Water Ways - Chicago Children's Museum (and Navy Pier)

WaterWays is a great room, full of fun with water. Be warned that kids (and adults) will likely get wet, even if they wear the raincoats. Many of the sprayers point at "buildings" in the center of the main area, but there are gaps or angles where they'll go through and spray people standing on the other side.

The largest area is a giant water table, with water flowing downhill. There’s a built-in dam that can be opened and closed, as well as moveable yellow “walls” that can be put in slots to change the water’s flow. Several boats and ducks can be sent down the river.

Most kids will be tall enough to play independently when they’re around 2 ½ or 3 years old. For younger kids, the high tables may bring frustration, along with lots of requests to be lifted up.

Be prepared for kids to get wet in this room. There are raincoats for kids to put on but there tough for younger kids and even the older ones can soak themselves pretty easily. More than once, one of my kids has tried to dump a bucket into the river and ended up dumping it on themselves (or me) instead.


In the corner are tubes with water coming up, as well as pipes and connectors that kids can use to redirect the water. Just about any age can do this, but it is better for early elementary, who will be able to make more sense out of the connectors and behavior. Especially for younger kids, expect to get wet when water suddenly comes out of a tube in a way they didn’t expect.

In the middle of the room are several types of pumps, as well as pulleys with buckets. These are great for elementary school-aged kids, and require strength and coordination to use different ropes in order to pick up water in a bucket, move it and dump. Engage kids in upper elementary by having them figure out how the pumps and pulleys work.

In the back are tiles that you can “paint” with water. The water shows up surprisingly well on the walls, and while there aren’t often kids back there, it can be a fun area, particularly for young children.

Lastly, don’t forget to look up—this room is one of the two turret-like shapes at the entrance to Navy Pier.