by June Portnoy
Remember when we were growing up and the most exciting birthday parties we attended offered Pin the Tail on the Donkey and Musical Chairs? Today’s children’s birthday parties make ours look like a complete snooze.
Party options these days include live entertainment at your home, ranging from musical comedy to live animal demonstrations. If you hold the celebration at a party facility, you can choose from a host of options, such as taking your small guests on a cruise ship.
How do you decide whether to hold your party at home or at a party facility? To help you choose which style suits your family, MetroKids looked at examples of five home party entertainment ideas and five party facilities.
During most home parties, parents hire the entertainment but are responsible for providing the food, beverages, paper goods, decorations and invitations. Parents often plan their theme based on the entertainment.
“Kids are usually more comfortable at home,” says the party entertainer who goes by Dr. Yo-Yo. “It’s a warmer atmosphere. Also, it’s less distracting when you have one focus. Sometimes being at a party facility is overly stimulating.”
“Home parties are more personal,” says Lynne Grim, owner of Safari Parties. “Children can get involved in decorating and greeting guests at their home.” Here’s a sampling of five entertainers available for home parties:
The HatMan. The HatMan performs a musical comedy hat sing-along show targeted to kids ages 2-6. He uses his zillion zany hats, his guitar and his funny bone-tickling antics to transport his audience to the world of old-fashioned fun. The HatMan wears hats, talks about hats, signs them, gives them out, makes them appear and dresses kids up in his hundreds of hats. A performance involves standard and twisted children’s songs, skits and games, all inspired by hats.
“What kids remember about this show is that they can’t stop laughing,” says The HatMan.
Dr. Yo-Yo. Dr. Yo-Yo performs for ages 5-18, tailoring his show to his audience. Kids love seeing the yo-yo in action and watching tricks.
Dr. Yo-Yo teaches kids how to tune up their yo-yos (prepare them for use). He supplies a trick sheet to partygoers and interacts individually with every child so that nobody leaves without accomplishing at least a couple of tricks.
“Parents love these parties because they require no high tech stuff,” says Dr. Yo-Yo. “They are hands-on and engage kids in something other than video games or roughhousing.”
Safari Parties. During a Safari Party, for kids of all ages, owner Lynne Grim brings exotic animals to your home. Animals can include an African fennec (a fox), hedgehogs, albino skunks, a kinkajou, reptiles and a giant Flemish rabbit. Every child has a chance to touch each animal.
Children have a chance to put a snake around their necks and to touch albino skunks. “Parents like these parties because they teach kids acceptance and tolerance of animals we share the earth with,” says Grim.
A Bug Party. Susanne Lypka, the Bug Lady, brings an insect museum to your party. She lets each child hold every bug, with the exception of her scorpion and tarantula. Kids hold hissing cock-roaches, mealworms, bess bugs and large African millipedes. A highlight is when the scorpion glows in the dark. She also brings preserved insects from all over the world.
“Kids like the hands-on fun with my friends,” says Lypka. She entertains kids from ages 3-10, but says her core audience is ages 4-7.
Little Star Workshop. Little Star Workshop offers many types of birthday parties at your home or at a facility of your choice. These parties are great for kids ages 3-11.
Little Star Workshop’s party themes include plush toy-stuffing, arts and crafts, princess spa, face painting, and coming soon, dress-up parties. “Every party is customized to the interest and ability of the birthday child,” says Wendy Fantini, Little Star Workshop’s owner.
The entertainment at party facilities tends to take longer than home parties. Most venues allow approximately a half hour for eating and cutting the cake, activities that often take place in a private party room.
Captain Lucky: 215-629-8687, www.captainlucky.com
Dish It Out: 856-985-7868, visit www.dishitout.net
Dr. Yo-Yo: Performs throughout the area, 215-438-9319,
Enchanted Dreams: 856-429-9909, www.enchanteddreams.biz
HatMan: Performs throughout the area, 215-635-4516.
Little Star Workshop: Parties are primarily in Delaware or in Delaware County and Chester County, PA, 302-893-3791,
Little Sport: 856-234-6445, www.littlesport.net
Safari Parties: Offered in Pennsylvania only, 610-446-6376.
The Bug Lady: Entertains throughout the area, 856-869-8676.
xbos Family Fun Center: 302-653-1800, www.xbos.com
“By having parties outside your home, you avoid the mess of having them at home,” says Joanie Balderstone, head coordinator at Little Sport in Maple Shade, NJ.
Here are five examples of parties at entertainment facilities:
Take a Birthday Cruise. Captain Lucky parties take place on a 75-foot double decker cruise boat. This ship, located next to Dave and Buster’s on the Delaware River in Philadelphia, offers a one-hour cruise, seven miles each way, that takes you and your party to the Philadelphia Naval Yard and back.
On this sightseeing cruise, the narration includes more than 300 years of Delaware River history. “This is the easiest party you’ll ever throw,” says Captain Ed, owner of Captain Lucky. “Simply walk on the boat and walk off.”
Visit a Magical World. At Enchanted Dreams in Haddonfield, NJ, children ages 3-8 can have birthday parties in a private room surrounded by murals of a castle, flowers, and butterflies. Parties are primarily for girls who dress up as beautiful princesses in flower girl dresses, tiaras and wings. Boys are welcome to attend and become pirates, cowboys and kings.
The Enchanted Dreams staff entertains the children with non-stop interactive activities, such as a birthday band, a parade and lots of dancing and music. Later in the party, kids change to Hawaiian grass skirts, leis, flower bracelets and headbands to learn the hula and the limbo. “We strive to create lasting memories,” says Berger.
Indulge in Sports. Little Sport in Maple Shade, NJ, is a sports-based facility that offers parties for young kids kindergarten or younger. In a sports activity area, kids can play basketball, baseball, golf, bowling, hockey, soccer, lacrosse or tennis. A coach conducts organized games, such as obstacle courses, relay races, musical stars and silly stretching routines. “These are high-energy parties that are totally centered on the birthday child,” says Balderstone.
Create a Craft. Dish it Out in Marlton, NJ features pottery, mosaic, beading and tie-dye parties. The most popular is the pottery party. Kids ages 5-12 love to choose from a large selection of pottery to paint.
“Dish It Out has many different media to be creative with,” says June Toal, store owner. “Kids love to be in a warm, fun, friendly place in which they can grow and learn.” Dish it Out also provides Pottery Parties to Go. The birthday child’s parents can buy a package consisting of paint, paint brushes and ceramics, which they can use for a party at home.
Visit a Family Fun Center. The xbos Family Fun Center in Smyrna, DE, offers two very different types of party packages. Its SoftPlay packages (X-Treme and X-Bonanza) include all-day passes for your children’s guests to its large SoftPlay/Jungle Gym and 45 minutes in a private party room for cake cutting. Its bowling package (X-Bowl) includes one hour of bowling on two full-size bowling lanes.
“Everything you need for a successful birthday party is all here under one roof,” says Meena Shah, marketing director at xbos.
In or out? With choices like these, it’s hard to go wrong.
June Portnoy is a contributing writer to MetroKids.