Chuck E Cheese Birthday Party Review

Chuck E Cheese Birthday Party Review

I’m so excited to share my experience with hosting our first Chuck E Cheese birthday party! I’m a bit of a control freak, so I can’t say I wasn’t worried about how this party would go down, but it was even better than I could have expected.

It’s important to note here that I’m in no way affiliated with Chuck E Cheese nor am I receiving anything in return for this post. It’s simply an experience worth sharing with other mommas in need of party planning help!

How does a Chuck E Cheese birthday party work?

When my daughter announced she wanted to hold her 4th birthday at Chuck E Cheese, my frugal brain immediately went to the cost. So I went on the Chuck E Cheese website and was pleasantly surprised by the affordable options. Even when we go the party-at-home-DIY-route (like we did for our Dr. Seuss birthday party!) there’s still the stress and time planning it all.

I truly love to throw parties, but not necessarily during the cold days of February, which happens to be my daughter’s birthday month. So this time I handed over the party planning reigns and here’s what happened…

Chuck E Cheese Birthday Party Review

chuck e cheese birthday party

What’s the schedule like?

We arrived at Chuck E Cheese about 15 minutes before the party was set to start. Everything was set up in the back already and our host greeted us. She handed over a bag of play passes as well as a birthday bracelet for my sweet birthday girl.

Our host then went over our order (we opted for extra pizzas and drinks for the adults). From there, she went over the schedule, which looked like this:

12pm – party starts, kids play

12:45pm – pizza time! Our host served the children and made sure they all got what they needed.

After pizza, Chuck E himself came out to dance with the kids. We then sang “Happy Birthday” while the host cut and distributed the cake. Since we got the Mega Super Star package, it also included Dippin’ Dots (yum!!)

Chuck E Cheese dippin dots birthday party

From there, it would’ve been gift time, but we nixed that to do gifts at home.

After cake, it was ticket blaster time! My daughter wasn’t too keen on it, so her big brother stepped in.

Do they have to do the ticket blaster?

Our host was kind enough to show my daughter how the ticket blaster worked, but even then, my daughter wasn’t interested. My 5yr old son was all about it, though, so he stepped up to get those tickets. That said, there was also the option to skip the ticket blaster and simply collect 200 tickets (plus her 1000 bonus tickets as a part of the party package).

After the ticket blaster, the kids are then welcome to go back to playing.

Chuck E Cheese Ticket Blaster

Can you bring your own cake to a Chuck E Cheese birthday party?

Absolutely! While Chuck E Cheese offers a number of gorgeous cake options, you can also bring in your own cake and ice cream.

Do you tip for a Chuck E Cheese birthday party?

I’ve actually reached out to Chuck E Cheese to see if they have a policy/common practice on this. While I in no way felt pressured to tip, there’s no doubt our hostess deserved it! Our total party cost was $300, on which we tipped $40. This might seem like a bit much to some (like my husband…hehe) but I’ve worked in food service before and the tip was well earned.

Is the Mega Super Star package worth it?

It really, really is. It was so nice to not have to worry about goody bags or ice cream, plus the unlimited play for the 2 hours really helped parents better enjoy the experience and not worry about watching (or having to re-up!) their child’s play points. I also love that the goody bags allow for every child to leave with something, regardless of how many tickets they earned.

chuck e cheese goody bag

What happens if you have no-shows?

Sure enough, on the day of the party we had a couple children who suddenly couldn’t make it. Luckily Chuck E Cheese offers a 2-child no-show policy so we weren’t charged for the absent children.

The Easiest Birthday Party Ever

Overall, I truly could not have been happier with the whole experience. I did EVERYTHING online on my own schedule and it was the smoothest, most relaxed party I’ve had. Frankly, I’m considering hosting my own next birthday party there – they do have beer, after all! 😉

chuck e cheese birthday party review

Have you had a Chuck E Cheese birthday party experience?

Would love for you to comment below and share your thoughts!

10 Must-Have Kitchen Gadgets on Amazon for Under $20 

10 Must-Have Kitchen Gadgets on Amazon for Under $20 

I’m a big fan of Alton Brown and his idea on single-use items; there are a lot of really odd, single-use kitchen gadgets out there that might seem cool at first but will honestly just take up space and you’ll end up selling them at a garage sale and all you’ll have is .50 cents and a small pile of regret.

