A few years ago, I got a little burnt out in the process of planning a birthday party for one of my children. It was far too expensive to rent a space and our home is rather small. Trying to account for ways to creatively fit a group of people in without standing shoulder to shoulder was very difficult. On top of that, I had to cook and prepare all of the party food and the cake. I had to decorate and shop for gifts. I put a ton of pressure on myself to make the experience go exactly right.
When the party was over, my child had had a great time, but I came away feeling exhausted. As I sat down that evening, I realized that even though I had put in all this effort, I hadn’t had the chance to enjoy the party myself. I had spent the entire time completely preoccupied with making sure everything was just so and had missed all the fun. That’s when we decided that we were going to make a change. We started a new family tradition that has (so far) been much more enjoyable than any of the parties that we had thrown in the past. We take family adventures!
Family adventure is just a fun name for a day trip. We search out some place fun that we’ve never been to in or near our area and we go and have a great time, just us. Then we come home and enjoy cake and ice cream. It has relaxed us all and the kids look forward to being allowed to choose where we’ll visit.
My oldest son’s birthday was a few days after Christmas and this year, he decided that we should go to Discovery Place Kids, a children’s museum in Huntersville, NC, about an hour from our home. We’ve visited several children’s museums over the last few years, but even though they all have similar features, there is always something that makes them very different.
What I found great about this particular location, which is an offshoot of Discovery Place in Charlotte, NC, was that it is separated into various sections all based on the “I CAN” theme. Young children have a desire to feel grown up and help the adults in their lives, yet their size, age, and maturity can sometimes hinder them from accomplishing the grand goals that they have in mind. At Discovery Place Kids, their imaginations come to life in a real, tangible, and doable way.
Set up like a small town, children travel from place to place and experience hands on activities designed to encourage children to take a step into roles reserved for grown ups. Not only is this fun, but it engages and teaches children to let their creativity soar.
In the I CAN WORK area, children get to suit up and explore careers of familiar community helpers like veterinarians, firefighters, and bank tellers.
Give sick pets an x-ray, board the fire truck and race to the rescue, drive the ambulance to the hospital, and much more!
I CAN BE HEALTHY teaches children how to achieve a lifestyle that includes great nutrition and exercise. Shop in the town market for produce, go to the farm and help milk the cow and bring in the harvest, run and jump in the mini gym, and cook up a scrumptious and healthy meal in the restaurant.
I CAN BUILD lends itself to help children create several of their own structures. Move bricks on conveyor belts, build with Legos and Kid K’Nex, and more.
I CAN EXPLORE UNDERWATER places children in the deep blue sea. They can pretend to operate a submarine, steer a ship, or go to the Bait and Tackle shop. Even the lighting makes you feel like you are immersed in a watery world.
There is also the I CAN GROW area that is designed specifically for babies up to three year olds. We didn’t explore here since my children (except the youngest) are all 3 and up, but it looked fantastic! They even had a water table with built on chairs for wee ones.
We also did not go into the I CAN CREATE area where children can draw, paint, make crafts, and play music, but it looked like a great place to really allow creative juices to flow.
In the TOWN CENTER, there is a giant climbing structure and a stage for dress up, puppet shows and more.
All in all, this is a fantastic place to visit with young children. Our visit lasted for around four hours and all of my kids had a blast! They were worn out and fell asleep rather quickly in the car after our departure. I discovered after we returned home that there is also a LEARNING GARDEN outside, but it was too cold to venture out to it during our trip.
We will absolutely take the drive down to enjoy Discovery Place Kids again in the future! If you live in the area, I highly recommend giving it a try!
Admission is $8.00 per person, ages 1 and up if you are not a member. They even offer monthly classes for homeschoolers!
Do you have any fun birthday traditions?