Favorite Family Friendly Restaurants Around Naperville, Illinois

Ever travel and wonder what restaurant to eat at? Which ones are kid friendly? Which ones have good food? Well wonder no more! Members from the Social Fabric blogging community are sharing our favorite restaurants in the United States, the UK, and Canada. I am sharing about restaurants in the Western suburbs of Chicago, Illinois and in about a week will be sharing everyone else’s posts as well. Here are my favorite kid-friendly local restaurants:

All Aboard Diner

1) All Aboard Diner (Downer’s Grove, IL): We love this train themed restaurant! Ask for a counter seat and a train will come along the counter and deliver your food. This is a favorite to visit on birthdays because the train will bring around a little cupcake (they also have a party room). Thomas the Train plays on a tv screen and a train runs around the ceiling of the restaurant to keep the kid’s entertained.

2) Johnny Rockets (Bolingbrook, IL): This is a fun, old-fashioned diner. Pick a song from the tabletop jukeboxes to listen to while you eat. Favorites at this restaurant include burgers and milkshakes.

Lobster Grilled Cheese from Jimmy’s Grill

3) Jimmy’s Grill (Naperville, IL): During the summer this restaurant is a great place to go because of their large outdoor patio. It’s located in Naperville’s cute downtown area and is a fun place to people watch. The food is delicious as well. Last time I went I got the lobster grilled cheese sandwich. It’s a little pricier than we are used to but it’s pretty decently priced for the area. Kids are welcome at the restaurant and given crayons and paper to color.

4) Choo Choo Johnny’s (Naperville, IL): Similar to All Aboard Diner, this is another train themed restaurant where a little train delivers the food. Check the website for deals and coupons.

Pretzel dog with bacon and cheese & chili cheese tots

5) Sonic (multiple locations): This is a fun drive-in restaurant. They have great “happy hour” deals on foods and milkshakes. I love their new pretzel bun hotdogs, the boys like their french toast sticks, and Sinisa loves their cranberry juice with cherry syrup.

6) Lou Malnati’s (Bolingbrook and Naperville, IL): I live in Chicago so you know I had to have a pizza place on this list! While not my favorite place to go for pizza, I love going here for their salad. Yes, you read that right….I said I’d choose salad over pizza! The rest of my family does like their pizza though.

Cracker Barrel

7) Cracker Barrel Old Country Buffet (Romeoville and Naperville, IL): This restaurant is great for spending some time relaxing with the family. The porch is full of rocking chairs. There is a country store inside to check out as well while you wait for your table. Each table has an old fashioned game and there is a fireplace inside which gives the restaurant an at home feel. Crayons and an activity sheet are given to each child. My favorite food here are the cinnamon apples I get as a side dish with my French toast.

8) Culver’s (multiple locations): I discovered Culver’s when I was in college. I like their burgers because they toast their buns. The kid’s meal comes with a free custard which the boys can get if they eat their lunch.

BONUS: Bolingbrook, IL has a restaurant at the small, local airport called Charlie’s where kids can watch the planes take off and land. I’ve never been there before but it’s on our “to-do” list :)

Where do you like to eat in the Chicago suburbs?

The Gardner School {Tour Recap}

(Disclosure: I was compensated for my time touring the school and for my social media efforts but all thoughts are my own. When it comes to childcare I would only recommend somewhere that I would feel comfortable bringing my own children.)

Early Childhood Education and care is very important to me. Having two preschoolers myself and working with young children for years both as a volunteer and as a professional I have a good idea of what a quality learning environment looks like. With that said, I feel confident in being able to recommend The Gardner School, an educational preschool for children six weeks to five years. The school’s first location was in Tennessee, and it has since spread to other states including their newest locations in my home state of Illinois. The Gardner School will open four locations in the Chicago area, the first of which is in the suburb of Warrenville. I got a sneak peak at the school before it’s opening and wanted to share some of the pictures I took {but not all, I got a little too excited to be back in a classroom that I took way too many pictures!} and my thoughts on the preschool. The school actually opened on Monday, March 18th, so call them for a tour today!

