Greatest Indoor Playground “Yelp” Review Ever

Readers yysedbydfh
— This Yelp review of an indoor playground was sent to us by the guy who wrote it, who felt a little guilty, because his kids had been guests at a party there. So he requested I not include his name or the playspace’s. – L. 

YELP REVIEW:  Are you a helicopter parent who has OCD? If so, you will LOVE this place. I was there with my two kids aged 3 and 1.5 for a private party. The staff reprimanded my children and me multiple times. It got to the point where my wife and I just looked at each other and laughed.

“No running.”
“We only play in one room at a time.”
“OK, this room is closed now.”

That last one was said to me when I was consoling my crying child because the play area was getting closed down for a 2nd time during the two hour party.

If my kids are playing quietly just let them be. I’m watching them. I promise. During the two hour party they closed the main play area twice. The first time was so that they could serve cake. Maybe my kids are not interested in eating when there are a ton of fun things to play on. Just let them play.

The second time they closed the main play area was so that they could set up for another party.  What setup? It’s an indoor playground…

I found it extremely odd that one of the employees got mad when I gave my kid “an adult sized piece of cake”. The lady handed me two pieces THAT WERE THE SAME DARN SIZE. The difference was that the child piece had a spoon and the adult piece had a fork. The fact that my 3 yr old was eating with a fork really angered the staff. Luckily, nothing was said to me or that would have been the straw that broke the camel’s back. My kid knows how to eat with a fork.

I also LOVE the fact that the staff makes sure every child is wiped down before entering the play area. I witnessed one staff member tell a child that they were “not clean enough” and to “go back to mommy to have her wipe better”.  That must make that kid’s mom feel real crappy. Every parent was handed wet wipes by the staff after cake.

There are passive aggressive signs EVERYWHERE

There is a sign that tells parents they must be within “hugging distance” at all times. I’m sorry but that’s not my style of parenting. It’s a business whose model is basically an indoor playground, so why can’t my kid run around without me hovering? The place is not SO large that I would lose sight of my kids.

Another sign said that no cell phones were allowed on the play floor because you must be paying attention to your child. I get this one to a degree. But still, don’t tell me how to parent unless I am obviously endangering the welfare of my child or the other kids at the party.

“Only employees are allowed to turn the lights on and off.” This was in a separate dance room with black lights and disco balls.  I laughed at this one. Being the rebel that I am, I turned on the black light for the kids that were playing in the room at the time. That is how I learned about the “only playing in one room at a time” rule.  The other two parents with me all gave each other a smirk as we escorted our kids back to the structured play activity.

“Due to allergies, no outside food is allowed.”

I’m puzzled by this sign only because my one kid has really weird allergies and I would want to do the opposite. I would want to bring in my own food. My son is allergic to peas and olives. Now these were baby allergies and I think he has had food cooked in olive oil recently so I’m not too paranoid of a parent. However, if my child had severe allergies, there is NO WAY I would let him or her eat food prepared by people I don’t know, on cooking surfaces that may or may not be cross contaminated.

All in all my time at ___________ opened my eyes to what it truly means to be a helicopter parent. – Still Steaming Dad

All the joys of a 2-hour, hovered-over, OCD indoor playground birthday party.

All the joys of a 2-hour, hovered-over, regulated indoor playground birthday party.

, , , , , , ,

79 Responses to Greatest Indoor Playground “Yelp” Review Ever

  1. Melissa March 27, 2014 at 8:17 am #

    Ugh terrible. I can’t stand things like that. I understand wanting (needing) to keep this anonymous, but can you tell us which state this is in? I bring my 3 year to indoor playgrounds all the time… Just want to know if this one is near me, so I can avoid it!

  2. Kristen March 27, 2014 at 8:18 am #

    While I find these rules absurd, I understand where the owners of this business are coming from because now in today’s world, people SUE everyone and everything for every little accident. I think it’s insane but if it were my business, I’d probably try to cover my butt as well! The notion of suing people for normal accidents has gotten ridiculous and this is he result.

  3. Rick March 27, 2014 at 8:19 am #

    I’m glad someone documenting this. It’ll make for a good laugh when people wake up from this insanity. Why hasn’t Saturday Night Live done a skit on this yet?

  4. TaraK March 27, 2014 at 8:27 am #

    What if you have more than one child? No way am I going to be able to stay “within hugging distance” of four kids without losing my ever-lovin’-mind!

  5. Liz March 27, 2014 at 8:30 am #

    The no cell phone rule cracks me up! Seriously, when I go to these places with my girlfriends we are so busy talking I have no clue what my kids are doing…what’s the difference between chatting with friends and looking at your phone?? Also, we lived in Germany where they serve beer at these indoor playgrounds…it makes it a much more tolerable experience 😀

  6. Powers March 27, 2014 at 8:33 am #

    Most of those rules are pretty ridiculous… but I bet they’ve got the cleanest play area in the industry.

  7. gap.runner March 27, 2014 at 8:37 am #

    Life in the States sounds more and more like something out of the Onion. That play area’s rules are so absurd! A lot of German furniture stores have indoor play areas for young kids that are supervised by staff people. But they are not chasing after the kids with wet wipes nor telling them to stop running. They let the kids play freely and only intervene if someone gets hurt. When a kid does get hurt, he gets a Band-Aid and sent back to play without a detailed incident report.

