Planning your child’s birthday party can be a fun and exciting experience! Prince George’s County in Maryland offers many options to ensure that your little one’s special day is memorable and enjoyable. With various venues catering to different age groups, there is something for everyone. We have compiled a list of 18+ fantastic party ideas to help you find the perfect location for your child’s celebration. Be sure to check around and compare options to find the best fit for your family.
Pump It Up A fun-filled indoor inflatable party venue with private party rooms. Age Range: 3-12 Location: Bowie
My Gym An interactive fitness center with structured games and activities. Age Range: 1-10 Location: Gambrills
College Park Aviation Museum A museum dedicated to the history of aviation with birthday party packages. Age Range: 4-12 Location: College Park
Artworks Studio A creative space offering art-themed birthday parties. Age Range: 4-12 Location: Hyattsville
Conclusion: We hope this list of birthday party venues in Prince George’s County, Maryland helps you find the perfect location for your child’s special day. Remember to explore and compare different options to ensure you select the best venue that meets your needs and budget. Happy planning, and may your child’s birthday be filled with laughter, fun, and unforgettable memories!
This is a list of 90+ educational gift ideas for brainy kids for any occasion, including birthdays, Christmas, and other holidays updated for 2022.
There are plenty of great birthday gifts and Christmas presents out there to help smart kids of all ages get smarter…and lots of presents that will be a waste of your kid’s time and your money. I hope this list of educational math, engineering, and science gift ideas will help you find better options. Below are my suggestions for the best gifts for smart kids.
Each educational present idea includes a link to the item on Amazon.com, suggested age levels, and dollar signs to indicate the relative expense of each gift.
I have highlighted the costs of the gifts as follows:
$ – One $ sign indicates an inexpensive present of less than $30.
$$ Two $$ signs indicate a moderately expensive present of $30-100 dollars.
$$$- Three $$$ signs indicates gifts costing $100 or more.
All of the present ideas on this list have been handpicked because they are good for kids’ brains, develop smarts, creativity, and are at least to some extent educational and good learning toys.
I have direct experience with many, if not most of the items on this list, others have come highly recommended. If you have any ideas to add to this list of presents for smart kids, please send me your comments below.
My “Gifts for Gifted Kids” Top Toy Picks of the Month
Augmented Reality Anatomy T-Shirt It might not quite be great for the squeamish, but this is a cool idea and a great implementation. Point a smartphone at this t-shirt and get a human anatomy lesson like none other. Great science gift! Cost: $
Mini Drone This is really fun, and easy to fly. It’s an indoor mini drone for beginners that will teach your child the thinking and basics needed to move on to more advanced drones. I have found it to be pretty indestructible…And the price is right too! Ages: 7+ Cost: $
Ken Jennings Books Ken Jennings has a great series of books called the Junior Genius Guides. There are currently six books. They are great. Titles include Outer Space, Ancient Egypt, U.S. Presidents, Greek Mythology, Human Body and Maps and Geography. These books are witty, memorable, and entertaining. Gifted kids who don’t always enjoy non-fiction books will still enjoy these while learning useful facts to impress their friends, parents, and teachers. Several years later my kids still occasionally quote information from these books. Also, check out Ken’s other books such as “Because I Said So.” I would recommend this as a gift for gifted 6 year olds. Cost: $ Suggested Ages: 6-10
Laptop Stand Desk While not a fun gift, this one is practical and inexpensive for what it is. With virtual learning becoming so prevalent, kids, especially older kids may want something a little more “adult” to keep their laptops on while they work on schoolwork. We purchased one of these, and it’s pretty good for the price. Cost: $$ Suggested Ages: 12+
24 Game This is a low-cost card game that is excellent for improving the automatic math skills of kids (and adults). Practice math facts while having fun. In short, you have to find. away to make 24 out of the numbers on the cards with addition, multiplication, subtraction, and division. There is a single-digit version and a double-digit version of the game. Cost: $ Suggested Ages: 8+ (Or younger)
Sphero Mini A programmable robotic ball that helps kids learn to code while playing games. Also check out the larger-sized Bolt version of this excellent, fun toy. Age: 5+ Cost: $$
FamZoo.com Financial Literacy Debit Card Okay, this one is a standout in this list of gifts because this one is a gift that keeps giving, and can help families by changing the way you give allowance and rewards. It’s a Visa debit card for each kid in your family. You can transfer money to their cards when they earn it or regularly automatically. Kids can even set up an account for the charity. My kids have benefitted from making their purchases and getting a handle on how much they have to spend. Check out my FamZoo review or go directly to FamZoo. Age: 5+ Cost: $ – $$$
Terrarium Kit Inexpensive terrarium kit that glows in the dark. It is also a bit of a craft. Fun to assemble and a great STEM experience. Cost: $ Ages: 4 – 7
Three SticksGeometry Game Great game for sharpening geometry skills and creativity while having fun. Award-winning. Cost: $$ Ages: 8+
Rocketbook Everlast Fusion This is a great birthday or back-to-school gift for gifted 11-year-olds and older kids (High School or even adults with lots of meetings or anyone who takes lots of notes). Much more than just a notebook: this is an erasable notebook supported by an app that is used to take photos of the notes and send them to the cloud for permanent storage and organization. For a lower-cost option, look at the original Rocketbook Everlast or Read my full review. Cost: $$
The Zoob Builderz STEM Challenge Kit This was better than I thought and my whole family enjoys it. This is a “build-it kit” with many parts that fit together, wheels, rubber bands, and string. They give you challenges, such as building a car with a retractable roof, with little guidance, and you have to figure out your solution to build the car and the roof with the parts provided. This is a great engineering toy for kids because it’s so flexible. Cost: $$ Suggested Ages: The ages for this kit are 6+, but don’t be put off by that if you have an older kid. I’d say up to 9-11 years old (or possibly beyond) would like to have this as a gift.
Aerogarden Hydroponic Garden Kids love to grow plants, especially when the results are edible. Aerogarden has some great options for kids or the whole family to learn about plants and enjoy some fresh herbs, salad greens, tomatoes, peppers, or flowers. Several levels/options are available. Gardeners aged 6 and up might enjoy the Herbie pizza activity kit. There is also a nice 3-pod solution or 6 pod solution available. You may also be interested in the more advanced ultra kit. Cost: $$- $$$ Suggested Ages: The ages for this kit are 6+. The Herbie kit is specially made for kids, but the other kits are great gifts for kids 10 and up.
Tinkering Labs Robotics Engineering Kit DIY robotics engineering kit for children age 7 to 11 years old. The kit includes 10 electronics challenges that let kids use their imaginations. Cost: $$ Suggested Ages: 7 – 11
MEL’s monthly STEM kit for kids This looks like a great idea, but I haven’t tried it. Amazon will send your child a STEM toy each month. You can select their age range (3-4, 5-7, 8-13 years old) and the rest will happen automatically. Cost: $$ Suggested Ages: Ages 3-13
Magic School Bus Chemistry Kit The Magic School Bus Science kit has lots of great science activities that will keep your child busy and engaged. Cost: $$$ Suggested Ages: 5-12+
Lab Coat Who doesn’t look smart wearing a lab coat? And they offer special insignias for doctors, vets, STEM, and Rocket Scientists… Basic coats cost about $16 on Amazon, but you can go up from there. My girls had fun with these and used them for Halloween costumes more than once. Cost: $ Suggested Ages 6-10
A custom-made puzzle Take a photo of the boy or girl doing a puzzle, then have a puzzle made on Amazon based on that photo. For a few years, I had a tradition going where I had a photo of my girls doing a puzzle in which they were doing a puzzle, doing a puzzle…kind of fun but it got too difficult to work out the detail in the photos because they canvas is a bit small. Nevertheless, a fun and unusual gift! Cost: $ Suggested Ages: 5-9
Educational Placemats Let the super-smart kid in your life squeeze in some extra learning while they eat. It is surprisingly effective, and I have to say that some of these mats are true works of art. There are many of these with maps, presidents, periodic table of elements, bugs, planets, weather, types of butterflies, rocks/geology, astronomy, and multiplication tables. My kids learned a lot from having these placemats around. Still, today, even though my daughter is 12 years old, she remembers facts she learned when she was a toddler of 3 or 4. Cost: $ Suggested Ages: 1 – 7
Classic Games These two classic games allow for family fun and keep your child thinking: Chinese Checkers and Scrabble. Cost: $ Suggested Ages: 8+
LED Backpack – PIX Programmable LED Backpack This gift is pricey, and I haven’t had a chance to get my hands on one, but I know plenty of kids who would have a great time customizing their backpacks digitally with LEDs that can display millions of colors. Sky’s the limit on what could be displayed: Favorite bands, logos, sayings, perhaps even equations for some of the true math nerdy children I know. It even does animations. It’s roomy and can hold a laptop. Age: 8+ Cost: $$$
There is no shortage of great books for advanced kids. Here are some book ideas for kids of various ages. Depending on how advanced they are they may benefit from any of these.
Ken Jennings Books Ken Jennings has a great series of books called the Junior Genius Guides. There are currently six books. They are great. Titles include Outer Space, Ancient Egypt, U.S. Presidents, Greek Mythology, Human Body and Maps and Geography. These books are witty, memorable, and entertaining. Gifted kids who don’t always enjoy non-fiction books will still enjoy these while learning useful facts to impress their friends, parents, and teachers. Several years later my kids still occasionally quote information from these books. Available as a box set. Also, check out Ken’s other books such as “Because I Said So.” I would recommend this as a gift for gifted 6-year-olds. Cost: $ Suggested Ages: 6-10
Logic Puzzle books Your young genius may also enjoy the Perplexors series of logic puzzle books. They recommend ages 8-10 for this book, but they have several levels. These are fun, interesting, and inexpensive. Older kids (13+) might like “The Master Theorem – A Book of Puzzles, Intrigue, and Wit” — these are definitely “next level.” See more logic puzzles below. Cost: $ Suggested Age: 8-10 (and 13+)
Analogy Challenges This is a great educational gift suggestion. These books come in several levels. Cost: $ Suggested Age: 7-10
Greg Tang Math Books For younger kids who are just starting to learn math concepts, there are some great books by Greg Tang. For example, “Math Potatoes: Mind-Stretching Brain Food” and “The Grapes of Math” provide simple but helpful math riddles for kids. These are fun, interesting books, and as a former elementary school math teacher, I recommend them–they surely help kids think about math differently, and many kids will find them enjoyable. Cost: $ Suggested Ages: 5-9
Drawing Books Some very good books teach drawing skills–very important for the future inventor. I especially like this one, which teaches you how to draw in 3-D / Perspective drawing. Cost: $ Suggested Ages: 7-13
Make Your Own books If your child is a literary genius who would rather write than read, they may like to get started with these short blank books. They make a nice keepsake too. My kids had a great time with them. I will say that it got to be expensive to keep ordering more. Cost: $$ Suggested Ages: 5-8
Best Gifts For Smart Toddlers
Here are a few gift ideas for the youngest children. Given a chance, and some encouragement, kids can learn quite a bit from some of these.
