Well, I finally did it. I sprang for a full-on PARTY for my now six-year old daughter. Prior to now, we hosted family parties, school parties and last year’s I’ll-never-do-that-again home party. So, for the first time I offered options to my daughter, “Where do YOU want to have a party?”
Turns out that this question was a bit errant on my part, since I didn’t realize EVERY party venue in C/U books up over a month in advance during the nasty (repeat NASTY) winter months. So just for free, here is a tip, if your child has a winter birthday – PLAN EARLY!
In spite of my absent-minded-mom routine, we were able to book my daughter’s party at CGA (Champaign Gymnastics Academy) only a week after her ACTUAL birthday, and I couldn’t be HAPPIER with how it turned out. Full disclosure, my daughter also takes classes at CGA, but we just started there this fall – so I don’t feel blindly loyal to the center by any stretch of the imagination. Since we are “members” though, we didn’t have to pay the $35 annual membership fee (that is charged for any child taking classes, attending camps, parents’ night out events, etc.)
Prior to booking the party, my daughter had not attended a party at CGA, so we really didn’t know what to expect, but everything from the invitations to the clean-up post-party blew.us.away.
The invites were a nicely printed in color on card-stock, with the assumption of risk waiver printed on them, definitely nice enough that I didn’t feel the need to buy additional invites. On the day of the party, I wasn’t sure what to expect (even though they VERY clearly told me, “we take care of everything except snacks.”) … so I brought forks, napkins and plates just in case – but they weren’t needed! I literally could have walked in with just the cake and my mini-water bottles… (how amazing is that)?
The spacious lobby area always houses a long table for parents and/or kids to sit and do work at which is completely separate from the gymnasium. For parties particularly, this separate space is awesome for two reasons 1) the gym screaming and loudness stays in the gym and 2) no gymnasium/old socks smell…’nuff said. When we walked in, this was covered with a nice disposable tablecloth in my daughter’s color of choice (purple). There was even a staff member vacuuming before the party to make sure everything was a clean as possible for us.
It was likely luck-of-the-draw, but my daughter’s regular “coach” happened to be one of our party hosts, so that was an awesome bonus for us! The other male coach was phenomenal as well – both of them having a clear grasp on how to work with children, able to strike a perfect balance of being encouraging, challenging and goofy while still setting appropriate limits.
The “gym” portion of the party was fantastic with a obstacle course unparalleled at other gymnastics parties we have attended, that kept all 17 of our guests moving and having a blast for at least 20 minutes! The children then split into two groups for time on the tumble track and in the “pit” ~ 15 minutes per group on each. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the parachute fun as well! They ended with a good amount of free time in the gym where the kiddos could play and try new things with the safety of two responsible coaches supervising the fun. The last activity in the gym was the best (for me as a parent) when they organized the kiddos for an awesome group shot on the balance beam – without me even asking!!
From there, we headed out of the gym enjoyed our cake (which the coaches helped to serve) and snacks. We still had time for opening presents and I sat back to relax and enjoy, since the coaches arranged the seating of children, handling of the gifts and even TAKING NOTES on which child gifted which item!! Did I also mention they cleaned up everything as well?! I didn’t have to lift a finger!
Suffice to say, if my daughter so chooses, I would be happy to host another party at CGA – where I feel I got MORE than my money’s worth in entertainment and enjoyment for a memorable 6th Birthday!
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 & now 6! 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.