I recently had a birthday and you know how kids are … birthdays are the COOLEST thing since sliced bread. They don’t quite understand how adults just don’t count down the days to their next mid-30s birthday.
My 4-year-old son on Thursday morning greeted me with a “Happy Birthday, Mommy!!” and it really was the cutest thing. He even thought we were going to my “birthday party” and when he saw me pulling into the school parking lot instead, he let out the most heart-wrenching “Noooooo!” and the tears started flowing. I felt awful. What kind of mid-30s mother doesn’t throw a party for herself? So I promised him just that. A party.
So here I am, picking him up from school and ready to keep this promise. “Where should we have Mom’s party?” I should have expected his response. “Chuck E. Cheeeeeeese!!” Sigh. OK. We can do this. We invite his best friend and his friend’s mom and headed on down to see the big mouse.
To be honest, the next couple of hours were the most fun I’ve had in a while. Our “host” greeted me with a big sticker and a handful of free tokens. Score! Then we scarfed down a pizza and got ready to play some skee ball. It was great. Even Chuck E. came out to take a picture with me. I felt like I was a kid again. Which was appropriate, because if you ask my son how old I am, he’ll say “5″ with absolute certainty.
Take my advice … You’re never too old to be 5 again.
My son’s birthday isn’t until April but I already feel behind the 8-ball on planning it. I know, I know … it isn’t like it’s a wedding, needing months of preparation. But I get anxious that my favorite venues will be booked and I’ll be left entertaining 15 toddlers and their parents in a 2-bedroom apartment. So I thought if there were other parents like me, they may find a ‘guide’ useful for everything from picking a place to party favors.
First up – picking a venue. I’ve been doing a bit of research on some neat places in the metro-area that parents can have great birthday parties for young kids. Here are a few:
1. The zoo. The Oklahoma City Zoo has indoor and outdoor facilities that can be reserved for parties and other functions. There are classrooms in the Education Center, an area in the Canopy Restaurant and outdoor picnic tables. If your child has a birthday in a warmer weather month, this is a great place to go. Kids can see the animals as a group and take rides on the train and tram. For more information go to www.okczoo.com and click on “Facility Rental.”
2. Indoor play gyms. We picked Gymboree last year and it was a blast. The staff basically does all the entertaining and toddlers have a great time participating in games and indoor gym equipment. And the best part? No cleanup. The kids get to eat their cake on the floor while sitting on a big parachute. Another place that offers indoor climbing fun is The Little Gym and for inflatable fun, try Pump it Up or Bouncin’ Craze.
3. The classic pizza-and-game spots. Who could forget Chuck E. Cheese? I remember spending a few great birthday parties there. And there are a few in the metro-area offering food, games and more. Although I think these may be more suitable for kids age 5 and older, anyone can have fun here. Another is Incredible Pizza on Northwest Expressway. They have a big buffet and different-themed eating rooms. They also have bowling, miniature golf and go-karts in addition to the many arcade games. Celebration Station and Andy Alligator’s also have indoor/outdoor fun and games, for older toddlers/kids.
4. Trains. Kids love trains. Just ask my son. There are a couple of really neat venues that offer real train rides as part of the party fun. The Oklahoma Railway Museum is open for parties from April to October. They have two packages – one with and one without a train ride (but really, what’s the fun without a ride?) And for the party, they can either seat kids in the waiting room at the depot or in a 1921 caboose. Also, just east of the metro-area, is L.O.C.O. which is a Locomotive Operators of Central Oklahoma. They operate miniature trains that kids can ride on at their park. They also give free rides the first Sunday of every month from 1-4 p.m. if you want to check them out.
5. Parks. There are a number of metro-area parks that have picnic facilities and playground equipment. Some in the summer have splash pads so kids can wear their swimsuits and stay cool. It’s an inexpensive fun alternative to other venues, and it keeps the mess out of your house. For a list of city parks and their amenities, go to http://www.okc.gov/Parks/. You’ll also find out about programs and other opportunities for fun they offer.
These are just a few suggestions to get you started. As I come across more between now and April, I’ll be posting them on this blog. And if you have any birthday party suggestions, please let me know! I’d love to list them so other parents can have it as a resource. Comment below or email me.