Busy Board – For the youngest toddlers, the busy board is a time-tested idea. This one has plenty of gadgets to keep your child busy. Cost: $$ Suggested ages 1+
Gears Building Toys – This will keep the smart kids in your life busy. Understanding the physics of gears is a great brain-building activity that reinforces dexterity, creative thinking, and motor skills. Cost: $$ Suggested ages 3+
LeapFrog DVD series These are great for teaching kids to read, and they like to watch them. There is a whole series to meet kids where they are on the road to learning to read (and math, too!). BTW, if you’re interested in teaching your kids to read early, consider Hooked on Phonics. BTW, you may also want to have a look at my list of educational kid’s TV shows for other worthwhile entertainment. Cost: $ Suggested Ages: 1-5+
Pengoloo This game is great for memory skill development, color recognition, and more. A fun, very good gift for toddlers. It’s a game that people of any age can enjoy, but of course, the best part is seeing your kids enjoying the game, especially when they beat the adults! I recommend this as a top game for toddlers. Cost: $ Suggested Ages 3-6+
Periodic Table Building Blocks Well-made, non-toxic blocks with the periodic table of elements on them. You may need a chemist to go with these for maximum educational value, but they’re cool, nerdy, and probably will result in someone learning something about the elements. Cost: $$ Suggested ages: 2 years+
Gift Ideas for Gifted Older Kids
Microscopes are a staple of brainydom. Try to get a decent one, though–in my opinion, there is nothing worthwhile under the $75 range, as far as I know. The very cheap microscopes are just frustrating and fall short. They all have issues with lighting and don’t do well with magnification–that means they’ll be abandoned after a few uses.
Carson BugLoupe 5x Magnifier (HU-55) My only exception is for younger kids: there is something called a “bug microscope” which lets kids magnify a bug from the top and bottom as it walks around in a small container; these are only $10-15 and are great fun for some kids. Cost: $ Suggested Ages: 3-6
Otherwise, if you’re on a budget, please read the reviews on Amazon and find the best microscope you can for your price range–you AND your smart child will benefit. Here are some of my favorite general science microscopes:
Celestron 5 megapixel Infinaview Another great microscope is the -I LOVE THIS MICROSCOPE! It has a great LCD screen so your kids can see what the magnifications are easy. We have this microscope, and I can tell you it is super fun. I got it for my daughter when she was 6. She still uses it sometimes — now she’s 13. Once you have something on the scope, you can snap an image of it with the press of a button. I love this microscope, but note that it is meant to look “at” things–this wouldn’t be good for looking at cells–more for examining bugs, coins, fabrics, foods, etc…”close up.” It comes with a rechargeable battery which makes it great to carry around to various places for microscope fun. I know this is a bit pricey, but it is very good. This is a great science toy for boys and girls of all ages. I am recommending this for gifted children aged 4 and up. Cost: $$$ Suggested Ages 4-17
Climate Science, Astronomy, and Telescopes
Telescopes A relatively pricey venture for a good, worthwhile telescope. Also, if you live in an urban/suburban area, it may be difficult to get the most from a telescope due to light pollution. Expect to spend more than $100 on a good one. For example, a well-rated telescope in that price range: Celestron 127EQ PowerSeeker Telescope – any budding astronomer will prize such a fantastic gift. Cost: $$$ Suggested Ages 5-17
Weather Forecasting and Climate Science There are a few interesting kits to be had in this category. For example, Weather Station Science Kit seems like a great gift for a kid interested in meteorology. Cost: $ Suggested Ages 8+
Anatomy Skeleton Floor Puzzle, Squishy Human Anatomy and human body model These are great learning toys. My kids love the squishy human toy. I didn’t figure they would keep using it, but actually, they return to it now and then, and it makes a cool display toy too. It really “adds some science” to their room. Suggested Ages 7-10 Cost: $
Anatomy placemats These are also good, but some people might not like having an anatomy lesson at the dinner table–I think it’s a great opportunity for a child to learn about the human body. Cost: $ Suggested Ages 7-12
Building, Engineering, and Robotics Gifts
Meccano Robot Kit This is fun and a great introduction to robotics. It does require some assembly, but my 9-year-old loves it, so that could be worth it and part of the educational value. You program this robot by training its limbs and also get it to move and record your voice via an app. The robot recognizes thousands of phrases through its voice recognition software. Cost: There are two versions, the MeccaNoid G15 2.0 2nd Edition (Cost: $$) and the four-foot-tall Meccano MeccaNoid G15 KS Cost: $$$. There is also an expansion kit that looks like even more fun. Suggested Ages Boys and girls 8-10+ years.
Architectural Engineering Kit Science experiment & model building kit. Twenty models of structural elements and real-world buildings! Learn architectural design with this Thames and Kosmos award-winning gift.
Remote Control/Motor for paper airplanes-I wish they had this when I was a kid. The PowerUp 4.0 is a rechargeable, remote control motor that you can attach to any paper airplane. This means you can experiment and tweak the design, try different papers, etc, to see what flies the best and is easiest to control. You need a Bluetooth enabled smartphone or tablet to control the device. Gets great reviews. Cost: $$ Suggested Ages: 8-10 years
OWI Air-Powered Car This is an interesting educational toy car that runs on compressed air. Note that there are a lot of assembly required, and some of it is a little bit complicated, but very worthwhile. Cost: $ Suggested Ages 10*-99 (Ten-year-olds will probably need some help with assembly)
Geomag 110-Piece Color Construction Set This looks like a very fun magnetic building kit. The pieces are larger than for older kids, so they should be safer for smaller kids. I’d still use caution to purchase this for kids under 5 (or if you have kids under 5 in the house). Looks like a fantastic kit. Cost: $$ Suggested Ages 3+
OWI Solar Powered Robot Two levels of building so beginners and more advanced kids can be engaged. It has 14 modes. Cost: $ Suggested Ages: 8-15
Engineering Toy Roominate and GoldieBlox are two excellent choices for girls (and boys). I highly recommend these engineering toys for kids ages 4-5 (or even 6-7) –my girls enjoyed them. There are several great kits for both of them, so definitely search Roominate and GoldieBlox on Amazon to see the variety and price points for these gifts. They will pay dividends. Cost: $ – $$ Suggested Ages 4-7
Lego Mindstorms Robotics Kits This is a relatively expensive birthday, Hanukkah, or Christmas gift, but the payoffs are huge if your child takes to this. Your brainy child will learn programming, physics, and many more things that will be very important to the economy in their lifetimes. There are several different kits you can buy, for example, the EV3 kit and the lower-cost Robot Inventor Kit; Lego Mindstorms kits are the de facto standard robotics kids used in teaching at K-12 schools. I strongly recommend this as a gift. This is the ultimate STEM teaching toy for girls and boys of all ages. Cost: $$$$ Suggested Ages 7-16+
KANO Kit If the price for Lego Mindstorms is out of the question, various other robotics kits can be great fun for kids. You might also consider a KANO kit that teaches kids about building computers using the Raspberry PI. I’d recommend this kit strongly for those super-intelligent kids who’ve shown an interest in technology and engineering. A great present for the gifted who want to know how computers work. Cost: $$$$ Suggested Ages 7-16+
This a great middle-of-the-road chemistry set Also, from Thames and Kosmos, this is a more in-depth chemistry set than the previous one. I would get this one for a more serious science-loving kid. Cost: $$ Suggested Ages: 10-15+
This one is the ultimate set This is an even more serious chemistry set for teenagers / older kids ready to work through high school preparations for chemistry. This would be an amazing science gift for a kid with a deep interest. Cost: $$$ Suggested Ages 12-15
Happy Atoms set This is another great gift from Thames and Kosmos. It is a magnetic molecular modeling set and is a rather serious gift for the serious chemistry brainiac. There is also a larger atom modeling set available ($$$) Cost: $$ Suggested Ages 10-17
Other Chemistry Brainy Gifts
Beaker Mug This could be a fun gift for older kids who love Chemistry. It’s a mug that looks like a beaker–it even has a caffeine molecule on it.
Hand Boiler Fun, novel gift. This is just a fun, nerdy present. Kills will love watching the liquid boil by the heat of their hands. They can learn about atmospheric pressure and liquids/gas. Cost: $ Suggested ages 9+
MudWatt – Grow your living fuel cell – Clean energy from mud. This is a living fuel cell that feeds on mud (and other stuff your budding scientist may decide to put into it). This has won multiple awards and has some great STEM lessons. Great smart gift for smart kids. Cost: $$ Suggested ages 8+
Fractiles 7 Award-winning fun. This is somewhere between a math activity, a creative jaunt, and meditation. Kids will enjoy creating fractal patterns with diamond and square magnetic tiles. Cost: $$ Suggested Ages 8+
Prime Climb An award-winning math game. 2-4 person game uses multiplication and division. The manufacturer recommends it for ages 10+, but it should be okay for younger kids who are good at math. Cost: $$ Suggested Ages 10+
Fun Math Books For younger kids who are just starting to learn math concepts, there are some great books by Greg Tang. For example, “Math Potatoes: Mind-Stretching Brain Food” and “The Grapes of Math” provide simple but helpful math riddles for kids. These are fun, interesting books, and I recommend them. Cost: $ Suggested Ages 5-8
Three SticksGeometry Game Great game for sharpening geometry skills and creativity while having fun. Award-winning. Cost: $$ Ages: 8+
Sick Science Fast Physics Kit A fun way to learn about inertia and some other physics concepts. Smart kids will enjoy the activities in this kit. Cost: $ Suggested Ages 10+
Chaos Machine A fun and interesting way to learn a bit about chaos theory Suggested Ages 12+
Chaos Tower This kit offers some great Rube Goldberg fun + great physics learning from this kit. Cost: $$$ Suggested Ages 10+
Car Engine Model This is a great brainy gift for kids who like building models, and especially if they are interested in cars and engines. This is a “working” model of an internal combustion engine (it runs on an electric motor). It’s meant for older kids, but could be a project a parent and younger kid could work together on. Cost: $$ Suggested Ages 12+
Plasma Ball This is somewhere between science and fun. Plasma balls are the staple of any smart mad scientist. Cost: $$ Suggested Ages 8-11+
Spherio Ball This is another toy that may be a stretch for educational, but it sure looks fun and could have some educational value in physics. It’s basically a remote controlled ball–kids can build mazes and use ramps to get it to do some really fun tricks. Cost: $$$ Suggested Ages 7+
Kinetic Art Science Kit This is a great kit for kids interested in art, science, physics, or/and astronomy. Cost $ Suggested Ages: 8-15 Year Olds
Magentic Levitation base This is something an older kid might like. It basically “levitates” lighter metal objects (you provide those). It is pretty cool. Cost: $$ Suggested Ages 5-9
Floating Globe This is basically a 6 inch globe that spins for quite a long time. Another cool but simple item kids of all ages would love. Here’s a video to give you the idea of what this miracle of physics actually is. Cost: $$$ Suggested Ages 8-11
Magic Penny Toy – This is a bit unusual. Make sculptures and do activities using British pennies (US Pennies don’t work because of their composition). Teaches kids math, science, creativity…just fun.
