All About the Birthdays

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From what to do about first birthdays to favorite party entertainers and top places to go in town ... we've got your party planning covered!

FIRST BIRTHDAYS

“First birthdays are really for the parents,” says Keena Stricker, event coordinator at the Cincinnati Family Enrichment Center (CFEC), located at 4244 Hamilton Ave. “Which is fine, because it means you survived the first year!”

When throwing a first year birthday party, Stricker has a few more tips:

  1. Don’t overdo it. Parties can easily get out of control, and the parents end up worn out and don’t get to enjoy any of it.
  2. Keep it Simple. Offer simple food, maybe even just offer snacks.
  3. Stay Flexible. Since babies are involved, try to stay flexible. They might feel overwhelmed and just want to spend the whole party in Mom’s arms.
  4. Keep the time open. If you’re expecting a large group, perhaps try an open-house style party, where guests can drop by anytime.
  5. Give him some space. Remain flexible and be open to whatever happens. If your baby is crying when it’s time to take a picture of his cake, laugh it off and give him the comfort he needs. As Stricker says, it all makes for good memories and funny stories.

If you’re considering a first year birthday party, a great place to check is the CFEC. The center, located in an old, Victorian-style home, is completely childproof, which means that kids have more freedom to run and play. And with a fenced area in both the front and back of the building, it’s the perfect spot to have a home-like party without have to worry about cleaning and preparing your own home (parents just bring food and cake, and any personal decorations they like, although the center will be decorated in advance of the party). Two-hour parties include time for arrival, entertainment, cake, and more time to play. While Stricker recommends that parents save the opening of presents for home, time can be built in for that fun as well. Stricker also says that parties at CFEC are flexible — whether parents want to sit back and relax while she provides fun for the kids, or whether parents want to manage games and let Sticker oversee things like passing out cake. Each party is personalized to fit your needs. It’s best to book a party about a month in advance, so call the CFEC at 513-591-2332 or visit theplaceforfamilies.com.

STRAIGHT FROM MOMS

We asked moms and dads all about their favorite party places, themes and best ideas.  Here’s what they had to say (comments have been edited for length and clarity)!

FROM FACEBOOK: AWESOME ENTERTAINERS & VENUES

LooneyBallooney“We hired Looney Ballooney (Amy Holmes).  She makes balloon animals and other fun balloon items!  She’s fantastic!” — Amanda Riley Teates

  • Amy Holmes of Looney Ballooney is a self-taught balloon twister, who can customize decorative items to coordinate with your party’s theme, and provide something special for the guest of honor. Holmes accepts small parties to large events, whether you want something simple and whimsical or complex and extraordinary. Bracelets, hats, rings and ponytail holders will adorn adults while kids carry their favorite inflated pet or even princess (pictured below). Call 513-393-3854 or visit looneyballooneyoh.webs.com or facebook.com/LooneyBallooney.

Fabulous Faces“Jennifer Pilott of Fabulous Faces by Jen. We have had her twice and she is hands down the BEST face painter I’ve ever seen.” — Alice Rericha

  • Fabulous Faces by Jen offers full faces with plenty of details. Each guest is treated to a unique design (no boards to choose from here!), while parents get a small bag with a cotton round soaked in baby oil and instructions for make-up removal. Fabulous Faces also offers Henna tattoos with organic paste that is safe for small children (or pregnant bellies) and lasts for up to two weeks. Freehand glitter tattoos, feather extensions for braiding into hair, balloon twisting, magicians, clowns and characters are all also on the menu, but “Most events we just do faces because that’s what everyone wants,” says Jen. Call 513-546-2541 or visit fabulousfacesbyjen.com.

“Pump It Up!  We’ve now had three birthdays there!  It’s so organized and private!  We have our own rooms to eat and play in!” — Michelle Harris

  • Pump It Up, located at 7724 Service Center Drive, West Chester, offers multiple party packages. Call 513-829-7867 or visit pumpitupparty.com.

“Cincinnati Museum Center!” — Sarah Thomas Pitzer

  • Cincinnati Museum Center, located at 1301 Western Ave., hosts parties of various themes. Call 513-287-7021 or visit cincymuseum.org.

“Petite Princess Parties, they have tons of characters!  They were amazing!” — Gabriah Hill

TOPS FROM OUR BEST OF PARENTING POLL

Last fall, readers voted on top family venues and services, including party entertainers and destinations. Read on to learn about 2014’s winners!

Entertainers

Charlie Cadabra is a long-time favorite in Greater Cincinnati and winner of our Best of Parenting Poll. His flexible shows are available for different ages, special events and themes. All of his different shows feature the production of a live rabbit, Harvey, which everyone has a chance to pet after the show. Children from the audience end up being the stars of the show as they help Charlie successfully complete the magic tricks. Amazing magic tricks, a hilarious storytelling routine, costumes, silly fun, and a puppet routine all keep the audience engaged throughout the entire show. Call Charlie at 513-702-4400 or visit charliecadabra.com.

An honorable mention in our Best of Parenting Poll and featured on TLC’s Outrageous Kids’ Parties, the Cincinnati Circus Company offers a variety of themes and packages that include everything from carnival games and inflatable rides to a flying trapeze experience.  Parents can also hire strolling entertainment, balloon artists, magicians, and combination acts at an hourly rate along with rental options for individual games, bounce houses and more. Call 513-921-5454 or visit cincinnaticircus.com.

