Kids love birthday parties. And in Fairfield County, CT birthday parties seem to become a highly sensitive topic of conversation. They can easily grow from small get-together to outrageously expensive over-stimulating chaos. Many moms (and dads) can feel this pressure to have the best, most memorable, amazing-fun-time birthday party ever!
We’ve been to amazing over-the-top parties and super fun “low key” parties. I’m a big believer in finding something that fits for the group, not necessarily something with the biggest pomp and circumstance – but we do enjoy those pomp and circumstance events too. But every family is different. Every kid is different. A cute Pinterest-filled tea party would be great for some kids, but I have a boy turning 7 who is always in need of action along with a pack of boys similar in personality. How can I entertain these kids while also having something challenging, stimulating and fun?
I have been to a few kid parties outside at a playground with pizza and cake on a picnic table. Totally affordable. But, my boys both have middle-of-the-winter birthdays. Yes, we could do half-birthday celebrations in the summer but at this age, they want the party to be on or around their birthdays. I get it.
We’ve explored a few options, including places we’ve attended parties at locally: Monster Golf. Rock Wall. Gymnastics. Karate. Ice-skating. Chuck E. Cheese. Duck Pin Bowling. Stew Leonard’s. All are great options and Andrew has loved parties at all of these places. A party for 12 kids with pizza, cake and goody bags at any of these places will cost $300-$350 at a minimum (Note: Duck Pin Bowling is far cheaper).
Andrew went to an event that had this thing:
THE GAME TRUCK!
He has been begging for it for a birthday party. I admit it is pretty cool (except I would 86 the Call of Duty game)!
This is the inside:
But my wife and I pushed back. For over $400 (if you include pizza, cake and goody bags), we can have kids sit next to each other and not speak? Then figure out other logistics: Where to have pizza and cake? We live in a condo, where would we park it? Cool idea but not for us right now.
I wanted to book at this place – a new trampoline park in Bethel, CT. But it wasn’t opening in time. (We are excited to check it out soon anyway). The Children’s Movement Center was also an option – a favorite of both boys.
Then there comes the invite list.
One mom friend of mine recently said “oh, you cannot invite one kid from a 1st grade classroom, you need to invite the entire class!” (This isn’t entirely true, I checked with the teacher and she said she’ll hand out invitations on the DL.) But then there’s cousins, friends with siblings who are close in age, and where do you draw the line on the friend list before it spirals out of control?
Then, the dilemma if you post pictures of the festivities on any social media sites…will you upset any friends whose kids didn’t get invited? OMG – the pressure!
We sat Andrew down and talked about doing something low-key but fun. What about a small group sleepover? What about a little dinner party somewhere? Can he think of something he wants to do where he and his friends can be active and have non-everyday fun.
He thought about it and said, “Mommy, surprise me. Let’s do a ‘Mystery Ride’ with just a few kids and you surprise me.”
So, I plotted and planned to take Andrew and 5 of his buddies from the neighborhood to do a quick never-done-before ‘Mystery Ride’. He made the invite list and kept it to 5 friends. They boys all were kept in the dark as to the activity. They all asked for hints for days. They begged for a clue.
I gave them nothing. Nada. Zilch. Well, except for wild misinformation including moon-landings, pickle factory tours and child labor activities.
It may have been a pricey ‘Mystery Ride’ (costing a little over 1/2 of big Chuck E. Cheese party) but with homemade baked ziti, chicken nuggets and cupcakes (including gluten-free options) back at the house afterwards, I think we scored on this one!
For goodie bags, we decided to forgo the “bag o’ crap” as I like to call it (erasers, noisemakers and sticky goo) and did $5 gift cards for each kid to the local “do-it-yourself” yogurt shop – also a big hit with the boys.
All in all, I think THIS PLACE was a big hit. The people were awesome and I think the kids had fun….