Geodes This brainy gift is great for any budding geologist. You get unopened geodes — kids can break them open themselves. Cost: $ Suggested Ages 4-9+
Rock and Mineral Collection Kids who collect rocks will like this. Note that the packaging is not fancy, but the actual rocks you get are very cool and numerous. Cost: $
Metal Detector Great for beachcombing. There are a a variety of metal detectors kids might like–some of the ones that are meant for kids, just aren’t that good. This is a good compromise, but if it’s too pricey have a look at some of the other choices. Cost: $$ Suggest Ages 6-14
Crystal Growing Kits – These are always fun and interesting. There are several levels to these kits. This one is a bit more on the pricey side, but is more complete. Cost: $$ Suggest Ages 10+
Levitation Globe This is not the greatest political globe, but still really cool because it floats magnetically. Cost: $$
Maps and Geography A great book by Ken Jennings – Jeopardy! superstar Ken Jennings offers his insights about maps in this excellent book. Cost: $
Snap Circuits – These are good for kids of all ages…Snap circuits makes various kits for several age groups, for instance the Snap Jr. kit is for younger children. If your super-smart kid takes to these kits, they’ll have an advantage for the rest of their lives. Cost: $ Suggested Ages 6-16+ These are invaluable at any age for the budding engineer
The Raspberry Pi learning computer – This credit card sized, $35 device is an excellent tool for teaching a child how computers and electronics work. Here is an article that explains the device better. This is probably something a parent would want to work on together with their son or daughter–at least a first. Having said that, I am sure there are plenty of genius kids out there who will know what to do with it. There’s plenty of information on the internet about this device and it has really become a standard. Cost: $$ Suggested Ages 7-16+
Makey Makey Kit This is sold as “an invention kit for everyone”, and it definitely is fun and cool. No wonder it’s an Amazon best-seller. Turn anything into a keypad for your computer (Mac or PC). For example, you could make a few bananas into a music keyboard. Cost: $$ Suggested Ages 7+
The Kano Kit – This is a very interesting kit for kids 6-12. I’ve heard nothing but great things about it. Also based on the Raspberry Pi, it seems like a great way to get your genius child on the path to computer programming and becoming a “maker”. Definitely consider this gift if it’s in the budget Cost: $$$ Suggested Ages 6-12+
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the idea of getting your favorite brilliant kid some sort of computer of their own.
Tablet ComputersTablet computers are a good gift option — consider going with a cheaper Android tablet such as the surprisingly very low-cost Amazon Kindle Fire. My girls both have one and they absolutely love it. My wife also has one and she loves hers too. It’s great for reading books, playing educational games (see my list of Amazon Fire Educational Games) and watching videos. Ours have lasted a few years. Many public libraries now offer free, downloadable e-books that will work with the Amazon Fire. Note that the Amazon Fire tablets do not allow you access to the Google Play Store–you have to use the apps that are on the Amazon App Store. There is a special “kids” version of the tablet that costs a bit more and has a few additional software features, plus it comes with a durable case…You may not need that though– the regular Fire does have the “Kids’ Free Time” app on it that lets you set limits for time and which apps they can use. We just have the regular 7″ Kindle Fire and it works great. Cost: $$ Suggested Ages 5-16+
Google Chromebook I am a huge fan of the Google Chromebook because it is so simple and malware/virus free. They are currently priced from about $150, most of the best values in Chromebooks are in the $200-300 range. ) for these. Recently some Chromebooks have been enabled for the Google Android App Store, greatly improving their usefulness. The Toshiba Chromebook 2 is slated to have this enabled later this year. Cost: $$$ Suggested Ages 5-16+
Games and puzzles for smart kids
There are of course the usual suspects such as Chess Sets…but there are some other games for various ages.
Cool Circuits by Sciencewiz This is a cool looking puzzle game. Complete the circuit to light up the board. 2013 Puzzle of the Year. The game is marked as 8+, but I think some seven-year-olds could enjoy it too. Cost: $ Suggested Ages 8+
Melissa and Doug Suspend This balance game is even cooler than it looks. I know you don’t usually think of Melissa and Doug gifts for older kids, but you can make an exception here. Cost: $ Ages 8+
Pengoloo – This is a great memory game for people of all ages, but works fine for toddlers and up. Helps with memory and color recognition. Nice wooden pieces. Cost: $ Suggested ages 4+
Quardillions – Great strategy puzzle meant for one player. Cost: $ Ages 7+
Marble Maze – One of my favorites. Learn about gravity and logic with this addictive and challenging gravity game. I strongly recommend this-my 6 and 7-year-olds both really loved this (back when they were that age) and it is truly educational. I frequently give this gift for children’s birthdays. Cost: $ Suggested Ages 6+
Quoridor is another good one. It’s meant for kids who are six and up…and definitely something a brainy kid would enjoy. Suggested Ages 6-10+
ThinkFun Tilt This interesting logic game is loads of fun and a bit challenging. Cost: $ Suggested Ages 8-15+
<Laser Maze – This is a logic game that uses a real laser. It’s got some things in common with the marble maze above. This is a fun single player game. The same manufacturer makes a two player laser game (ThinkFun Laser Chess). Cost: $ Suggested ages 8+
Mini Drone This is really fun, and easy to fly. It’s an indoor mini drone for beginners that will teach your child the thinking and basics needed to move on to more advanced drones. I have found it to be pretty indestructible…And the price is right too! Ages: 7+ Cost: $
Remote controlled airplanes and helicopters can be very educational and lots of fun. There are many levels of price to these… For example, the Holy Stone drones are easy to fly but the cheaper remote controlled drones, helicopters and planes can be just as great. Adult supervision is probably required, especially for younger kids. Try to find one with a video camera built in. Cost: $$ Suggested Ages 6-16+
The 3D printer is the ultimate gift. Probably best for your older brainiac or with help from an able adult.
MakerBob Replicator Mini+ The MakerBot is a popular 3D printer that has lots of support from the community. You can print some amazingly cool things. Kids who learn a little 3D design software can create whatever they can imagine (and that fits on the small format printer). Expect to spend $750-$2500+ for entry-level models (which can do quite a bit). Cost: $$$$ Suggested Ages: 7-16+ (younger children will need the help of an adult, at least to get started with this)
Da Vinci Nano 3D Printer White 3D Printer The da Vinci mini is an affordable 3D printer. It uses non-toxic PLA filaments to print on a 5″x 5″ stage. This would be a good introductory 3D printer, it’s relatively cheap, and it’s compact enough to put right next to your computer. Cost: $$$ Suggested Ages: 8+ (with adult help) or 14+
FLASHFORGE 3D Printer Adventurer 3C Great all-around 3D printer with 150mm x 150mm x 150mm output. Reputed to be very easy to set up and use. Cost: $$$ Suggested Ages: 8+ with adult supervision/help.
Creatures, Fungi and Plants
Butterfly gardens and Lady Bug Land or if you’re a little more daring, you could go for a pet hissing cockroach. We have never given our kids a hissing cockroach, but both of our daughters loved the butterflies and lady bugs. Cost: $$ Suggested Ages 3-10+
Ant farms from Uncle Milton or other manufacturers…there are some great ones out now that use gel instead of sand…and have lights built into them. Very educational and fun! Cost: $ Suggested Ages 3-10+
Rolly Polly Farms – This is a great idea. Comes with a voucher for rolly pollies. Cost: $ Suggest Ages: 5+
Shrimp Bubble Ecosystem Kit This is a maintenance-free shrimp habitat. No daily feeding, No filtration, No frequent water changes. The kit comes with 3 or 4 marine shrimp. Cost: $$ Suggested ages: 8+
Frog hatchery – Your child will receive a tadpole in the mail and watch it grow into an adult frog. Beware this is really a long-term commitment–frogs can live many years. The frogs in this kit are aquatic which makes them a bit easier to take care of. Cost: $ Suggested Ages 5-10+
Sea Monkeys or Triops This are cool, easy to care for pets. My kids loved having sea monkeys. Consider getting a wrist watch aquarium to transport a few of them to show friends. Fun, educational and interesting. Cost: $ Suggested Ages 5-10
Worm Farm – This is a little different. Your favorite intelligent kid can observe earthworms in action and learn about their important place in our ecosystem by helping things decompose/compost. If worms are a bit much for you, you could just get this composting observation system…it’s a simple way to watch how things get broken down in nature. I’d say even younger kids, maybe even three and four-year-olds can get something out of this, and if it is maintained, the worms can last for years. We’ve had ours going on six years. Sounds strange to some people, but worms are kind of amazing! Cost: $ Suggested ages 5+
Grow Mushrooms: A grow your own Oyster Mushrooms kit and a grow your own shitake mushroom kit. This is cool and unusual. Some of the kits use organic bases for the mushrooms…great news for your dinner table. It’s definitely fun and interesting for kids to see how mushrooms grow–a sort of different experience from some of the seed/plant kits you can get. I recommend this as a gift for kids of any age, but probably for most kids; the ones who are older than six or seven years old will get the most out of it. Cost: $ Suggested Ages 7-10+
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There are plenty of parents who will join me in my unhappy feelings about the gift bags that kids are given at their friends’ birthday parties. Of course we’re happy to share the joy of a family celebrating their child and the accomplishment of getting a year older. And it isn’t that I am ungrateful for all the effort that the parents have gone to in order to have the party to begin with–I am. I have done it enough to know what a pain it really is…but I have to speak up about the gift bags full of party favors that the kids get to take home with them from your typical party.
JUNK is the word that comes to mind. Junk food and junk toys. Frustratingly useless stuff that should never even be manufactured is thrown into fancy paper or plastic bags and given to the kids.
Let’s talk about junk food first. I realize that many parents don’t give a thought to the ingredients in the cakes they buy at the grocery store. Still, wherever it came from unless specified otherwise, you can be sure it is full of sugar (and worrisome chemicals–I won’t even get into the dyes used in some icings.).
It’s a cake; it should have sugar, right? Well that’s true, but stores go way overboard, especially with the icings–it is really an unhealthy amount for an average-sized piece. And usually, that cake is eaten at the end of the party. So first, the kids eat some sugary cake, and then they are handed a bag full of candy with more sugar.
Aside from the behavioral aspects of so much sugar, I want to request that parents stop diabeating (to use a word from Urban Dictionary) our kids. Diabetes is at an all-time high, and it is so sad to see obese children–in many cases, it could have easily been prevented with healthier diets and exercise. What is given out at parties just makes giving out harmful foods normal, when it could just as easily go the other way.
With a little creativity (and perhaps a homemade cake made from scratch) children’s exposure to sugar and chemicals in the name of a happy birthday could be greatly reduced. BTW, if you stop and think about the taste of some of these cakes that everyone seems to think are so delicious, they just taste like chemicals. Try it yourself the next time you get a chance to taste a grocery store cake. It’s not good.
All kids look forward to and even expect to get party favors. But can’t we change the tradition of omitting sweets? My kids know they can have something from that bag on the way home, but if I have anything to do with it, they never see the rest of the candy again…straight into the trash when they’re not looking.
Happily, I can report that they often don’t even want to try those candies. So what a waste of money and effort for the gift bag giver, right? It doesn’t help that my kids usually are unhappy with the limitations placed on their newly acquired desserts…making me the bad guy. Lollipops, Swedish Fish, candy rings…nothing but sugar and chemicals…they weren’t necessary to begin with. Let’s find better things to include in those bags!
Then there are the toys. I think most of the stuff comes either from the dollar store or maybe from Oriental Trading Company. Usually, they break easily or never really did what it was supposed to do to begin with…the only useful thing I usually find in those same gift bags are pencils…but oddly, at least going back a few years, the pencils were given out at a party after party for my two and three-year-olds…and since these were normal-adult sized pencils, they weren’t something that my kids could make the best use of. (I am happy to report I have a lifetime supply of colorful pencils stored away.)
Ok, so I hate to complain without providing ideas for solving the problem. First, I think it is useful to point out that the parents probably wind up spending at least 3 or 4 dollars per gift bag. That money could surely be spent in better ways–maybe on just one useful thing that goes with the party’s theme.
For example, for a pool party, you might give away goggles, diving toys or maybe those pool noodles. Maybe for a dinosaur-themed party you could give away a book about dinosaurs or dino action figures. For some parties, the gifts might be something from the party itself–for instance, if you have a craft party, the craft the kids create would be the thing they take home or maybe they get a pack of sculpting clay.
How about a paint-it-yourself birdhouse? Maybe even include some birdseed. Another idea is to give away plants or crafts (or both) — for instance tree in a box – This option was very popular at my child’s 7th birthday party. You can even get Giant Sequoia seeds.