Another honorable mention in our Best of Parenting Poll, Cool Critters Outreach offers an edu-tainment party that lets kids get up close and personal with five to seven animals that they can touch and hold. Ten gift bags or silicone bracelets are part of the package (extras are available for a small fee), and parents can opt for additional items. Call 513-720-2442 or visit coolcrittersoutreach.com.

Jason the Great’s interest in magic began when he was just a young man of 10. With more than 20 years of performing experience, he uses quick wit and clean comedy to create a show catered toward your event. Each performance uses a lot of audience participation — designed to keep everyone laughing. Call 859-356-0820 or visit jasonthegreat.net.

Circus Mojo parties take place at the Circus Mojo theatre, or at your own home, where every kid can achieve success in the center ring and express unique “mojo.” Parties begin with a mini-performance by the talented staff, followed by a one-hour skills workshop for party guests.  Parents can select the circus skills they want kids to learn, like the rolling globe, cable wheel, silks, tightwire or partner acro. Party prices are based on skills and number of participants. Parties also include a host to guide the party after the workshop, snacks and drinks, pizza, goody bags, and cake or cupcakes, with ice cream! Call 859-360-7757 or visit circusmojo.com.

Honey Hill Farm Mobile Petting Zoo guarantees your kids will be introduced to the happiest, cleanest petting zoo around (they’re the same folks in charge of the petting zoo at places like Kings Island and Cedar Point)! Honey Hill Farm offers a classic pony ride, along with a petting zoo option that features chickens, ducks, rabbits, sheep, goats, an alpaca, and a miniature horse or donkey. Kids can feed the animals while waiting for their turn on the pony ride. Be sure to visit the website for tips and advice on frequently asked questions — the animal-loving staff has info on their company’s accreditations, space requirements, and what to do if it rains. Call 859-654-8015 or visit honeyhillfarm.net.

Best Away From Home Party

Pogo Play, located at 10870 Kenwood Road in Blue Ash and winner in last year’s Best of Parenting Poll, offers two party hosts to handle all your party’s logistics, including supervision for safety and keeping track of your gifts. Parents receive a party room for two hours, which includes 30 minutes in the inflatable rooms. Your child’s name with a birthday greeting is placed on display in the party room, where you can enjoy food from Allison’s Café (who will also cut your cake and clean up the dishes). Afterwards, guests can enjoy free play in all seven play zones and the plasma cars. Call 513-432-5593 or visit gopogoplay.com.

Kids First Sports Center, an honorable mention in last year’s Best of Parenting Poll and located at 7900 East Kemper Road, has plenty of options for your next birthday bash. With both indoor and outdoor parties available, and party rooms that can accommodate up to 80 people, they make it easy to go big. Whether you want to enjoy a swim party in the heated pool, or a “Party Palooza” full of activities like an obstacle course complete with trampolines, rings, slides, tunnels and trapezes, it’s easy to keep kids busy and having fun. Coming in June, Kids First will host “Backyard Parties” — outdoor parties on the two-level playground, with a climbing wall and a putt-putt course, and a covered eating area. Call 513-489-7575 or visit kidsfirstsports.com.

Lazer Kraze offers the “Best of Both Worlds” for birthday parties! Whether it’s futuristic laser tag missions with high-tech vests, flashing lights and pulsating music in the laser tag arena or jumping off the walls in the trampoline park, there’s something for all ages. Drinks and a private party room are included as well as a dedicated party coach that will greet you when you arrive and stay with your party the entire time. Options include private trampoline sessions or private laser tag missions, goodie bags, pizzas and arcade tokens. For an even cooler party, you can make it a Glow Party in the special lit room with glow-ware for all your guests! Lazer Kraze is located at 7082 Columbia Road, Maineville, and 1335 Donaldson Road, Erlanger. Call 513-339-1030 or 859-371-5729 or visit lazerkraze.com.

Jump Zone Florence, located at 5765 Constitution Drive, offers parties that last one hour and 45 minutes. Kids have fun jumping on the inflatables before returning to a decorated, private party room for pizza, cake and presents (parents bring the cake, and additional decorations that are not taped to the wall are welcome), all with help from a party coordinator. The birthday child gets his own giant throne chair, an open play pass for a return visit, and a souvenir cup. Head to the website to view the many different packages and options! Call 859-283-5867 or visit jumpzoneparty.com.

Sports of All Sorts, located at 10094 Investment Way in Florence, is a great spot for the entire family to enjoy a birthday party.  Parents are welcome to dive in and go bowling with the kids in a bowling party, or sit back and enjoy watching a game on the big screen TVs while kids have fun. A bowling party for a minimum of eight kids includes a game of bowling, ten tokens per guest, two slices of pizza and a medium soft drink, 50 game tickets per guest (100 for the birthday child!), a party host to help serve the party, balloons and table settings and a reserved party table for two hours. Plenty of fun add-ons on are available, or parents can rent a basketball court for an hour (based on availability). Head to the website to download free party invitations. Call 859-372-7754 or visit sportsofallsortsky.com.

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