That said, there are some really cool items that fill a niche role but do it so well – or can be used for other things – that they’re absolutely worth having in your kitchen, pantry, or in your grill kit.

Amazon is a fantastic resource for cheap prices and lightning-fast shipping, but Its catalog has gotten incredibly vast over the years, so shopping for that perfect item is a slog. We’ve put together a list of 10 fun, useful, and best-of-all cheap kitchen gadgets that will delight anyone who rules the roaster in their household.

10 Must-Have Single Use Kitchen Gadgets for Under $20

single use items for the kitchen alton brown
Please note that the links below are affiliate links, which means I may earn a commission should you click through and make a purchase. This in no way impacts my recommendations or the cost to you.

Spread Butter Easier

Butter Knife Magic

Our son LOVES buttered toast but for real, cold butter is a substance that defies physics and destroys all bread it touches. This knife fixes that problem by allowing you to cut razor-thin slices, fun spirals, or spaghetti-esque noodles of butter, straight from the fridge!

Stop Boil Overs


Handy Lid

My husband is Italian, so we eat a lot of pasta during the week, but my husband is also absent-minded, so we clean up a lot of boiled-over pasta water during the week, too. This silicone lid sits on top of your pot in lieu of your traditional lid. It allows steam and bubbles to escape without boiling over and covering your stove or putting out your burners. They’re also adorable and can help strain pasta as well!

Gift Idea for Wine Lover


Kato Wine Accessories Gift Set

If you don’t drink wine, you know someone who does. I personally am not fond of digging around in the utensils drawer for the corkscrew and then trying to stuff the cork back into the bottle without sending it spiraling down into the wine itself and then having to Google if drinking cork-wine will kill me. This set has a foil cutter, a corkscrew, an aerator spout, a stopper, and even a drip ring, if you’re messy. It’s all stored in a convenient, cute wine-bottle shaped spy kit. How fun is that?

Air Fryer Accessories

Air Fryer Accessories

We had a small air fryer and we hated it – it just wasn’t big enough for anything useful. We got this particular air fryer for Christmas and it’s AMAZING. Food comes out crispy, it cooks quickly and with minimal oil, and it doesn’t take up much space on the counter. My husband uses it at least 4 times a week for dinner, and I love it because I can toss some hashbrowns or bacon into it for breakfast and go get ready while they cook perfectly. We have the manual one which is a dream, but there’s a digital one as well with more settings, if you’re into that.

Clean Grills Without the Fear of Metal Shards

The Grate Grill Scraper

Wire brushes are, while commonplace in grill-cleaning kits, very much not ideal for the task. The shards of wire can seriously hurt someone if they ingest them and it’s more common than you think. This brass – well it’s not a ring exactly, but it’s definitely a shape – cuts through stuck-on food and carbon extremely well and can fit nearly any standard grate-spacing, without the fear of metal shavings in your burgers.

Scoop Ice Cream Easier


Heat Conducting Ice Cream Scoop

Ice cream is, like revenge, a dish best served cold. This makes it fun and delicious, but also a pain in the wrist to scoop efficiently without flinging it all over your kitchen. This particular heat-conducting scoop is leagues above the traditional scoop with the little level that dishes out ice cream. Heat from your hand travels into the spoon and cuts through the icy treat and the heavy-duty utensil will stand up against even the coldest, hardest-packed ice cream possible.

Cute Spoon Rest

Splash Spoon Rest

Finding a place to put your spoon isn’t a difficult task, but this cute, fun utensil rest really makes a “splash”. With its vibrant color and deep grooves, it should keep a handle on any size spoon you need to set down for a moment.

Cut Hot Dogs Quick

Dachshund-Shaped Hot Dog Cutter

The cutest things often come in small packages, and this little hot dog …dog… is proof of that. Sometimes it only takes a little bit of fun to encourage kids to eat their dinner, and this cutter makes small enough pieces for little hands and then holds them in place. Bonus doggie dish for ketchup or mustard dipping!

Grate Cheese with Ease

 Hedgehog Grater

This little guy will look great on any countertop, ready to zest citrus, grate some cheese, or shave some chocolate. He’s easy to clean, beautiful appearance, and BPA-free, and cute as a button!

Uses for a Pizza Cutter (besides cutting pizza!)