Another idea is to go to Ikea and purchase live bamboo plants, and if you want to get fancy, buy some of the 75-cent vases to go with them. Kids are surprised and enjoy caring for them, and they’re really difficult to kill. This year we purchased a cactus plant for each kid who came to the party. They loved it! By the way, I saw the sale depicted below at Ikea on a recent trip (September 2019)…
If it’s within the budget, you could hire a caricature artist for the party. The party favor could be a caricature of each of the guests. This is truly fun for the kids, and in the best circumstances, will be keepsakes that the child will treasure.
Here are some possible suggestions for party favors instead of candy that wouldn’t be expensive, but at least go a bit beyond the usual junk:
Mechanical Pencils (I know what I said about pencils above, but mechanical pencils have a special effect on many kids–for whatever reason, they think they’re exciting and want to use them. Since you can get a 24-pack for less than 10 dollars, it can be a good deal for a worthwhile party favor!)
We’ve also recently been to a dolphin themed birthday where the hosts gave each child a hula hoop with an inflatable dolphin hanging in the middle. At “Five Below” you can get a hula hoop for about $2.
There are lots of other clever ideas. For example, we recently went to a pool party where the hosts gave pineapples to each guest. The pineapples were decorated with sunglasses and Hawaiian Leis. This fantastic because aside from the novelty it gives kids a reminder that fruits can be fun and interesting.
Aside from things like that, I would recommend that parents try to stay away from giving any food at all in the party favor bags if you can.
Time to get a little more creative on how to celebrate your child’s birthday in the time of quarantine. After the birthday party parade is over, here are some suggestions to help you host a virtual, online birthday party. Since virtual doesn’t require “local” the people mentioned below are from all over the USA including California, New York, and Massachusetts.
Apart Party – They hit the spot with this offering: Games, laughs, and magic fun.
Bubble Dad – Bubbles and birthdays, what else do I need to say. Bubble Dad will host a virtual bubble show with magic and more.
Circus Science Zoom Show – Greg May has been entertaining people for years, particularly in Howard County, Maryland. This former Ringling Brothers Clown has brought some science to his act and perfected it online for virtual kids Zoom parties. Greg is great. Sure to be fun.
Scott Dietrich Magic Show – Scott Dietrich offers to bring his award winning magic to your child’s birthday party virtually. Magic, animals, and even balloon sculpting.
Tricky Tim Magic Show – Tricky Tim’s magic offering looks like a load of fun. Save the birthday party and invite Tim!
Jumpin’ Jams – Virtual music birthday. This is a fantastic way to have some fun and bring music to your guests.
CyberJams – A rockin’ 45 minute virtual birthday party, sure to get kids’ attention. The birthday boy or girl will take part in a musical performance.
The Pit – Since you can’t really “go” anywhere to celebrate your kid’s birthday, why not go somewhere you wouldn’t probably go “virtually.” The Pit is one of those opportunities. A Broadway impromptu performance. How cool!
Guardian Adventures – Take an online interactive journey with your birthday hero at the center of the story. Fight monsters and save the world along the way. Possible themes include: Medieval, Warrior Princess, Superheroes, and Zombies.
Virtual Game Truck Party – Let the gaming experts from Game Truck handle the fun. Gaming party with kids together online.
The Art Farm – Consider streaming a live, virtual class from New York City’s famous “Art Farm.” Choose from arts, cooking, music, and more.
IMAG Museum – This world-famous museum in Florida can help you with a fun and educational birthday party for the cost of a $25 (or more) donation. Host a STEM-wars party.
Mad Science – Entertaining virtual kids parties with science.
Science Guys of Baltimore – Live stream birthday parties that consist of a 35-40 minute show with experiments, bubbling potions, and explosions.
Sky Zone – Sky Zone is offering FREE virtual birthday parties. See their video so you’ll know what the party is like. Unfortunately, there is a waiting list for the parties at this time–but why not sign up, heck, have two parties.
By now, most people have probably figured out a video chat platform that works for them. But in case you want to host your own party, I might suggest Google Meet or Houseparty. Both are great choices for easy setup and universal access.
Are you looking for some ideas for places to have your child’s birthday party in Baltimore County? If you need ideas, here is my list of birthday party places around Baltimore County and other areas of Maryland, including nearby in Howard CountyMontgomery County, and Anne Arundel County for toddlers, kids, tweens, and teens.
First, here are some of the more typical birthday party place ideas from around Baltimore County. These are popular and possibly done too often (I am purposely not mentioning bouncy parties–I am so tired of them!), but kids of the right ages will usually have a great time:
(Ages 8+) Bowling parties are a great idea for older kids. The younger ones who may have trouble handling the ball will enjoy it less, and may get frustrated, even with bumpers in place. I’d definitely, strongly recommend using a duckpin alley because the balls are smaller and lighter so it’s a better venue for birthdays, especially for the younger kids. There is one in Parkville that offers kid’s parties. Locations: Parkville ✳Party Favor Ideas: ✳LED Rubberband Helicopters ✳(I love these!) or Rocket Copters
(Ages 4+) Kids love going to the movies. Most people don’t think of it, but you can host a great party at some movie theaters. A great example in Balt. County is Cinemark in Towson. The theater has a party room, and if you have twenty or more guests, you can even do a private movie screening. Pretty cool! With the right movie, this party is a good idea for any age, and it’s definitely a great party place for toddlers. Locations: Towson ✳Party Favor Ideas: Kid’s Card Games, Mini Uno Cards, Puffy Kush Balls
Gymnastics Parties(Ages 2+) These parties tend to work out great — especially for toddler birthdays and for other younger kids. Everyone has fun running, jumping, and playing on gymnastics equipment, not to mention it’s great exercise. There are lots of gyms that offer birthday parties in Baltimore County. For example Rebounders in Timonium offers great parties as does Gymboree on Rossville Rd. ✳Party Favor Ideas: Ribbon Wands, Necklaces, Jump Ropes
The National Aquarium – This is a great opportunity to take a group to the aquarium. There are a couple of ways I would suggest doing this. You can officially book a party at the aquarium, and that makes sense if you want to have a reserved space, etc. But depending on how many people you wish to bring, you may be able to work it out by purchasing a membership. Memberships are a great value, for instance at the $250 “Ocean Ambassador” level you can bring in 4 adults and 6 kids (age 21 or younger) for a year. And you can come at any time – no timed entries like regular tickets. For bigger groups, you can get a group rate. (At this time, due to Covid, hosted birthday parties may not be available)
Wonderfly Arena(Ages 3+) This is definitely a fun kind of party for even the tiny tots to teenagers. Imagine a party in a hamster ball. Just keep in mind that keeping these giant balls moving is alot of exercise with lots of motion–meaning people who aren’t in the best shape or get dizzy might not have fun. They do have other party options though! Locations: Arbutus ✳Wonderfly Party Favor Ideas: Silly Putty Balls
Chuck E Cheese’s(Ages 3-7) I am not the biggest fan of Chuck E Cheese, but I know many families like it. There is a location in Catonsville. Token prices are low—maybe around 20 cents each depending on which package you get. This is a great party venue for toddlers and younger children.
Urban Air – Lots of fun attractions for a birthday party here. Located in Towson, this is a good option and kids are definitely going to have fun.
And here are some more unusual ideas. These parties are possibly more memorable because they are more likely to be “one offs” that none of their classmates or friends have already done:
Escape Room Party(Age ) There are a few escape room locations in the Baltimore area. The one I have experience with is Breakout Games (Timonium and Columbia). They offer several types of games. I am told that the best choice for kids is Museum Heist. They have no party room, and there isn’t really a group rate. You can just visit their website and purchase the number of tickets you need.Please note that you have to have an adult in the party and the maximum number of people is 8. So the most you can have is 7 kids. Still this is a great party, especially for older kids (Younger kids might find it frustrating rather than fun).
Fencing(Ages 8+) I am not sure if there is a fencing club in Baltimore County, however in Baltimore City there’s Chesapeake Fencing Club and then there’s the Baltimore Fencing Center in Columbia in Ellicott City, MD . Both of which have a great facility for unusual birthday parties. Guests learn the basics of fencing and can get a little practice in at the party. If you’re looking a different kind of party location, this is your place. Locations: Ellicott City, Baltimore City
Nature Center Parties(Ages 2+) There are several choices around Baltimore County for Nature Center birthday parties. One of the best is Irvine Nature Center in Owings Mills. They have an excellent offering at a reasonable price. Fun for children of all ages. Location: Owings Mills ✳Party Favor Ideas: Animal noses
Craft Parties(Ages 4+) There are lots of options for this. One easy one is to have your party at either Michael’s (for example the one in Owings Mills/Reisterstown) or JoAnn Fabrics (stores in Parkville and Cockeysville). You may also want to check out Social Studio in Roland Park/Baltimore. Locations: Parkville, Cockeysville, Baltimore
Pottery Parties(Ages 6+) Paint your own pottery is a great idea for a birthday party. Kids in kindergarten and beyond will enjoy paint parties with their friends. In the Baltimore area, one of the best places is in Catonsville — the Pottery Cove. ✳Party Favor Ideas: Playdough, Magnetic drawing tablets, Putty Balls Locations: Catonsville
iFly(Ages 3+) An amazing new venue in White Marsh! Possibly the most unusual idea on this list, indoor skydiving would make for a wonderful birthday party place. Your boy or girl will never forget this birthday party! Be warned, this is a bit of a pricey option, at the end, each child will probably only get maybe 2 to 4 minutes of flying time. I would suggest that due to the amount of patience needed while waiting for your turn to fly, this venue is best for kids older than 7 even though toddlers are welcome. Locations: White Marsh ✳Party Favor Ideas: Parachute Cord Bracelets, LED Finger Lights
Rock Climbing(Ages 5+) Earth Treks has an amazing facility in Timonium that makes a wonderful place to host a bdp. Your kids will also definitely enjoy ClimbZone in White Marsh. Lots of great things to climb there. Locations: Timonium, White Marsh
Toy Store Party at AmuseToys(Ages 2-6) In Pikesville (Baltimore County). Parties in the lab are great fun. This is definitely a different kind of place to hold a birthday party. Locations: Pikesville
Indoor Playground(Ages 3 – 7) Kiddie Crusoe might be a good party place option for younger kids. Large indoor playground & party room.
Fire Station Birthdays(Ages 3-7) Many people don’t even know that you can host a birthday party at some of the fire stations in Baltimore County (Pikesville). I know quite a few kids who love fire trucks and love birthdays…so why not combine the two. It’s fun for the kids, and they get some fire safety tips too! My only caveat would be that an emergency could potentially cut the party short. As an alternative, there is a Fire Museum in Towson that provides a pretty good bdp experience. It’s an interesting place for both adults and children. Toddlers are likely to get a thrill seeing all the fire equipment. ✳A great gift to go with this birthday party would be a pair of walkie talkies. Here is one suggestion for a pretty good pair–but please read my caveats about them in my gift ideas for brainy kids blog post. Locations: Towson, Pikesville, and other fire stations around Baltimore County.
Zoo Parties(Ages 1+) Wherever you are in Baltimore County, the Maryland Zoo isn’t very far. They offer great birthday party packages, and it is sure to be a great time for kids of all ages. Toddlers will really enjoy looking at all the animals, and even 8-year-olds and 9-year olds will have fun. The zoo is relatively small, which is really a plus. They do a great job of highlighting the animals, habitats, and ecology. A great place for a Maryland birthday party. Locations: Baltimore City ✳Party Favor Ideas: Zoo Animal Headbands, Cat Keychains, Magic Snake
Port Discovery(Ages 2 – 8) (Located in Baltimore City near the Inner Harbor) – Always a popular place to take kids for any reason, Port Discovery makes a great place for a birthday celebration. Depending on the package you get, this can be a rather pricey place to hold your party, and you really need to plan ahead because they need 2 months notice in most cases. Still, this is sure to be a fun, memorable experience for your child and their friends.
