HOW TO HAVE A SUCCESSFUL BIRTHDAY PARTY

Another birthday on the calendar? Happens to us all — another year older (and deeper in debt, as the song went), as long as we live. And for each child you call your own, you must throw a party, at least up to about age 11 or 12. After that, all they want is whatever new device Apple is making, or the cash to buy their own Apple devices.

And there’s pressure. The pressure to outdo your neighbors, in-laws and the parents of every single child in every single class and/or organization your kid’s involved in.

They had a sparkly Frozen-themed party, with the soundtrack playing incessantly THE ENTIRE TIME? You have to hire actual humans to portray the animated royal sisters. And you have to build a real mountain.

Or you could just hire a local balloon artist who will twist various balloons into shapes resembling Disney characters. Jacksonville Balloon Animals or A Twist of Fun Balloon Art are two local companies ready to blow and twist.

Face-painting can be cute, but for the edgy tween, opt for temporary tattoos. Airtat BodyArt Temporary Airbrush Tattoos & Face-Painting will craft G-rated designs, or body art that would win over the saltiest sailor; either way, the (temp)ink lasts at least a week and is easily removed with rubbing alcohol.

Here’s a destination option that takes the onus of planning, coordinating, transporting and smiling off you and puts it squarely on them. Jacksonville Ice & Sportsplex on the Southside has three party packages, all of which at the very least involve a sport, a table, food, drink and a “gift for the birthday child.” (You know you’ll forget to get your little angel a gift, or you’ll forget to wrap it — bam! problem solved.)

The Museum of Science & History on the Southbank is a great place to host a birthday bash for children who are interested in reptiles, chemistry or outer space or children who just want to race from floor to floor surrounded by bones, weird science and celestial interpretations. MOSH’s Year of the River initiative should raise awareness of the St. Johns River — though not birthday-party specific, programs geared for kids include Springs Eternal, Little Learners YOTR and Homeschool Days YOTR.

In keeping with the push to get kids off the couch and out the door, let us suggest Tree Hill Nature Center, a resource for environmental and sustainability education in the wilds of Arlington. But don’t let that put you off — Tree Hill offers birthday party packages every day, fashioned to suit any age or interest. Picnic spaces, goat feedings, animal encounters and trail tours are among the features available. Or you can just rent the picnic space and let the kids enjoy nature at their own pace.

Your kid is the next Kelly Slater? Dude. Get that pollywog on some kind of board in some body of water. Jax Surf & Paddle in Neptune Beach has a Kids Surf or SUP Birthday Party package that will elevate the social status of your progeny in the bleary eyes of their peers for years to come.

Where are the bounce houses? Everywhere — so quell that urge to rent one. If you really, really, pleasemomplease, gotta have a bounce house, be sure it’s from a reliable rental source. Get the appropriate size for the age of the partygoers; some companies will include a toddler size along with the massive bigger-kid inflatables.

We know you’d never willingly allow your child to ingest anything artificial, right? No worries — Sweet Pete’s, in the heart of Downtown Jacksonville, creates confections of the purest ingredients, including real cane sugar. There are also vegan, sugar-free, gluten-free and nut-free choices. Sweet Pete’s offers candy-making themed party options for lollipops, taffy, candy canes and chocolate pizzas, among others.

Here are more places to take your tykes to celebrate their big day — assuming you do not want your new expensive wood floors marred by 50 pairs of shoes that aren’t sneakers, or those lovely azalea bushes ripped up by the roots so the kids can have a wider space for “Red Rover,” and assuming you cannot face making another damn pink sheet cake dedicated to imaginary Disney women who were born into royalty, whose status and riches your daughter will never be able to reach, dashing her self-esteem, causing her to later fall into activities you’d rather not envision.

Skate Station Funworks, where kids can … skate. And have fun. funworks.com/mandarin

Adventure Landing, in Jax Beach, St. Augustine and the Westside. Go-karts, minigolf, arcade games, food and a “party captain” in charge. Parents do nothing stressful (except pay).

Artoga, with themes like Mermaid, Dance-Dance, Dog Show Tea Party, Backward Circus. At their site or yours. artoga.org

Batt Family Fun Center. Bowling! On the Westside! They do the planning, decorating, cooking, entertaining and cleaning up after. Noisy, athletic fun. battfamilyfuncenter.com

Black Creek Outfitters Rock Climbing. This is a great idea — kids climbing walls instead of parents
climbing walls. On the Southside, Black Creek Outfitters provide an instructor/belayer, gear and the wall. Duh. blackcreekoutfitters.com

Chuck E. Cheese’s. That’s right, the Cheesemouse endures. In Arlington and Orange Park, Chuck and his pals still rock out, awkwardly, as videos play. Plus: A kid checking system to help keep track of the birthday party guests who spill out from your grasp like mercury from a broken thermometer. chuckecheese.com

Remember, Mom and Dad and Grammy and Pop Pop, it’s not your day. It’s the kid’s day. So let them have fun and give yourself a break, all at the same time. Winning.

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