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First, let’s start with safety since that is the most important thing on every parent’s mind. With all of the safety concerns regarding schools lately, parents will feel confident knowing that visitors have multiple locked doors to go through to reach the children. Along with a locked door at the entry of the building which lets people into the lobby and to the front desk, every family gets a security code that they have to enter to go through another set of doors which leads to the hallways with the classrooms. Another great safety feature is a live feed of the classrooms in the lobby so that the family members can watch what goes on in the classroom. {This is also a great feature for those who have children who cry when they leave. You can see that 99.9% of the time your child stops crying the second you leave. As a Pre-K teacher this happened all the time and I would have to reassure the parents that their child would be fine but with the live feed parents can see their child really is okay.}

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The center has lots of natural light which is great. Each room is spacious so there is plenty of room for the children to move around.

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The classrooms are fun which is important since I believe that children learn through play. I can imagine that children will be so excited to go to school every day. I mean seriously, look at the picture above! Not just books on a bookshelf in the library area. There’s a tent they can read in, a nice comfy seat, puppets, and some felt board pieces so they can retell the story. I love reading areas like this.

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The home living area of the classroom was full of items that encouraged imagination as well. Each classroom had a kitchen area, some dress up clothes, and lots of other items that would help them pretend.

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The block section had lots of room for multiple children to build at the same time. This was nice because I can attest to the fact that if an area like this is too small the children end up knocking each other’s creations over, which is no fun. I think the addition of vehicles, buildings and animals in this area will make it an area where so much more goes on than just building towers.

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If there is one area in the classroom that is my favorite it would be the writing area. The one above was pretty empty when I took this picture, because the school hadn’t opened yet, but I imagine it is now full of papers, envelopes, stickers, writing utensils and the like that will make children want to write. That excites me so much! I also like that there’s room for multiple children. In my old classroom I had one seat at the writing table and all the kids loved the area but there wasn’t the ability to do writing activities with friends so I think the fact that there are a few chairs is awesome. I also liked that the classrooms had computers so they can play educational games.

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I spy lots of paints! This easel is nice and big, with space for four children. I think they will have fun painting and drawing at the easel.
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Each classroom has a sensory table. The contents in these tables will vary throughout the year, but they will all give the children a chance to use their different senses and experience different textures. We have a sensory table at home and the boys love it!
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Children have plenty of opportunities to explore and learn with science and math activities. There were also lots of different ‘table toys’ that they could play with solo or with a friend that work on fine motor skills.

On the subject of learning, the school uses a curriculum called ‘The DLM Early Childhood Express’ for Preschool, Pre-K & Kindergarten Readiness. According to the website, “each lesson begins with a FOCUS strategy that prepares children for the instruction and helps them focus their attention. The DEVELOP strategies that follow present the instruction. Children then participate in several PRACTICE activities, which allow them to apply and make sense of what they have just learned. Finally, they are encouraged to REFLECT on what they have learned and on how they will use the new information.” I think this is a great way for children to learn new concepts. They also use two programs I’m not familiar with but that I was interested to learn more about: Handwriting Without Tears and Growing With Mathematics. You can learn more about all of the curriculum (including the infant curriculum) on their website here.

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The fun doesn’t end in the classroom! Look at this outdoor area. The climbing structure is nice and large. I like that it’s surrounded so children can’t easily fall off. There was plenty of room to run around and burn off energy as well. Okay…now on to my favorite area of The Gardner School…

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How absolutely amazing is that!? Back when I worked at the daycare, I loathed rainy days or days that were really cold (which here in Chicago means being cooped up all winter long). Lots of children in one room for hours? Not fun! This area is a heated “outdoor” type space where children can be active and still stay warm and dry.

Since this center has so many fantastic areas I wanted to share some of my other pictures with some collages:

 

Fun areas of the classroom

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Toys!

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Outside the Classrooms

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Spaces for parents to connect

If you are looking for childcare in the Chicago area you should look into The Gardner School. There you will find a safe place for your children to stay when you can’t be with them during the day. You will find highly qualified teachers, a sound curriculum, and classrooms that are perfect for learning. When this school opens I expect one will hear lots of laughter and excitement all throughout the building!