Granite Rose Tea Parlour(Ages 11+) Located in charming Granite, Md in Southwest Baltimore County ) – If you’re thinking of an especially fancy birthday party venue, this might be the place for you. Hosted in an authentic Victorian house, kids will enjoy attending a “real” tea party. I think this would be a great party for 11-year olds, and older, but if say you are looking for ideas for 7-year olds…perhaps extra-well-behaved 7-year-olds, they might also find this party interesting. Party Favor Ideas: Tea Party Hats,White Formal Gloves, Friendship Bracelets
Trampoline Party(Ages 5+) (Timonium) – SkyZone is the place to go for a trampoline party. Great atmosphere, lots of options including “sensory” jump hours for quieter time for kids with special needs. I hesitate a bit on this one, because I am concerned about safety issues–people do get hurt at these kind of places and that can really spoil a good time, especially if it is a serious injury. Having said that, SkyZone does a pretty good job of making trampolines as safe as possible.
IKEA – (Ages 13+) This might sound a little odd, but for some kinds, a party at IKEA may be great for teens and older kids. Friends dine in the cafe, and then have fun checking out the rooms. Photo contest anyone? $5 or less cactus plants for party favors…$1 ice cream cones. What could be better? Location: Whitemarsh
Hopefully this list of party ideas helps you out. If you can think of any places I missed, please comment below. Don’t forget to check out my list of gifts for gifted kids.
Bowling parties can be fun for kids. The key is to go to an alley that has duckpins rather then standard balls. This is because duckpin smaller balls are much easier for toddlers/younger kids to handle. There are obviously a few bowling alleys in Montgomery County, but I only know of one with duckpins: White Oak (near Silver Spring). Locations: White Oak ✳Bowling Party Favor Ideas: ✳LED Rubberband Helicopters ✳(I love these!) or Rocket Copters
With the right movie, a movie theater birthday party can be a fantastic choice. This can take a bit of planning and luck to be sure an appropriate movie is going to be playing when it’s time for your child’s birthday. One option would be the Arclight Theaters in Montgomery Mall. The party goers could enjoy the movie and then a party in the mall at the Food Court. Locations: Bethesda ✳Movie Party Favor Ideas: Kid’s Card Games, Mini Uno Cards, Puffy Kush Balls
Chuck E Cheese’s(Ages 3-7) I am not the biggest fan of Chuck E Cheese, but I know many families like it. There is a location in Rockville and Takoma Park. Token prices are low—maybe around 20 cents each depending on which package you get. This is a great party venue for toddlers. Locations: Rockville, Takoma Park
Here are some other ideas that aren’t as popular. This will give your kid the chance to do something more unusual:
Escape Room Party(Age 11+) There is an escape room in Rockville – A Game of Rooms. They offer several types of games. There is a conference room available for rent for parties, but there isn’t really a group rate. You can just visit their website and purchase the number of tickets you need. You need to be 11 or older to enjoy this birthday place. Keep in mind that the puzzles are very challenging and some might find it frustrating instead of fun. Location: Rockville ✳Escape Room Party Favor Ideas: Mini Magnetic Board Games, Mini Rubics Cubes, Mini Teaser Puzzles, Snake Twist Cube Toy
iFly(Ages 3+) An amazing venue in Gaithersburg! Possibly the most unusual idea on this list, indoor skydiving would make for a wonderful birthday party place. Your boy or girl will never forget this birthday party! Be warned, this is a bit of a pricey option, at the end, each child will probably only get maybe 2 to 4 minutes of flying time. I would suggest that due to the amount of patience needed while waiting for your turn to fly, this venue is best for kids older than 7 even though toddlers are welcome. Locations: Gaithersburg ✳iFly Party Favor Ideas: Parachute Cord Bracelets, LED Finger Lights
Rock Climbing(Ages 5+) Earth Treks is a fantastic place to host a birthday party. The location in Rockville on Gude Drive is convenient for all of Montgomery County. Locations: Rockville
Day Spa Parties(Ages 4 – 14) There are some great spas in Potomac, Bethesda, Chevy Chase, Rockville, and Silver Spring that can host children’s birthday parties. One option would be Cutesy Celebrations in Kentlands/Gaithersburg. They offer spa parties and tea party theme packages for kids. Locations: Around Montgomery County, Kentlands
Imagination Stage(Ages 2 – 8) Why not have a dramatic birthday party with a show or class at Imagination Stage in Bethesda. This is sure to be great fun and it’s a one of a kind kids party venue. Location: Downtown Bethesda ✳Theater Party Favor Ideas:Tea Party Hats,White Formal Gloves
Indoor Miniature Golf (Ages 8+) Monster Mini-Golf is an interesting place to have a birthday party for older kids. The place is dark, flashy, and rather loud in my experience, and I realize that for many kids this will be a plus. Since it’s also coupled with “monsters” it might be a little bit too creepy for younger kids, so I’d steer you away from this place for kids 7 or younger. Location: Gaithersburg ✳Miniature Golf Party Favor Ideas:Colorful Mechanical Pencils, Noise Putty, Active Flyers
Music Birthday Parties(Ages 4+) There are some options for music-related birthday party fun. One venue suggestion is Bach to Rock in Gaithersburg featuring a two hour jam session for 7 year olds and older kids. They also have programs for kids 4 and older as well.
✳Bonus Idea:For any birthday party, consider getting a photo booth. These can be great fun and provide lasting memories. Choose your photo booth provider carefully. I’ve had great luck with Shelly’s Sweet Photo Booth (410) 961-2983. ✳
Hopefully this list of party ideas helps you out. If you can think of any places I missed, please comment below. Don’t forget to check out my list of gifts for gifted kids.
SEE MY LIST OF 33+ IDEAS FOR KIDS’ BIRTHDAY PARTIES IN ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY, MD BELOW
Are you looking for a great place to host your child’s birthday party?
There are so many choices, but unfortunately, many parents return to the same old places again and again – for example, bounce houses.
Below you’ll find some other party ideas that may be a bit more creative. Please note that this is my own collection of birthday party place ideas – no business have paid to be on it. The list contains links to party favor ideas which are sponsored by and link to Amazon.com.
This list of birthday party ideas is mainly for people who live in or near Anne Arundel County, but if you live elsewhere, there are probably similar places near you!
The the Whole Foods in Annapolis has a closed off kitchen area where they hold classes and parties. The kids will get a cooking lesson and learn about the store. If you’re looking to hold a baking birthday party, this is definitely the place. When I attended a party at Whole Foods Annapolis, we made guacamole in a bag, which was great for a party for 6-year olds. Older kids can make more serious culinary creations. Unfortunately, not available for toddlers. Location: Annapolis
Looks like a blast. This venue doesn’t really have a reservation system, so you just show up with your party and have a ball. This would be especially good if it’s a last minute party. There will be plenty of fun and smiles. Location: Crofton Party Favor Ideas: Balloon Racers, Balloon Helicopter Racers
Craft parties (Ages 4-10): Have your party at Michael’s Craft Store. Michael’s provides a party room where your group can do a craft together. Location: Bowie, Annapolis, Glen Burnie, Hanover
Jewelry Making at Twisted Bead and Rock Shop (Ages 5+): The twisted bead is located in Edgewater and has jewelry making options for all ages. Location: Edgewater
Paint Parties (Ages 5+): Muse Paintbar in Annapolis hosts kids parties where they can paint on canvas or glasses. The painted masterpiece is the party favor. Location: Annapolis Towne Centre
Is your child a cat lover? (Ages 7+) Have a birthday party at Kittens in Cups on defense Highway in Annapolis. Cafe setting with a dozen or more cuddly cats to play with.
Indoor pool parties (Ages 2+) There are many places in Anne Arundel County where you can hold an indoor pool party. For example, at Kid’s First Swim School in Severna Park you can hold a party for about $250 for an hour of swimming and an hour of room use. There are also other venues that offer kids’ pool parties. For example, the North Arundel Aquatic Center is a great choice. They also have a party room and very reasonable rates for large parties. This is a great birthday party place for toddlers, but usually the parents are going to have to swim with their kids. Location: Severna Park, Glen Burnie Fees: $225-$350 Party favor idea: Goggles and water toys
Rock climbing parties (Ages 5+) There aren’t any notable rock climbing facilities in AA County. If Laurel isn’t too far away, consider a party at ClimbZone. The place is really fun with some very creative climbing walls including a giant book shelf and “Mount Rushmore”. You may want to check with the Pip Moyer Center in Annapolis, as they do have a climbing wall there. Also, see Big Vanilla, below. Location: Laurel
Severna Park Gymnastics does great parties for kids. Works well for girls or boys. Also, in Severna Park is We Rock the Spectrum, a perfect place for a birthday party for a child with autism…their value proposition sounds great: “Finally a Place Where You Never Have to Say I’m Sorry” Location: Severna Park Party Favor Ideas: Ribbon Wands, Necklaces
Build-A-Bear (Ages 2-7) – Kids of love Build-a-Bear parties. The location in Annapolis mall does a great job with parties. Consider having snacks in the food court area before the party. Location: Annapolis Mall
Bowling parties (Ages 5+) Bowling parties can be fun, but I would caution parents to steer towards older kids with this idea. Even with bumpers, the game can be frustrating for younger children. Definitely go for duck pins if possible. Although they are relatively rare, the bowling alley in Severna Park still has them. By the way, the Severna Park alley is a great environment and kids older than 7 are sure to have a great time there. My only complaint about this place is that the food choices just aren’t healthy. For example, their popcorn is full of chemicals. If you have a party here, you aren’t allowed to bring in your own food except for a cake. Glen Burnie also has a duck pin alley. There are certainly other bowling alleys in Anne Arundel County such as Crofton Bowling and Annapolis Bowl, but no duck pins there. Location: Severna Park, Glen Burnie, Crofton
Ice skating (Ages 5+) The Piney Orchard Ice Arena is a great place for a birthday party year-round. Great deal! They have a party room upstairs, and accommodate quite a few people with skating for $200. For kids who don’t know how to skate, they have “walkers” to help them on the ice. Nice place. In the winter, there’s also the Glen Burnie outdoor ice rink. Location: Odenton, Glen Burnie
Music Birthday Parties (Ages 2-7) – School of Rock in Gambrills and Arnold offers music birthday parties. Location: Gambrills, Arnold Party Favor Ideas: Inflatable Guitars
Paintball (Ages 8+) Paintball parties can be lots of fun…there is a great paintball venue in Pasadena called Paintball Sports and Supply (Curtis Bay). Location: Curtis Bay, Md
Horse center parties (Ages 6+) Morningside in Annapolis offers birthday parties for your horse-loving child. Location: Annapolis
Terrapin Adventures (Ages 6+) (301-725-1313) This is a tree-top adventure park located in Savage, MD (Howard County). This place is really fun, and would be an especially good party in late spring or early fall. Location: Savage, Md Party Favor Ideas: Tickle Plant Seeds
Dave and Busters (Ages 4+) Dave and Busters in Arundel Mills mall is a very popular party venue. Kids will have fun, but usually very busy there. Location: Arundel Mills Mall
The Melting Pot (Ages 7+) This is a great place to have a party with a small group of your child’s friends. This place is always a hit. Parties here are probably going to take at least 2 hours, so just collect parent’s mobile phone numbers and text them when dessert arrives to pick up their kids. Location: Annapolis
Have a Lego birthday party (Ages 5-10) – Brikz for Kids -You’ll need to provide a space for this party, but this is definitely a cool way to go. Location: Crofton, Annapolis
Fire house birthdays (Ages 3-7) Consider having a birthday party at one of the firehouses in Anne Arundel County. These parties are exciting and fun, plus it is a wonderful way to support the local volunteer fire departments. For example, see the Odenton Volunteer Fire Company website. Location: Odenton and other fire houses in Anne Arundel County
Pottery Party at Clay Bakers (Ages 5-10) Clay Bakers on Main Street in Annapolis is a great place to hold a birthday party. You’re guests will be able to socialize together as they paint mugs, plates, etc (whatever the hold chooses) and then they will be able to have their creation as a party favor memory (there might be a few days before they have a chance to put the items in the kiln). This is a great place for a party! Location: Annapolis
YMCA (Ages 3-10) – YMCA (formerly Big Vanilla) has a variety of parties including dance, martial arts, swimming, cheer leading, tumbling, and rock climbing for kids. Even if you’re not a member, I believe you can still have a party at this venue in Pasadena, Maryland. Location: Pasadena Party Favor Ideas: Sports Mini-Stress Balls
Chuck E Cheese’s – I am not the biggest fan of Chuck E Cheese, but I know many families like it. There is a location in Glen Burnie. Token prices are low—maybe around 20 cents each depending on which package you get.