Ultimate Pizza Cutter

Look, nobody is going to argue that pizza is the best but sometimes the cheesy pie is difficult to cut and serve without losing all your toppings. This pizza cutter gives you ultimate control, cleans up quickly and easily, and you can use it on anything that needs sliced. I use it on my kids’ pancakes in the morning, on grilled cheese, and quesadillas and while it seems such a simple thing, it really does make a big difference!

Do you have any single-task or highly specialized kitchen gadgets that you’ve found you simply can’t do without? Let me know and I’ll add them to this list!

Best Movies for Preschoolers

Best Movies for Preschoolers

The best movies for preschoolers are the ones in which the whole family can enjoy them (meaning Barney’s Christmas is out of the running!) We don’t watch a lot of movies in our house, but when we do, I don’t necessarily care about the educational value so much as my being able to sit through them without wanting to burn my eyes out.

So which movies would I say are the best family movies for preschoolers? Heh would you judge me if I said The Greatest Showman? Yeah? Harrumph, fine, we’ll keep it G-rated (oh and please note – the links below may be affiliate links that could earn me a commission should you click through to make a sale).

Best Movies for Preschoolers

Moana

Moana will forever be one of my most favorite movies. There’s such heart behind this movie and it never fails to inspire. Plus the songs are absolutely phenomenal and let’s face it – Dwayne Johnson is fantastic, even when animated.

The Snowman

This movie is perfect to help everyone unwind and relax a bit. It’s a “silent” film, but you’ll hardly notice thanks to the captivating music and gorgeous animation. We watch this one a lot during the holiday season, but it’s honestly wonderful all year round.

Beauty and the Beast (live action)

Oh, Emma Watson, how I adore you. The animated Beauty and the Beast is of course a solid choice, but the live action does a wonderful job bringing the characters to life and giving them an even more vibrant personality. While some preschoolers may be a little nervous during a few of the darker scenes (like when Gaston battles the Beast near the end), overall it’s a fun and bright movie.

Frozen

This one might be a divisive one, but if you’re not yet burnt out on “Let It Go” this musical is sure to enthrall the little ones. Personally I love this movie more each time I watch it, but there’s also a Christmas special if you need to mix things up a bit.

CoCo

I love that CoCo provides a seemingly rare insight into death, but does it in such a way as to not scare or worry younger children. It’s also wonderful to be able to educate children on various traditions they themselves may not follow, but are interesting nonetheless. Warning: you’ll need tissues for this one!

Spirit

An oldie but a goodie! I was 14 yrs old when this movie first came out, but it has definitely stood the test of time. If your preschoolers love horses, they are certain to love this family film. Bonus: there’s a show on Netflix that is similar to the movie, but updated to include a female heroin and her wild west adventures.

Boss Baby

Boss Baby just slays me. I wasn’t a big fan the first time I watched it, but (as children are wont to do) we watched a few more times and I love it. Call it Stockholm Syndrome if you wish, but to that I say – fart poop doody.

The best movies for preschoolers that the whole family will love!Click to Tweet

Horton Hears a Who

I’m a huge fan of Dr. Seuss, but even if I weren’t, this would be a movie I’d watch over and over again. It teaches children to care for others in such a gentle, inadvertent way. It never fails to inspire.

The Lorax

Like I said above – Dr. Seuss is big in our house. And once again, we’re learning about caring for others above our own selfish needs. The Lorax has brilliant animation, beautiful life lessons, and lots of sharp humor to keep the whole family entertained.

Fern Gully

I’ll never not love Fern Gully. Tim Curry + Robin Williams + fairies + life lessons = one of the best movies OF. ALL. TIME. (Disagree? Comment below with YOUR favorite!) I was only 4 years old when this movie came out, which is absolutely insane to imagine given that I’m now the mother of an (almost) 4 year old and a 5 year old, but that just goes to show – Fern Gully is one for the ages.

Trolls

Okay so this was another one that took a while to win me over. I’m often put off by movies that get too hyped up and that was the case with this one. However, I’ll now gladly watch it with (or without) my preschoolers any time. The animation is just out of this world and the songs are just so much fun. This is another one that now has T.V. shows, too, so you can mix it up to avoid burnout.

Happy Feet

Baby penguins. Need I say more?! Okay fine, how about baby penguins, jaw-dropping animation, brilliant musical numbers, and once again those life lessons that will help our children grow to lead with kindness.

Inside Out

Inside Out is probably one of the most perfect movies for preschoolers because let’s face it – there are few creatures on earth that have less of a hold on their emotions than preschoolers. I will say that this one is technically rated PG, but it’s due to the high emotional rollercoaster vs anything actually inappropriate for children. It’s a wonderful family film, though, and teaches us all one of the most important (but hardest) lessons: never stifle your emotions.

