How to Throw a Great Birthday Party at Chuck E. Cheese’s
Birthday Party at Chuck E. Cheese’s
Are you looking to plan your child’s next birthday party? Do you want a simple, secure environment to share with your child and their friends? Well then, I would recommend Chuck E. Cheese’s. At first it was not the top party place on my list of where I would think to have a birthday party, but our recent experience altered that line of thinking. Growing up it was not uncommon to see the commercials or be invited to a party, but actually going was another story. When my child asked to have a party there I thought the cost would be high and the stress would be twice as much as a party at home. I was wrong. It was quite simple, nearly stress free, and we were able to keep the cost under $300 for 14 children and 7 adults.
Who to Invite
The first step to throwing a successful party is to determine how many and who should be on your child’s invite list. Knowing the names of the children and obtaining the parent’s emails are key to the success of inviting. You need to think about how your child plays with and handles large crowds if you plan on inviting over 20 children, it may be better to limit it to under 10 children if your little one doesn’t do well with too many around. If your child is a social butterfly–the more the better! Also, based on the age of the children being invited I would advise parental involvement for those under 5. The games require a little assistance and being the host will prevent you from helping (even your own child on some occasions).
Pick a Location, Date and Time
After you have a rough number of children, determine a good day. Consider sporting events, religious services, vacations (spring/winter break), and holidays that may prevent children from attending. You may also want to put some feelers out with other parents (the more important attendees) to find out if their child would be available for specific dates and /or times. Once you have established a few good days, log onto the Chuck E. Cheese’s and click on PARTIES then on BIRTHDAY PARTIES then on RESERVE YOUR PARTY. Type in your zip code with a mileage range, click on GO, and the site will provide you with the three closest locations. Select your location and provide the number of children and adults you plan having at the party. Think about younger/older siblings, parents with young children, and relatives that may be in attendance. It is better to have a reservation with too many seats than not enough. If you plan ahead, you will have time to alter the reservation to make it smaller as the event nears. It may prove to be a challenge to add to your party once your initial request has been submitted for the reservation. In order to make a reservation for a table in the party area you must have at least 4 children and 1 adult in attendance. After you type in the numbers, click on the SHOW CALENDAR. Find the month and day you are planning for and click on the date. Check the current promotions for Bonus Tokens and other freebies before deciding on a date. From the site, it appears you can schedule several months in advance, but remember your deposit is non-refundable. Two weeks is about the length of time needed to reserve your best time and day. Waiting after this to schedule limits the time slots available. After making your decision, click on the day you want then select the available time and click NEXT on the bottom right hand side of the page.
Decide on the Size of Package to Order
Chuck E. Cheese’s offers two types of packages: The Star ($10.99 per child) and the Super Star ($15.99 per child) . The first package is more than enough to make the party great including tokens, pizza, and unlimited drinks along with a few special keepsakes for the birthday child. The Super Star package bumps up the token count, provides a take home cup for each child, a second balloon for the birthday child, and a chair cover. None of which is really needed to make the party great. (Keep reading and I will tell you how to get the best bang for your buck!). Select your package and click on NEXT.
Determine if you want to order Extras
The next point of the reservation process is to determine if you want to order extra food (pizza, wings, cakes, ice cream, etc.). You can order extra pizza now, or you can wait until the day of the party and it will take the same amount of time to get the pizza to the table. My suggestion would be to wait for the day of the party. The company provides you with coupons for pizza packages via email and these would save you money rather than simply ordering off the menu. The deals usually include tokens, drinks and pizza. Depending on the number of adults attending the party, this will be the way to go. Other food options are also available such as veggie platters, buffalo wings platter, sampler platters, and sandwich platters. If you are going to order these, I would suggest doing so during your reservation on the web to ensure they have it ready for the party.
Cake, Cake, Cake and perhaps Ice Cream
The company offers cakes, but I would not recommend making this your number one choice. Simple for party planning, yet unappealing when you see the actual product. The price is far higher than what it would take to pick a cake up from your local bakery such as Kroger, Meijer’s or Sam’s Club. The cakes provided by Chuck E. Cheese’s are quite small (smaller than the bakery cakes), but I cannot provide you with any comment on how they tasted since we avoided this higher cost. Customers can bring in cake and ice cream, but no other products. Even chips were out. I think you could get by with brownies or cookies, but make sure to verify with your location before ordering four dozen Busken Bakery Personalized birthday cookies! The ice cream retails for about $1 a cup and may be more convenient than bringing in a cooler full of soon-to-be partially melted cups of frozen cow juice. I noticed at most parties, the children don’t miss the ice cream because they cannot eat it fast enough to return to playing the games. If you can, just leave this little detail out and never mention ice cream to the kids…you’ll thank me later.