Baseball Park Birthday Parties (Ages 6+) – Obviously these three aren’t in Anne Arundel County, but an unforgettable birthday could take place at Camden Yards or Nationals Park. Another option, just as fun might be a Bowie Baysox birthday. Location: Baltimore or Bowie
Lady Bug Kid’s Glam Spa (Ages 5+) – Hold a princess party with manicures, pedicures, and more in Crofton. They have a party room, a stage, a candy bar. Sounds like a great place to hold an amazing party. You may also want to check out Pig Tails and Crew Cuts in Annapolis for a variety of parties for girls and boys. Location: Crofton Party favor idea: Clip on colored braids
Wiggle Room – Located in Crofton, this new 3,800 foot indoor play space hosts fun parties with free gourmet coffee for the adults. Location: Crofton
Bonus idea: Kids love to take photos of themselves with funny props and goofy expressions. Add a photo booth to any party for added fun. Sure to please kids of all ages. I’ve had good experiences with Shelly’s Sweet Photo Booth(410) 961-2983.
There are so many great location options for indoor and outdoor birthday parties for kids in Howard County. I have compiled a list of birthday party ideas–some of the party places are popular, but others more unusual, creative, and even a few unique ideas.
Please note that these are not paid listings–this is simply my own list of birthday party places. I have added the birthday venues here because I have used them for my own kids, been to a party there, or have it on authority from other parents.
There are few “negative” recommendations in the list below too–places that might be popular go-tos, but like the bouncy birthday parties mentioned above, they should be avoided.
Again, all of the recommendations are my own, and I am not paid by the venues listed. This post does contain sponsored links to party favors Amazon.com. Hopefully you’ll find the party favor ideas helpful, but they aren’t related to why I chose each location.
Since I live in Howard County Maryland, this list of indoor and outdoor places to have children’s birthday parties pertains specifically to this area, but many of the things in the list would apply to anywhere USA–you just have to look around for a similar venue in your area.
Let me know what you think of this party list–since this is one of the busiest posts on my blog, idea contributions are very welcomed!
Offers some great birthday party options that aren’t overdone. Great for toddlers and older kids alike. Not many people have their parties at a nature center, but they’re really quite nice…and educational.In Howard County, we have two nature centers that offer parties: Robinson Nature Center and Howard County Conservancy. There are lots of party options to enjoy. For example, a great fall birthday party idea would be a campfire party at the Howard County Conservancy. A naturalist leads the kids through activities and making s’mores.Robinson Nature Center offers several different kinds of parties at different price points mostly for ages 2 and up.For instance they have a nature puppet theater party, a butterfly party, a nature hike party, or even a full-dome movie party in the planetarium which looks like it would be a blast!All of this means that these nature centers are a wonderful place for a 5th birthday party all the way up to maybe 10th or 11th birthday. Parties range in price from $325 to $400 at this writing and party rooms are available.✳Nature Center Party Favor Ideas: Bamboo Plants, Miracle Grow Seed Pods, Tickle Plant Seeds, Binoculars
Farm Birthday Parties(Ages 2-8) Clark’s Elioak Farm in Ellicott City is very popular. In the fall, you could consider an apple or berry harvest party at Larriland farm (Ages 2-12)–check the harvest calendar to see what is ripe. Educational and fun–plus the pickings are the party favor. Clark’s Elioak Farm is definitely a great standby party venue for toddlers.Breezy Hill Farm (Ages 2-8) – Breezy Hill’s biggest draw is its alpaca herd, although they also have rabbits, goats, sheep and chickens. Take a tour of this working farm with your group.This will be especially fun for a toddler party, but certainly 8-year-olds and younger will have a great time…really this should be enjoyable for anyone. Alpacas are gentle, graceful animals and you may be able to get one to pose with your party group. ✳Party Favor Ideas: Straw Hats, Tickle Plant Seeds, Succulent Plants
Sandy Spring Adventure Park and Terrapin Adventures. Outdoor adventure parties in the trees are very cool. Kids must be at least 8 to be able to participate in a treetop party at Sandy Spring Adventure Park, but if you’re looking for a place that will keep older kids busy, this is for you.These are great parties for 13 year olds, even sweet sixteens…Sandy Spring Adventure Park is just outside Howard County, while Terrapin Adventures is in Savage, Md near Savage Mill.Kids will enjoy being challenged at both venues, however I think Sandy Spring Adventure Park has a more extensive course. Definitely recommended. Party packages at Sandy Spring Adventure Park may include party favors. ✳Party Favor Ideas: Carabiners
Craft and Painting Parties (Ages 4-13)
The Thrifty Teacher in Laurel is a great option for a paint party. Friendly and affordable. Doodle Hatch in Columbia has lots of excellent party options in an unusual setting. Definitely check this place out. Michael’s craft store parties (price depends on the craft chosen) and Joann Fabrics Parties are relatively popular and their stores all seem to have some sort of party room. There are also several pottery painting businesses around. The parties center on the kids creating and/or painting a piece of pottery. Another great option is the Columbia Art Center. They have preset parties that look like great fun in a nice atmosphere. They have a variety of available party themes (even Minecraft!) and parties can be on Fridays, Saturdays, or Sundays. In Ellicott City, there is ClayGround (Highly recommended) and the Pottery Stop which is a combination coffee shop and ceramics studio–they have a small party room. If you are bringing a small group of kids (maybe 5 or less), you may be able to just “drop-in” to the store and make your own party there. You are allowed to bring in outside food although they do offer a few snacks and a full coffee/hot chocolate menu. There is a Qdoba restaurant next door to the Pottery Stop, so you can get quesadillas or tacos there and bring them into the Pottery Stop. Unless you set up a birthday party package, there are no reservations, so you have to be careful to pick a day and time when they aren’t likely to be so busy that you won’t find a table for your party. You may want to call and ask what the most strategic times to set your party, but probably the safest time is right at opening time. For example, we had a party there the weekend before Valentine’s Day in the mid-afternoon and it was quite busy, we were lucky to get a table for 4. Still, the children had a really good time. The added bonus is that the item the kids paint is also the party favor. Note that it takes a week for them to fire the kids’ creations in the kiln, so plan to come back and pick up the items and then distribute them back to their owners. If you’re in Laurel or Maple Lawn, or in the Northern side of Montgomery County, you might find Burning Down the House in Fulton a more convenient place for a pottery party. I’ve driven past it enough on Scaggsville Road, but I have never been there.Yet another option is Pinot’s Pallet in Elliott City. This is a great place to hold a painting party for kids (or adults!).✳Party Favor Ideas: Playdough, Magnetic drawing tablets, Putty Balls
DodgeBow – This is a unique party opportunity similar to paintball, but with bows and arrows. Check out the website. Located in Hanover, Md. ✳Party Favor Ideas: Archery Sets
Indoor Pool Parties (Ages 2+) Kid’s First Swim School, Columbia Association, Lifetime Fitness, or Goldfish Swim School. About $250 for an hour of swimming and an hour of party room use. There are also other venues that offer kid’s pool parties. If you’re a member of Lifetime Fitness, they also do a good job (see below) and offer a competitive package. Kids love pools and especially if you have a winter birthday, an indoor pool party is a welcome reminder of summer fun. Party favors might include swim goggles or water toys. One tip would be to have one parent stay dry while the other gets in the pool with the kids–this way you have your bases covered. The Columbia Association has pool parties and I generally do NOT recommend parties there because of crowding at the Columbia Swim Center indoor pool. Although there are some fun aspects to the splashdown attraction,they do not control the number of kids, which can be no fun. I would only recommend this party for older kids on off-hours.If you’re in Ellicott City, you may want to consider having your pool party at the Roger Carter Center. They offer reasonably priced party packages.✳Party Favor Ideas: Water Toys, Goggles, Flip-Flop Keychains, Hawaiian Flower Leis, Hibiscus Flower Hair Clips
Indoor Playground Party(Ages 2-7) Play Date Junction (Elkridge, Md) and Hyperkids (Snowden River Parkway in Columbia) Play Date Junction is a part gym, part indoor playground, part learning kitchen. Hyperkids in Columbia is similar. These are both great places to host a birthday party for younger children.
Ballet and Dance Parties(Ages 2-10). This is a no-brainer for young girls, but boys can have fun at dance parties too. Most of the time, the gyms will give you a choice as to the style of dance you’d like the kids to learn as part of the celebration so instead of ballet you might do a jazz or even hip hop birthday. For ballet parties, girls will enjoy dressing up like prima ballerinas. Pricing varies. Check out Turning Point Dance Academy in Elkridge, Md. ✳Ballet Party Favor Ideas: Flashlights, Jump Ropes, Streamer Wands, Lucky Bamboo Plants
Gymnastics Parties(Ages 2-8)
There are plenty of places to hold gymnastics parties. One of the best experiences I’ve had was at My Gym in Columbia, MD. The staff was attentive and the kids had a great time–unfortunately their prices are kind of high. You may also want to check out Top Flight Gymnastics on Redland Road in Ellicott City or KidsTime.Live in Laurel. These are great party locations for toddlers and younger kids. Locations: Columbia, Ellicott City, Laurel, other locations around Howard County ✳Gymnastics Party Favor Ideas: Ribbon Wands, Necklaces, Jump Ropes
This will cost you about $20/kid and they have a six kid minimum. Very good experience with four and five year olds. There is a build-a-bear location in Columbia Mall. When we had our party there, we had birthday cake first in the food court. We got to the mall early enough to reserve some tables for the party guests…and it worked out fine. ✳Party Favor Ideas: Bubbles, Squishies
Have a STEM-related birthday party in Columbia at the Idea Lab. This is so nerdy. Lots of possible party themes for kids to have a great time: Jedi training, video production, minecraft, slime, cooking/baking…and much more.This is the place to have a nerdfest of a party. Located off Red Branch Road/Route 108 (near Shadowland). ✳Party Favor Ideas: Puzzle Cube Set
Bowling Parties(Ages 5+)
Duck pins are better for younger kids if there is a duckpin alley nearby. Those are rare. Around here I know there are duckpins in Silver Spring and Mt. Airy. You can always go for the larger pin bowling allies but I think it is less fun with the kids even with the lighter 6 pound balls and gutter bumpers the kids still have alot of trouble. I especially don’t recommend the Normandy bowling alley that’s off of Snowden River in Columbia. Although it is a relatively nice alley, all the above problems apply, but then as part of the package, they give the kids tokens for the game room. That leads to huge frustration as there aren’t really any games young kids can even play! New: MainEvent in Columbia mall. The place looks like fun. ✳Party Favor Ideas: LED Rubberband Helicopters or Rocket Copters
Compared to Earth Treks, the atmosphere at ClimbZone is less serious and more fun. They have done a fantastic job of making it less serious but making the climbing walls into interesting sculptures and objects, rather than the same old walls. For example, they have a wall that looks like Mount Rushmore and another one that’s a replica of a gigantic bookcase. Kids love it.
