on a play as a family.

You can get the full list here.

What will you be putting on your list?  We’d love to hear your ideas.

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