Monday, February 4, 2013

4th Birthday Party Madness

The big #4.

We decided to have a joint party this year with E's "brother" S. They're best friends, according to E - they're brothers, and they're in the same class. It's encouraged that if you do a party, to invite the whole class. That would normally be around fourteen or fifteen kids. Last year there was only one class but this year they are separated into two classes. It's a small school and tight little community, so most of the kids in the other class, they became friends with last year. We didn't want to leave anyone out. Though, there some I wouldn't know if they were standing in front of me simply because they're new this year and not in E's class. But, since we decided to split the party, we were able to invite both classes and some friends from outside of school. Even with all those kids, it would still be less expensive than doing it alone.

We chose the Wyckoff YMCA. They have the most "themes" for parties that I've seen around here. AND, most importantly, they were the only ones I know of that could accommodate 36-42 kids (we had some last minute cancellations so my beginning headcount of yeses was 42). Originally I had planned to do the Lego party but there were too many kids. For that party, the kids spend the better part of the time making a Lego structure. Since E is a January baby, he's one of the older kids in the class. That leaves most of the rest of them not four yet. Had they been four going on five, it might have worked but not with so many younger kids.

The "Festival" theme was cute. There was a bounce house, games, and room to run around. The room was big enough which is what I was really worried about. They gave me four party hosts which was great. I had also brought my thirteen year old sitter and her eleven year old sister (Syd & Jordan) as reinforcements just in case it reached Lord of the Flies level in there. The hosts also did 2-3 crafts with the kids and the kids did sit nicely and do them. Syd & Jordan were a big help during the craft time too. There was a beading craft where they made bracelets from pipe cleaners and beads. Then later they did something with colored sand in figures to wear on a string- like a necklace. The beads were easy for them to do but the sand they needed a lot of help. And really, the things they were filing were small. Once it was filled it was over. It's cute but they could've found a longer craft.

They also did a circle time and they were really kept occupied for the majority of the time. The kids seemed to enjoy everything. They have one of those big piano things that goes flat on the floor. When you walk on it it plays different notes- like in the movie Big with Tom Hanks. Games were like carnival games, but age appropriate- throw a ring around a big rubber duckie. There was face paint too. E loves him some face painting. Lucky for me, it wasn't a full Spiderman face like the last event we were at with face painting.

Cons: The bounce house is small and only can take three kids at a time. I've seen ones for the backyard that are more industrial than this one. It also wasn't as sturdy as some I've seen. I didn't really know what was going on over there but B told me later that it kept deflating. These are some healthy three and four year old kids. They need something that is going to hold them better. It's hard to judge but I do think they could fit one that is a little bigger/stronger.

It was a little confusing in the beginning when people were starting to come in. Since there was only the bounce house and some games, there should be a little more structure right away. When they know they're having a giant party like that, maybe a craft or pictures to color on could be laid out on the tables so they can have something to do until the more structured activity goes on. At a place like Kids U, they immediately go on the huge jungle gym thing so they're occupied without melting down because they have to wait to do stuff.

Lastly, the communication could be better. They didn't tell me they were doing face painting right away. Within minutes, E had half a face of paint before I could get a photo before it happened. It's fine- I don't mind face paint, but I didn't know they were doing it. They could've given me a quick rundown of how things were going to go. I'm partly to blame- I didn't ask. But they could've just given me a heads up to what's what and the timeline. They didn't ask for the parents when it was time to do the cake. Joce & Eric, S's parents, were in the "adult" room next door, divided by windows. They saw the lights go out and ran in. They were doing S's cake/singing first. Eric wanted to get his parents on FaceTime on his phone so they could "be there" for the cake and almost missed the whole thing himself because they just started without telling us. Usually, a host will say- "Hey, we're going to do the cake in about five minutes. Is that ok?" or something to that effect. Then at the end they really rush you out. I don't know what the party times are there and how close in time to the prior party but I could barely get my bearings as I was trying to get our stuff together to go. I didn't leave anything there, but totally could see how I might have.

Cost- it's $299 for 10 kids. Every kid after is $16.99. They include pretty much everything, including the added bonus of coffee and cookies for the adults. Set up, clean up, host(s), cake, favors, paper goods for the kids, pizza, juice/water, activity. You have to give the headcount the Wednesday before for a party on Sunday. I thought that was a little far out because especially with little kids and the flu this year, in 3-5 days I could have any number of kids drop out. I know they have to make sure they have staff, but I would assume they would need a host per every 10 kids, so if it was 35 or 40 they'd still need that extra person. I'm not sure how they work that with cost. Last year's party at Jellybean Junction, they actually counted the kids and didn't count some of the younger ones as participants. I was pleasantly surprised by that. This time, I think I got charged for the full amount of kids even though I let them know on Friday that two weren't coming. Whatever. It was a relatively easy party and when you're talking 30-40 three and four year olds, the word "easy" is not the word one would usually use. You pay for easy.

The place itself is huge and very clean. The room they had next to the party room was very convenient for adults. It probably would've been better for me if there was just another long table where they were putting the pizza and cake for me to put the adult food there. At three and four most of the kids don't want to let their parents out of their sight. So it wasn't that convenient to have to leave the room. But people did, they got food, and we really didn't have much to take home. We brought in small sandwiches, veggies & dip, fruit, and various kinds of chips. For the first time, we didn't over-buy.

Of course- Pam's cake was perfection and everyone was raving about it. It was a Green Lantern cake- green buttercream, fondant, vanilla cake and raspberry buttercream filling. MY kind of cake! She may be "down" but she's not "OUT" for sure. If you want her info, just get in touch with me, check her FB page, and she'll be keeping her A la Cupcakes phone number for the foreseeable future. E was THRILLED with his awesome cake. I took the leftovers, cut them into personal size pieces, and froze them individually so I could have them for however long I can stretch it out.

Thanks to Eric and Joce for sharing the party. The boys were happy to celebrate together and I'm so glad it went off without a hitch. We are more than happy to share their birthdays for the future- it went great!




http://www.wyckoffymca.org/programs-services/parties/

http://www.jbjbirthdays.com/locations.htm

https://www.facebook.com/alacupcakes

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