All of their walls have auto-belay so you don’t have to worry about having someone paying attention and belaying the kids. This is a huge advantage, especially because kids 6 and up will likely be able to hook themselves in to any wall and start climbing! They also have some bouncy houses and slides for younger kids. There are party rooms available in this very new facility.
Earth Trek’s rock climbing facility offers kids birthday parties — locations in Rockville, Columbia and Timonium. Pricing as of this writing is $225 for 1-10 participants and $325 for 11-15 participants at the Columbia, MD location. (Lifetime fitness also offers rock climbing parties but you have to be a member) Earth Treks has a few “party rooms” that have their own climbing walls. I’ve been to a party here for five year olds and it worked very well–the kids had a great time. They provided four climbing instructors who put the harnesses on the kids and belayed them. Very nice.
The Laurel Roller Rink (Laurel on Route 1 in Howard County – 301-725-8070) and the Supreme Sports Club Skating Arena (Columbia off Snowden River- 410-381-5355) both offer great kids birthday parties.Laurel Skating rink offers parties that start at $110 for 11 skaters (additional skaters $11/each). This is a bargain and includes ice cream cups, plates, napkins and spoons. Plus skate rental for all of the party skaters, and a free pass to skate next time for the birthday girl or boy. You can bring cake, but outside food isn’t permitted, so you may need to make arrangements for other food with the rink.
Private parties are available as well, but at a much higher price point. A 2-hour session on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon for up to 50 skaters/2 hours is $450+.
Supreme Sports Club offers private skating parties for $600. Regular parties held during a public session are more like $250 and include pizza and cake for 10 kids. They often have several parties going on at the same time and they don’t have a separate party room–they just spread the parties out over various areas of the roller skating rink. If you’ve got a girl between the ages of 10-13, they also offer a sleepover party. See below. Locations: Laurel, Columbia ✳Party Favor Ideas: Fishnet Gloves, Personalized Thank You Stickers, Glow Sticks
Indoor Obstacle Course (Ages 6+) NOT RECOMMENDED because of safety concerns. This is a relative newcomer in Columbia. Ninjabe recently opened. It provides an indoor warrior obstacle course (think “American Gladiator”), an inflatable obstacle course, small climbing walls, and there’s even a mechanical bull. Kids seem to find this place to be quite a bit of fun. They provide a welcome place for parents to watch (or ignore) the goings ons- the “parent zen room.” It’s a party that includes a cardio workout. Party rooms and party hosts are provided. I thought the place was pretty good overall, but I couldn’t escape the “birthday party factory” feel.I don’t recommend NinjaBe because kids get hurt there. I recently requested information from Howard County Fire and Rescue and was told that from 10/10/2018 – 10/11/2019, they were called there 13 times. That’s just the ambulance calls — injuries that were bad enough to require paramedics. I know 2 people who have been hurt here–one required surgery for a broken ankle. There are definitely many more people who make their way to the emergency room without an ambulance. Just something to keep in mind when you sign the waiver for your child here or invite other people’s children. Location: Columbia, Maryland ✳Party Favor Ideas: LED Bumpy Ring, Mini LED carabiner Flashlights
Shadowland in Ellicott City (410-740-9100). Laser tag parties are always a favorite with kids of any age. Shadowland in Ellicott City/Columbia is located on Red Branch Road just off Route 108. They have four party rooms and do a good job of making the party easy for parents. The parties consist of two laser tag games that take about 20 minutes each, and the rest of the time in the party room for a total of two hours. There’s also a very nice arcade at this location.Locations: Ellicott City/Columbia ✳Party Favor Ideas: LED Bumpy Ring, Mini LED carabiner Flashlights
Lush Handmade Cosmetics Party(Ages 7+) Who knew that Lush offered private parties? They look like loads of fun…lots of options including “Beauty School” and making a bath bomb. I am not actually sure what the minimum age would be, but I think probably seven-year-olds or older would enjoy this party. Location: The Mall in Columbia
A SkyZone jump “room”–each child gets their own square of Trampoline.
Trampoline Parties(Ages 5+) SkyZone and Launch Indoor trampoline parks in Columbia MD. This venue has some similarities to the overdone JumpZone inflatable parties, but this is a bit different since they have actual trampolines.
They have party rooms for each birthday party. Be sure and check the reviews as there seem to be a high proportion of unhappy customers. So far I have been to two parties and I thought it was okay overall. My main reservations are safety issues and the fact that in both cases I got the feeling that the party itself was kind of like a production line–by the way, I always got the same feeling at JumpZone! and Pump It Up. They are setup so that each kid basically gets their own trampoline to make things a bit safer, but even so, someone was taken away in an ambulance during the first party I attended there.
Escape Room Party at Breakout Games(Ages 10+) This is an unusual kind of birthday party. Your party must follow clues and solve mysteries to figure out how to “break out” of a specially designed room. Billed as a life-sized game of twists and turns, it’s sure to be a fun time!It’s possible to bring younger kids, but it may not be as enjoyable for them because they may not have the background knowledge needed to solve the puzzles. Contact Breakout Games to discuss possibilities for 9-year olds and younger.We tried the “Museum Heist” game with a group of 10-11 year olds.Solving the puzzles was definitely difficult and may even prove frustrating for some kids.Luckily, an employee watches over your progress and is able to give the group hints. Our group definitely needed more than a few, but even so we didn’t “break out.” You only get an hour, so when the time runs out, you’re done no matter how far you’ve progressed. I think if I took the same group back to play a second time (which I think they’d all be up for), they would do better on a different puzzle, now that they have the hang of the mindset needed to solve the riddles. BTW, an employee recommended we try “Kidnapping” next time we play as he felt that it is a solid game and maybe more relatable for kids LOL. There is no party room, and there is a maximum of 8 guests–and one of those guests must be a responsible adult.If you decide to have a party there, keep in mind that other people can purchase tickets for the same game at the same time–so if you don’t want strangers, most likely adults, to join in your kid’s birthday party, you need to buy out the whole game. Ticket prices are about $28/each (There are no discounts for a large group, so a party of 8 will cost around $240 with taxes). You may be able to solve a puzzle to get a coupon code. By the way, if you’re looking for food nearby, there is a Bertucci’s Pizza near the Columbia location. ✳Escape Room Party Favor Ideas: Mini Magnetic Board Games, Mini Rubics Cubes, Mini Teaser Puzzles, Snake Twist Cube Toy
Airsoft Paintball(Ages 11+) Airsoft indoor paintball course is loads of fun. Located in Rockville, it is a bit of a trek from Howard County, but might be worth the trip. Rumor has it that there is also an airsoft location in Beltsville, but I can’t find any information about it. ✳Paintball Party Favor Ideas: Compasses, Paracord Bracelets
Movie Theater Birthdays(Ages 3+) Kids love going to the movies–especially 3D movies that really bring in all the senses. Some area theaters have party packages and even party rooms.A very good example of a movie theater with a party room is the Arundel Mills Cinemark Egyptian theater. You could even roll an Egyptian theme into the party if you wanted. Even if you decide not to use the group rates or party rooms, you may need to contact the theater when planning so you’ll know what choices will be available on the date of your party. The movie itself can also become the theme of your party (ie-Transformers or Disney Princesses). ✳Party Favor Ideas: Kid’s Card Games, Mini Uno Cards, Puffy Kush Balls
Whole Foods Cooking Party(Ages 5+) Some Whole Foods stores such as the one in Annapolis have culinary centers which can be rented out for kids birthday parties. They provide a host who will help the kids through making a pizza and pretzels. Unfortunately, the Columbia, MD Whole Foods is one of the stores that doesn’t have a culinary center, however they do have a private cafe space that can seat 12 kids plus their parents. For a party there you can pre-order party foods and cake. If you have an event there (or anywhere else), take advantage of the healthy options that are available at Whole Foods and also consider alternatives to the standard party favors/gift bags. Chocolate Dessert Class party (Ages ?) I am still getting some details on the possibility of having a party in either Savage Mill or Ellicott City at a place called “Sweet Cascades Chocolatier.” They offer classes for kids and they are about $35/each child. It would definitely be a “sweet” party, especially if your child is into cooking.
American Girl Doll Party(Ages 4-9) Okay, not in Maryland and possibly not even very convenient for most Marylanders, but in Tysons Corner Mall in Northern Virginia, they have an American Girl doll store and you can have a birthday party there. I don’t have any suggestions on the logistics of getting classmates and friends to the party, but I have heard good things about parties there. Location: Tyson’s Corner, VA
These two places are really busy with lots of things for kids to do. Main Event is very new to Howard County, and has quickly become very popular. Dave and Busters is fun, the Arundel Mills location has bowling and lots of games. Locations: Columbia, Md or Hanover, Md ✳Party Favor Ideas: Uno Mini Card Game, Frisbees
Six Flags America (Ages 8+) Not in Howard County, but close enough that it might make a great birthday party. Definitely on the pricier side of birthdays, but if the guest list is just two or three close friends, it probably would be a wash.
Hot Pot Restaurants(Ages 13+) Possibly a bit expensive, but a great experience for a few friends to get together and cook/eat lunch. You might want to check it out ahead of time to make sure it would appeal to your teen. There are several options in Howard County, including Urban HotPot which just opened at Columbia Mall, and HotPot and Roll next to Lotte in Ellicott City. This location has a fun conveyor belt with various items you can add to your pot. Party Favor Ideas: Chinese Takeout Boxes, Sun Glasses
Have a Lego Birthday Party(Ages 5-10) Bricks for Kids specializes in mobile lego parties in Howard County. Seems like a very great idea if you’re having a home party or if you’re having a party at some other venue and need something to do (see below for party venue ideas). ✳Party Favor Ideas: Lego Favors
Fire Station Birthdays(Ages 3-7) Many people don’t even know that you can host a birthday party at some of the fire stations in Howard County. You can learn how to make an inquiry about it here. I know quite a few kids who love fire trucks and love birthdays…and they get some fire safety tips too! My only caveat would be that an emergency could potentially cut the party short. As an alternative, there is a Fire Museum in Towson that provides a pretty good experience. A great gift to go with this birthday party would be a pair of walkie talkies. Here is one suggestion for a pretty good pair.
AmuseToys ( In Pikesville (Baltimore County) (Ages 2-6) Parties in the lab are great fun.
Drama and Comedy Workshop Parties(Ages 5+) There are some great opportunities around for drama and comedy related parties. Guest can take part in drama or comedy workshops at places like Drama Learning Center in Columbia or Improv Comedy in Baltimore.
iFly(Ages 3+) Okay, this isn’t nearby (in Whitemarsh), but it’s amazing! Possibly the most unusual idea on this list, indoor sky-diving would make for a wonderful birthday party. Your boy or girl will never forget this party! Party Favor Ideas: Parachute Cord Bracelets, LED Finger Lights
Fencing (Ages 8+) – The Baltimore Fencing Center in Columbia on Rumsey Road has a great facility for unusual birthday parties. Guests learn the basics of fencing and can get a little practice in at the party.