Gift Bags or Thank You Gifts
Most children birthday parties we have been to provide each attendee with a small thank you gift for coming to the party. Depending on the age of the children in attendance you could purchase gift bags and all the contents at Shindigz. To save time, I would recommend the Chuck E. Cheese’s Goody Bag. Each bag retails for $1.99 and the children loved getting it (select it when you are ordering your extras). It was a pencil case containing an assortment of “cool toys and candy”. The ones we received each had a pair of star shaped glasses, a miniature deck of playing cards, candy, a coupon for free tokens on your next visit, stickers and a few other small, fun trinkets (each location’s gift bag may vary so ask your hostess for more details). If this over extends your budget for the party, don’t feel pressured to provide a goody bag. Most children won’t miss getting it because they usually leave with fun prizes they can win while playing the games.
Finalizing your Reservations
The last step in your reservation process is to provide your personal information. You will be required to use a credit or debit card to pay for the $30 non-refundable deposit. Don’t worry, it you have to cancel because of the huge snow storm (or whatever reason you have to cancel), you can transfer the money for a different party reservation–just no refunds.
How to Invite your Guest
Chuck E. Cheese’s uses a great program powered by “Evite“. This program allows you customize the email invitation (saves the cost of mailing invites) and quickly send it to all of your friends. Then the program tracks responses, keeps count of the number of children and adults, and allows you to see who has viewed the email. Very simple, organized and free. After making your reservation, click on PARTIES, then on SEND INVITATIONS. Select your state then your location of the Chuck E. Cheese’s where you have the reservation. This will navigate away from the Chuck E. Cheese’s web page and take you to the “Evite” page where you can customize your invitation and send it out to all of your guest. I would suggest sending one to yourself as well so you can include your family in the total count on the tracking sheet.
Now that you have planned out the party you may need to focus on cutting corners to make sure to stay within your budget. As mentioned, purchasing the cake at a local bakery, leaving out the ice cream, and sticking with the star package will save you quite a bit of cost, but there are other things to do other than throwing a smaller party. You can bake your own cake, only provide food and drinks for the children in attendance, and you can use free tokens.
How to Get FREE Tokens
The party can really be a blast if there seems to be unlimited tokens. One trick is to book on line. You will automatically receive 20 additional tokens (current as of 3/5/10) another way to earn free tokens for each of your guest is through the PROMOTIONS tab on the web site. Each child can earn 10 to 15 free tokens by either filling out a Kids Reward Calendar in advance or brining in their current report card and receive Tokens for Grades.
Only one promotion per child is to be used each day, so if they have the report card it would be the better choice depending on how many good grades they have. The Kids Reward Calendars are quite easy (especially the Sports Awards and Tooth Fairy Award). Each one of these promotions used will earn 10 free tokens. Another way to get more bang for your buck on tokens is to look for the coupons in the weekly circular, on Kool-aid drinks, and other related food and beverage products. Often there are coupons for free tokens .
Finally, register for coupons on the Chuck E. Cheese’s web site. This will provide you with coupons for token specials such as 100 tokens for $10, or pizza deals (as mentioned previously) that include tokens in the price. In all we were able to get over 800 tokens for very little cost. It was more than enough to provide the 14 children at the party with a good time playing games.
What to Expect at the party
Plan to arrive early (about 15 minutes) to meet with your personal party hostess. You can place pizza orders, confirm the number of attendees, and make any last minute changes to the party plans. It also allows you to relax and taken in your surroundings prior to your guest arriving.
Once you have everything in order, take “roll call” as guest arrive. If the parents are dropping off their children, make sure you have a good contact number in case of an emergency. Confirm the same parent will be picking up the child, instruct them to notify you when their child is leaving, and also make sure the parent knows what time the party is over.
After all the guest arrive, give the children ground rules (we used the buddy system to make sure the children stayed in pairs) and then give out the coins and release them to play the games. When the pizza is ready, the hostess will make an announcement for all members of your child’s party to return to the party. Round up all the children and return them to the table (you may want to have hand sanitizer on hand because you may not have time to send everyone to the bathroom to wash hands before eating).
Your hostess will help serve the drinks and pizza (2 slices per child). Then they put on this special birthday show for all the birthday children having parties at that time. Once that is over, the children will sing Happy Birthday and enjoy the cake you brought from your local bakery (or the homemade one you toiled over for hours the night before). If you want to have lit candles for your child to blow out you will need to bring them from home along with matches or a lighter.
After everyone is finished with the cake, the children can return to play more games (with all the free/cheap tokens you have obtained) and wait for the parents to show up. Confirm all children have parents and all parents have regained responsibility for their child and then you can relax. Your hostess will move your party to a smaller table to allow you time with your family after your guest have left. You can leave all of the gifts, pizza, drinks, etc. at this table until you are ready to depart.
Still not Sold: Other Party Ideas
If this article doesn’t convince you Chuck E. Cheese’s is a great place to host a party then perhaps one of these will be more suited:
Pump It Up
Movie Theater Party
Swim Party at the local pool or YMCA
Don’t forget after your party to provide thank you notes (in person or by mail) to all of your guest for coming and any gifts received. Have fun!
If you have any great party ideas, please feel free to submit comments or questions. We would love to hear from you and share your party plans.