Lilo and Stitch

Bringing in another one from my childhood! Lilo and Stitch is such a sweet movie, but funny enough to keep the adults entertained, too. While I hope my daughter doesn’t grow to be quite as sassy as Lilo, let’s face it – us girls are all a wee bit dramatic at times. Let’s just hope she doesn’t bring home any dog-aliens…

Room on the Broom

I love the book, but the movie is even better! This is a fun one, too, in that the movie will help your children memorize the book, which in turn can help improve their eventual reading skills. Room on the Broom isn’t just one of the best movies for preschoolers, but one that will teach your children there’s always room for another friend in their lives.

WALL-E

So I promise you that when I made this list, I truly wasn’t thinking about how many of them are environmentally related but heh…well here we are and yes, WALL-E is one I’d definitely recommend. While the lack of conversations in the beginning may make it difficult for kids to pay attention, it picks up eventually and not only teaches our children the importance of caring for the world, but also shows them what a difference one person (err..robot) can make!

The Land Before Time

Last but not least, another that has stood the test of time. I’m pretty sure there’s like 108 versions of this movie by now and yeah, they’re pretty much all the same – dinosaur gets lost and/or has a fight with his friends, meets up with a sharp tooth, sings a song or two, finds his way back to friends, and YAY! All is well for a while. The original Land Before Time will always be my favorite, but I’ll admit that a few of the new ones do have a catchy song or two.

So what say you – do you agree with this list?

Which ones should I have skipped?

Did I forget any?

Comment below and let me know!

Nancy Drew: Sea of Darkness Review

Nancy Drew: Sea of Darkness Review

Nancy Drew: Sea of Darkness is my new obsession! Check out my video review below and/or keep reading to hear why I’ve deemed it worthy a place on this blog (heh though note: this is a sponsored post, but that doesn’t change the fun I had with this game!!)

 

Nancy Drew: Sea of Darkness – A Review

Nancy Drew: Sea of Darkness is a computer game set in Iceland where a ship captain by the name of Magnus has suddenly disappeared…along with the treasure! Was he thrown overboard? Did he run away with the gold? Or is something more nefarious afoot?

Now I’ll admit that as a 31-year old mother of two, my video game skills aren’t what they used to be! That said, this game was an absolutely blast to play and I only died like three times!! (*hold for applause…*)

The storyline is really well written and every character you encounter has such a vibrant – and often hilarious – personality. My favorite by far was Dagny, the gal who hired Nancy Drew to help her find Magnus and their missing treasure. Dagny is sassy and solid, a well-built character that’s sure to keep you entertained.

The graphics of this game are also phenomenal. Maybe it’s the early Illinois winter that’s come our way, but I often felt like I was actually in Iceland!

Now I will recommend that you bring an extra cup of coffee with you as you sit down to play because the puzzles…phew! There were some tough ones!! Luckily HeR Interactive provides a strategy guide, because frankly I’d be lost without it.

Nancy Drew: Sea of Darkness makes for a fun game to play alone or with a friend! If you have children who are a bit older (i.e. not my 3 & 5 yr olds) then invite them to help you out as you explore the wonderful town of Skipbrot and work to find Magnus.

 

Review of Nancy Drew Sea of Darkness PC game - an especially great video game for girls who love puzzles or mysteries to solve!

 

I think my favorite part of the game is of course the strong female protagonist combined with the first-person PoV…or maybe it’s that I could make a “fatal error” and wouldn’t have to start all over again!

This game would make for a wonderful holiday gift, as would Nancy Drew: Shadow at the Water’s Edge – hey why not buy them both and enjoy them over the long holiday weekend? Just don’t forget those strategy guides!

Did you read Nancy Drew as a child?

Comment below, I’d love to know your favorite book!

 

 

5 Brands That Make the Best “Unplugged” Toys for Toddlers

5 Brands That Make the Best “Unplugged” Toys for Toddlers

Struggling to limit your child’s screentime? We’ve all been there!

Chances are good you’ve heard the following at least once or twice…

“When I was growing up, we played outside from sunup to sundown.”

“I’m glad I grew up when kids still played instead of looking at a screen all day.”

“When I was a kid our neighborhood had 1 stick and some rocks and we had to share them and that was our fun!”

