Chuck E Cheese can be a fun place to visit…. for the kids! But for Moms…. it can be a bit of a challenge. All of those games beeping and buzzing and kids hopped up on pizza and soda running around feeding tokens into machines to win massive piles of tickets, all in an effort to win some (cheap) prizes? It's almost like heading to the town carnival all over again- minus the fried dough and midway rides. But let me just say- that when you are running your own summer camp at home, the day will come when you'll decide to treat your kiddos to an afternoon at this local house-of-mouse, and you'll be glad that I shared these 5 Tips for Moms on Surviving a Visit to Chuck E. Cheese!
Tip #1- NEVER go on a rainy day!
You might think you are being smart- setting your kids up for a fun afternoon of pizza and games…. and so will the other 4,732 Moms who had the same great idea! Not to mention the 14 local day camps who are activating their “rainy day” back-up plan of taking all of the kids on a field trip! On rainy days, your kids will have no chance of getting anywhere near these games! (But on the flip side, your tokens will last a lot longer before the kids burn through them all!)
The exception to this rule? If you happen to take your kids on a rainy day- when it is also the first day they are off from school all summer! See, no other Moms have reached the point of needing to dig down deep into their lame-o activities yet…. and camps haven't even had a chance to have their parents sign all of the permission slips for field trips yet. So you will be good-to-go! (And yes, you will be following in my footsteps!)
Tip #2- Look for coupons before you go!
It should come as no surprise that spending the afternoon eating quality food (who am I kidding…. I LOVE their pizza!) and playing video games will cost you a pretty penny if you aren't careful. So before you pile the kids into the car, take a moment to check out the coupons on Chuck E. Cheese's website. And if you sign up for their mailing list, they will automatically send you coupons every few months or so. Also make sure to be on the lookout for coupons in kids DVDs when you purchase them. (This is actually where we find our BEST Chuck E. Cheese coupons)!
Tip #3- Hand out the tokens…. S-L-O-W-L-Y!
When you first walk in the door, and get your hands stamped (I love, love, love how they take kid safety seriously at Chuck E. Cheese!) immediately get in line to order your pizza, drinks, and your tokens. As a guideline, our family of 6 kids burns through about 300 tokens during a visit. But since I always use coupons that include tokens and a meal….. I usually am getting them at a discount.
Now, take all of those tokens, and put them in a giant drink cup (the servers at the front are usually happy to give you an extra one), and then use the small plastic cups to divvy up small amounts of the coins at a time. Then as the kids play- they can come to you and you can dole out a few more at a time. Why do I do it this way? Well, you might think that it would be fair to give everyone an equal amount of tokens to play with…. but the problem is, that some kids will burn through them at twice the rate of the others…. and unless you want a bunch of sad-faced kids following around the little brother with a big pile of tokens who only plays 2 games an hour…. then dole them out as they need them. You'll thank me for this later!
Tip #4- Be the keeper of all of the winnings!
If your kids are old enough to navigate the game playing on their own, then you can park yourself in a booth with your laptop and try to get some work done while the kids have their fun (of course, not all Chuck E. Cheese's have free WiFi…. I had to hop onto Buffalo Wild Wings network as they were located next door!) But be warned…. as your kids cash in their tickets for the little slips of paper that displays their accumulated winnings, have the kids bring those slips back to you and you can be the banker and write their names on them. This will prevent the problem we have at least once a trip where one of my children feeds all of their tickets in, and then promptly puts the little piece of paper down somewhere and loses it (undoubtedly making one happy finder out of some other little person!)
Tip #5- Stay away from the prize desk!
I've learned this lesson over the years… if they are old enough to play the games, they are old enough to pick their own junk, um- I mean prizes. They do not need Mom to micro-manage this process! They actually do a much better job of working together, and pooling their tickets, when I am not hovering over them begging them to hurry up and make a decision already!
And if you are lucky, they will select a cool prize like this Easy bake microwave oven kit that they can come home and make later on the afternoon… stretching their fun a bit longer!
So do YOU have any tips to add on how to survive a visit to Chuck E. Cheese? I would love to hear them!