Supreme Sports Club Girls Only Sleepover(Ages 10-13) This party is for girls only and involves spending the night at the Columbia Association Supreme Sports Club. It seems to include alot of fun, but the cost is about $420 for members and $480 for non members. I can’t find a direct link to information about this party, but if you’re interested, just call.
Table Tennis(Ages 9-14) This is would be a great party for older kids. You can rent the facility although there are restrictions on food and drink near the tables.
Youth Teen Center Rent the Youth Teen Center for parties for teens at the Barn in Columbia.
IKEAAges: Teens 13+ – Yeah, that’s going to sound strange, but it works for older kids. Start with lunch in the cafe, then the kids can go through the store taking photos of themselves in the various demonstration areas. Photo contest anyone?I recently did this with my 13 year-old and 6 of her friends and they had a good time. Party favors were cactus plants on sale for less than $5. They also got $1 soft serve ice cream cones.
✳Tip: For any birthday party consider getting a photo booth. These can be great fun and provide lasting memories. Choose your provider carefully. I’ve had great luck with Shelly’s Sweet Photo Booth (410) 961-2983. ✳
Here are some entertainers that I have seen that do a good job with home parties. For more ideas, see my other post about birthday party themes:
Science Themed Parties- There are a few performers you can get. One great choice is Mad Science–they have several performers that can come to your child’s party. I’ve seen Damu perform, he’s was fantastic. Request him if he’s available. I have also seen several shows by Eric Energy. Eric did a pretty good job with “science-tainment”–he gets the kid’s involved in several science experiments that they are sure to love…a great party favor to go with this would a 10-pack of safety goggles.
Consider a caricature artist. George Edwards charges around $200 for 3 hours of art.
For a special flair of sophistication, and to perhaps make your job as host a little bit easier, consider hiring on a little bit of light catering. For example, the Omelette Guys provide omelette and Belgian waffle stations as well as pasta stations.
Since I have two children, I find myself at many different types of birthday parties lately–some of them original and loads of fun for the kids, and some of them…not so much. I have created this page to help parents out with some ideas, recommendations and resources.
Party Themes and Ideas
Science Birthday Party: There are so many ways to have a science party. This is a wonderful idea for any kid, but will be especially popular with nerdier children. There are plenty of kits you can order for the party or bring in a science performer like Eric Energy. Party favors might include things like this Zanny Marble Kit from Amazon.com
Who to hire:
Mad Science: I recently saw a great show put on by Damu from Mad Science. He’s a DC Public School teacher with lots of talent and the kids love him. Be sure if request him if he’s available.
Eric Energy: Eric is a popular birthday party performer in the area. He does a great job of getting the kids involved and talking up science!
Harry Potter Theme Birthday party – There is so much you can do with this. Here are a few suggestions:
Hire a magician, if you look you may find someone who is versed in Harry Potter spells. A great example is “Illusions By Vick” (443-540-9631) – He comes in character as Professor Snape and teaches kids about various spells.
Get yourself some Harry Potter posters, or you may find some to download and print. Consider putting a “platform 9 3/4” on your front door.
Serve butter beer
Create “sorting hat” gift bags from paper bags…
Create wands from chopsticks and hot glue.
Talent Show Birthday Party: Kids are always willing to show off their talents, no matter what level they’re at. Why not capitalize on this by throwing a talent show party.
Add to the fun: Create VIP Guest passes for the invitations or just send tickets along with each one. Make star shaped cupcakes. Get photos ahead of time from the parents so you can put up head shots of each kid who’s coming to the party.
Who to hire to help: Catriona’s Castle Karen brings theater to your home or party location. A memorable and extremely fun party for your child!
Painting Party: A step beyond your normal craft party. Purchase canvases and hang them on your backyard fence with nails, consider getting aprons and plastic palettes that guests can take as party favors along with their canvas. The main event of the party will be to have the kids paint a picture of their favorite animal.
Dinosaur Party: Kids will love this prehistoric party. The main event for the party will be a fossil hunt, which can be put together by the host or bring in a fossil expert. May be combined with a reptile party.
Reptile Party: This party works best if you have lots of live reptiles on hand. Don’t have lots of reptiles at home? See below for some ideas on who to hire. Make sure you get a cake that’s shaped like a lizard or snake!
Video Games Party: We know that kids love video games. So why not have a video game birthday party. You can hire Game Truck to come to your location. They bring a fancy truck with 4 gaming stations and an experienced game coach to make it all go.
Lego Party: Legos are great fun for kids. It’s easy to get lego-themed plates and napkins and perhaps even a lego cake! Start the party by having kids create balloon powered cars and maybe invite a guest who can bring in lego robotics kits for the kids to play with and learn!
Whether you’re having a birthday party at your house, or in a party, venue, you’ll need a party theme. Here are some theme ideas.
For Any Birthday Party: Hire someone to do light catering. For example, kids of all ages would love a waffle or omelette bar. Give the Omelet Guys a call. It’s relatively inexpensive, so you’ll get lots of bang for your buck. Another great option would be to bring in someone to serve snow balls.
For any birthday party: get a photo booth. These can be great fun and provide lasting memories. Choose your provider carefully. I’ve had good luck with Shelly’s Sweet Photo Booth (410) 961-2983.
Disclaimer: Please check the references of anyone you may hire that is suggested here. Although these aren’t paid promotions, I do not know any of them well so can’t endorse them completely. If you do use anyone’s services, you do so at your own risk.
Figuring out what to get a six, seven or 8 year old for their birthday (or for the Christmas/Hanukkah holidays) can be tricky. So much depends on your budget and the child’s interests, but coming up with the perfect present isn’t easy.
Educational gifts like these(!) are a good idea, especially the ones that require participation with a parent or friend… but I always try to recommend that people look for experiences to combine with the gift, whatever it is. I say this because even though children are used to expecting a tangible present, there is no better gift than their parents’ time. Furthermore, if there is a birthday party with friends and family involved, they are bound to get their share of typical presents anyway.
A great example would be to take them to a children’s theater and see a play. Then think of a gift that would coincide with the play’s theme or topic and get them something to go with that. So for instance, Imagination Stage in Bethesda, Maryland often presents plays that are based on children’s books –you could take your child to see the play and then present him or her with a copy of the book (or for a larger budget, perhaps a copy of the book on their new Kindle Fire Tablet).
It’s really the experience that they’ll always remember, and that’s why it is important to think about birthday presents this way.
Other experience ideas could be:
– Tickets to a baseball, hockey or football game.
– A special sports lesson, maybe one that even includes mom or dad. This could maybe be in the form of a mother and son tennis lesson perhaps with a new tennis racket to go with it. Or how about a father-daughter horseback riding lesson?
– Heading out to the coast and going on a whale watching boat ride for the day.
– A year long membership to the National Aquarium in Baltimore. This is a gift that will keep giving experiences for long after the birthday is over.
– Spa day. Again, this depends on the budget, but could be a really nice way for a parent and their kid to spend quality time together.
– Go on an outdoor/nature day trip. This could be whitewater rafting, geocaching or a visit to an aerial adventure place. For example in Maryland, you could go to Terrapin Adventures in Savage Mill – a crazy, high-flying, zip-lining good time your kid won’t forget anytime soon.
– Find a great class that you can take together. There are so many examples, and some of them are more far-flung than others…for instance there is a trapeze school in Washington DC, how about a photography class together or you could learn to knit with your child: There are many ways to learn. Have a look at Wool and the Gang–they offer kits to knit particular items. You could also take lessons together at a craft store, for instance Michael’s occasionally offers knitting lessons.
– Do another kind of craft together–either at home or elsewhere. For example, The Pottery Stop in Ellicott City is a place where you and your child can select a plate, mug or other ceramic item and paint it while having snacks. There’s also a great place on Main Street in Annapolis called Clay Bakers.
– Instead of a gift per se, pick a charity to support with your child. One wonderful family that I know of selected the Linus Project–a group that makes blankets for homeless and hospitalized children. Instead of people bringing gifts for the child they brought blanket making materials to the birthday party. What a great way to teach a child compassion and a sense of pride in helping others–actually this extends to all the party guests and their parents. What an especially a great idea if your family has enough “stuff”. Why not give back?
Other ideas for presents
There are so many kinds of gifts to choose from…and again, it really depends on the kinds of things your child likes to do. Here are a few more ideas for items that have done well in my household–I also have written a whole post on gift ideas for brainy kids (opens in a new window)–and really every kid is a brainy kid if the present is aligned with their interests–so definitely check out that post for a huge list of learning-enabled toys and gadgets.
My only guidelines would be to try to stay away from gifts that track or pigeonhole your kid. This is especially true for girls. Stay out of the “pink aisle” at Toys-R-Us if possible. I would even suggest that if you wouldn’t get the gift for a boy, don’t get it for a girl either. There are exceptions to this of course, again, this is especially true if your girl really loves to do hair or something like that, but I am just saying don’t quietly force them in that direction by thinking pink. Instead spend money on things that really help prepare the kids for the future and don’t just waste time.
– Microscope: A good microscope such as the AmScope SE306R can be great fun for any child and can really open doors for them in science. Microscopes help kids of all ages understand the world around them better and get them to ask questions and think like scientist.
If you decide to go this route and you can afford it, look for something better than the ones that are offered in the $20-30 dollar range if possible. Although these are a good start, they will very quickly become a disappointment for kids who are really interested in them. They tend to have poor quality lenses and poor quality lights making for a dismal experience beyond the basics.
The better ones tend to be more than $100 (and if you get really fancy, alot more than that). The AmScope SE306R is still rather pricey, but for the features and functionality, that’s a pretty good price. Most kids are curious–if it “really” works, they’ll think of many occasions to use it.
Another great microscope that is especially good for younger kids (4-8+) is the Celestron InfiniView. We have this microscope and it is so much fun. It is more for looking “at” things up close rather than looking “through” them. It has a stage that you can put objects on and then magnify them onto the LCD screen or your computer. You can then take shots of what you see-for example to the left is a photo of a penny I had handy as I was writing this. My girls LOVE this microscope.
– A Kindle: My kids read alot and they really love their ebook reader and checking out free ebooks from the library. These are great presents and can be convenient for travel and medium-long drives. Many of the public libraries now offer free downloadable eBooks for kids.
From the comfort of home you can get many great books from websites like Overdrive.com or Axis360. Check with your library to see if they offer free access. Both Axis360 and Overdrive allow you to download 6 books at a time and you don’t have to worry about overdue fees because after the allotted checkout time, they just go back automatically.
You might also look into the Kindle Unlimited Program-unlimited book downloads for $9.99/month–sort of like Netflix for books. One thing to note is that you may elect to get a Kindle or Barnes and Noble’s Nook that also acts as a tablet computer. This can be a great idea or a bad one depending on your point of view. Many times the book reading aspect of the tablet is forgotten in favor of video games…which isn’t that great. On the other hand, tablets can be a boon to research and can be used for educational games and such. (Some kids might even want to try to write their own apps for it using the MIT App Inventor program.)
– Insect pets: If the birthday is in spring or summer, a bug catcher kit can be loads of fun and educational. You could also consider getting a Ladybug or butterfly kit. These can be purchased from Amazon and typically come with coupons that let you order the insects online or by mail. In other words, they’ll send your child caterpillars or the creatures that will eventually become ladybugs so they can watch them change and grow. When they become adults they can be safely set free in the wild.