There’s no doubt that youngsters these days (I can feel myself aging as I type this) often have significantly more interaction with the light from a tablet than they do the light from the sun.

It’s a serious struggle as a parent to not just balance screen time with play time, but to make play time intuitive, fun, and creative. Luckily, there are companies out there still making analogue toys that prompt your children to partake in imaginative play while also encouraging exploration and learning.

Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases which may be linked below.

Kinderfeets

kinderfeets balance bike

I’d seen these odd little wooden bikes with the chalkboard paint and no pedals and thought “how would that even work”?

You know what, though? My kid figured it out with essentially no prompting and was beyond excited to roll on down the road!

Kinderfeets makes bikes, trikes, and the like for kids from the age where they can start to totter around up to about 5 years old. Built from wood and metal, they’re sturdy, colorful, and best of all, they’re intuitive. They’re designed in a way that encourages a child to discover how to move them just by pushing with their feet. As they get older, the child can alternate pushing and putting their feet on the pedal-rests to coast. This creates a natural method for learning the balance needed to ride a bike as they get older.

We love them honestly because they’re really neat and they make a great transition tool to real “big kid” bikes without the pain that is training wheels.

Tinkertoys

Boy these things have come a long way since I was a kid, when they were essentially dowel rods and wooden wheels with holes in them. Now there’s a host of different pieces, connectors, patterns, and ideas. Our kids have a lot of different building-type toys, but they seem to be most interested in the Tinkertoys, I think mostly because the designs are so different than traditional interconnected blocks.

I’m not bashing Legos; they’re great (except when you step on them in the middle of the night and your screams wake up the neighborhood). The thing I find more appealing about Tinkertoys for a younger child is that the company gives you some designs to build, but they don’t lock you down into a single design initially. What I mean is that with Legos, you’re buying a Dragon Castle or a Millenium Falcon, and that’s awesome, but it takes away some of the imaginative fun that little kids crave.

Uncle Goose

Wooden blocks are great – they’re a chunky, fun way to learn some letters and also some gross motor skills. The problem with blocks, however, is that they kind of become relegated to the “baby toys” box not too long after your kids figure out how to play with nearly anything else.

But what if you could buy blocks that taught more than a few rudimentary letters and numbers? Uncle Goose specializes in wooden blocks that come in a wide variety of prints and subjects. Some of these include “Women who dared”, the periodic table of elements, and various ancient fossils. This opens up worlds of new play and longevity in a fairly simple product. They’re high-quality and just really, really cool, and the diversity of topics and versions is pretty extensive.

Melissa and Doug

Our kids have had Melissa and Doug toys since they were very young; our son got his first fishing pole puzzle when he was maybe 8 months old. I’ll never forget when he first learned to say “uh-oh” while playing with this toy, it was pretty much the cutest thing ever.

He couldn’t quite work the fishing pole to “catch” the fish with the magnetic tip, but he sure liked grabbing the thick, wooden, colorful pieces (and occasionally trying to eat them, but who can blame him…)

This well loved-on puzzle then went to our daughter, who added her own teeth marks and marker scribbles, and we’re still going to keep it. Melissa and Doug toys are predominately wooden and high-quality toys that are durable enough for the most discerning of toddler taste-buds. They also make storage tables, pretend-play centers (like this adorable lemonade stand), puppet theaters, and all manner of crafting supplies.

We love them because their products will stand up to the abuse that kids throw at them, but they stop short of constraining your children into a specific way of playing. We absolutely love them!

Boon Toys

There’s a ton of toys made for bath time; what makes Boon any different? Well, they offer toys and innovative accessories for meal time and bath time, but they’ve taken it to an adorable level. From starfish and manta ray drain covers to the “frog pod”, a water bucket that doubles as a container for your kids’ endless amount of bath time toys, there’s some really great stuff here.

I think my favorite part of Boon toys are that they’re made with bath in mind, built to avoid some of the gross watery mold problems average bath toys fall victim to.

Limiting Screentime

Unplugged toys are really great for challenging your kids to not be as passively entertained. When kids need to think, look, engage, and learn while they play – especially when they’re younger – they learn problem solving skills and imaginative thinking that will help them all throughout their life. While general wooden blocks can be great, it’s so important to find toys that your children will actually want to play with and that will stand up to test of time.

Now I’m curious – what was YOUR favorite toy as a child? Tell me about in the comments below!