Editor’s Note: Please visit our full guide to birthday parties for kids in Champaign-Urbana.
by Erin Tarr
What could be more joyous (read stressful) than planning and hosting a small child’s birthday party? The commemoration of the day YOUR life changed forever comes with so many decisions…what time of day, day of the week, the perfect gift, who to invite, how many to invite, choosing the right games (or any games), combining in-laws/family members at the party… not to mention the countless cake and food decisions!
Secretly, I love all the decisions, organization and prep that comes with large events of this nature, however not everyone is like me, so to alleviate this stress, many chambana parents choose to host parties outside their homes where the set-up/cleanup crew and paid child wranglers are worth their weight in gold. While the area options are numerous, popular choices among many parents of small children are the gymnastics parties available at The Little Gym of Savoy, iPower of Champaign, and Twist & Shout of Mahomet.
Being the mother of a precocious and well-connected four-year-old, I have had the distinct pleasure to attend parties at each of these establishments. If you have a winter baby like me, you know that the need for a place where toddlers and preschoolers can run off their energy is of utmost importance when scheduling ANY type of party. For those who are interested in this mom’s impressions, read on.
Winning the prize for MOST FLEXIBLE: Twist n’ Shout
This tumbling gymnasium located in Mahomet offers the most options to personalize your party with both 90 minute and 2 hour party options, pricing based on number of guests, as well as options for party favors and crafts to be included in the activities. They also provide decorations based on two colors of the child’s choosing. The party we attended was for a little girl turning three, and the parents opted for the 2-hour party with 15 kiddos for $150 plus the cost of a craft. The mom felt like it was a great value!
PARENT PLUS: Cupcakes are included! I would definitely host a party here if I lived in Mahomet based on the many options and potential add-on activities, as well as the friendly staff and clean environment. The activities were extremely age-appropriate for the young crowd at this particular party, but I see possibilities for older children as well – especially those interested in gymnastics, dance and cheer.
MOMMY MINUS: Since I don’t live in Mahomet (nor do most of my daughter’s friends) I would prefer to have her party in Champaign, Savoy or Urbana.
Winning the prize for MOST AGE APPROPRIATE: The Little Gym
This franchised gym is built on a foundation of providing young people (up to age 12) with progressive physical activities to build confidence and character as well as problem solving and creative expression skills. As an educator I can attest that their theory and curriculum form a solid foundation to do just that, and their approach to birthday parties fits seamlessly within this structure and vision.
PARENT PLUS: For kids with short attention spans, the structure of this party is perfect! I love the fact that the gym is set up in such a way that even if you aren’t right next to your child, you are able to keep tabs on them at all times. In addition, the staff is extremely attentive to the children and their needs and appears to be well versed in dealing with a variety of demeanors, fears and personalities of children on party days. My daughter has progressed leaps and bounds in her bravery on the Little Gym equipment just by attending several parties there, so I would say their approach is working, as her confidence grows each time she is there.
MOMMY MINUS: Starting at $245 for a 14 child party for members, this is definitely the priciest of the three options reviewed here.
Winning the prize for the MOST ADVENTUROUS PARTY: iPower
This independently owned facility is first and foremost a competitive gymnastics facility, which is evident from the moment you walk in to the warehouse-like building where the equipment is strikingly similar to that viewed on TV during the Olympics this summer, so for kiddos who want to have a genuine gymnastics experience – iPower delivers!
PARENT PLUS: When the birthday girl opened her gifts, she was seated on a “throne” (read: layers of gymnastics mats elevating her several feet off the floor), which was a huge hit with her and has led my daughter to the conclusion that she should also have a similar “throne” at her next party. I would definitely host my child’s party here in a few years. All of the young ones at this party had a tremendously fun time, but I think older kids would take even better advantage of what this gym has to offer.
MOMMY MINUS: Due to the size of the gym (which smells like a gym), and the types of equipment present, I was on high-alert throughout the party to make sure I knew where my daughter was and that she was safe the entire time.
When it comes to the perfect party, all of these places offer winning combinations! Please visit their websites for more information about time, prices and what’s included at each location.
For even more gymnastics birthday options in the chambana area, check out:
• The Champaign County YMCA
• The Savoy Rec Center
• The Hayasaki Gymnastics Center (new!)
• The Champaign Gymnastics Academy (new!)
What have your gymnastic birthday experiences been like? Do you have any favorites, or any we missed? Please let us know!
If you want more in-depth information on the specific format of each party detailing their similarities and differences, be sure to check out the expanded reviews at http://www.erintarr.com/birthday-parties/gymnastics-party-reviews/.
Erin (Trent) Tarr made the three-hour drive from Southern Illinois to Champaign in 1997 to attend the University of Illinois and never left. Mother of two beautiful girls (3 & 5 years old), her passions for leadership and education have led her to start “Be the Benchmark” – a coaching/mentoring business for tween and teen girls. You can often find her (with two kids in tow) at Champaign Centennial sporting events where her beloved husband of ten years, Adam, works as an Athletic Trainer.