  8. Jodie March 27, 2014 at 8:42 am #

    Wow! These people who run this prison, I mean playground, would be absolutely appalled to learn that my two year old eats with a fork almost every single day of her life!

  9. Nate March 27, 2014 at 9:03 am #

    Here’s the place:

  10. BL March 27, 2014 at 9:09 am #

    “Also, we lived in Germany where they serve beer at these indoor playgrounds”

    Fine, but what do the parents drink? 🙂

  11. Crystal March 27, 2014 at 9:14 am #

    There was an indoor playground like this one at our last assignment. The staff was inordinately fond of making both homemade and professional signs detailing their ridiculous rules (No climbing on the climbing wall! No exchanging of presents!)everywhere. The best part: countless grammar and spelling mistakes. I’m sorry, but if you can’t follow the rules we learned in first grade language arts, then I won’t follow yours.

  12. Snow March 27, 2014 at 9:19 am #

    Awww, Nate, I just emailed Lenore to let her know, since the author wanted to remain anonymous, that the review was very easy to find. I am assuming that you found the review that same way I did.

  13. Gary March 27, 2014 at 9:20 am #

    Ha!!! the place Nate linked is like 30min from me , looks like a lil recon is in order…

  14. Richard March 27, 2014 at 9:41 am #

    Sounds like Pump It Up – an indoor inflatable place designed for parties. If not, it could easily be a clone. Please take these comments as they’re intended – I’m a big free range fan and a father of two girls, but also a small business owner.

    If its the same model, or a similar one, they start out in the “regular” room then move you into the “black light” room, then into one of two “food” rooms. The reason that you only get to be in one room at a time is because after you leave its wiped down and the next party gets a turn.

    Additionally, there are state and local regulations on businesses like that that dictate a lot of what they have to do, from excessive wiping of equipment to making sure that a staff member is present whenever kids are present (keeping correct ratios, etc). They may think that the rules are just as silly as you do, but that doesn’t stop someone from shutting them down if they’re caught violating them.

    As for the “hugging distance” rule, that just sounds dumb. The cleanliness one may have been handled poorly, but again if they’re having hundreds of kids a day come through then letting kids with noticeably unclean hands come in to play is going to mean a ton of extra work for the poor staffers cleaning between each party.

    Maybe there’s just not enough information, but blaming minimum-wage staff for following what are either state-mandated or employer-dictated rules and not letting you violate them is petty.

    Don’t go back? Sure, if its not your thing. Complain about the rules on Yelp? By all means. Laughing at the poor staffers when you encourage your kids to break those same rules? Small minded.

  15. BL March 27, 2014 at 10:03 am #

    “They may think that the rules are just as silly as you do, but that doesn’t stop someone from shutting them down if they’re caught violating them”

    They’ll also have to shut down if their customers just don’t come back.

    When we complain to the employee in front of us, we don’t necessarily expect instant change. We expect the complaint will be passed up the line.

    Or we can just walk away, never come back, and advise our acquaintances to avoid the business, too.

  16. John March 27, 2014 at 10:24 am #

    The whole helicopter parenting is almost comical. I just had my second so when we go to the parks/playgrounds I do tend to stay somewhat close but I want him to explore. But more importantly I’m waiting for when I can finally sit down again and let my kids run for however long and I can read a book and just relax and laugh at the parents who can’t be 5 feet from their kids who are older than mine for fear that they might fall.

  17. LadyTL March 27, 2014 at 10:32 am #

    Sounds like this place has a problem because out of all their reviews 17 are filtered off 5 stars(that sound like employees because they keep mentioning the names of them over and over as well as complain abut negative things in other reviews) and then a filtered 1 star complaining about the same thing this guy was.

  18. Linda March 27, 2014 at 10:35 am #

    It figures that a over-regulated place like this is in New Jersey (or some other beaureucratic state).

  19. E. Simms March 27, 2014 at 10:44 am #

    @Kristen “While I find these rules absurd, I understand where the owners of this business are coming from because now in today’s world, people SUE everyone and everything for every little accident.”

    Actually, they don’t. I put “sue happy people” in the same category as kidnappers. They exist, but they really are not lurking behind every bush and behind every little accident.

  20. E March 27, 2014 at 11:00 am #

    My kids are way too old for these places, they just started to pop up as they were aging out I think, so no personal experience. Just recently I saw a sign at our YMCA pool that said “no holding your breath for extended periods of time” or something like that. Of course, we used to ALWAYS do that as kids (or even when I was a lifeguard). See how far you could go underwater, see how long you could hold your breath. But the Y didn’t just make up the sign, I imagine their insurer suggested/demanded it. Same goes for this place, sadly.

    But Yeah, the bagging on the staffers is kind of mean spirited, they are just trying to keep their jobs. And for customers to break the rules anyway just makes it harder on them to do their jobs.

    Negative review, fine. Don’t give them your business, fine.

  21. Jen (P.) March 27, 2014 at 11:02 am #

    “Hugging distance”??? What does that even mean? Do you have to have your hands on them at all times?

  22. E March 27, 2014 at 11:04 am #

    @ESimms, your stats might be correct about those wishing to sue, but your insurance is going to dictate a lot about what you need to do to prevent risk/exposure to them.

  23. E. Simms March 27, 2014 at 11:10 am #

    By E Thu Mar 27th 2014 at 11:04 am
    @ESimms, your stats might be correct about those wishing to sue, but your insurance is going to dictate a lot about what you need to do to prevent risk/exposure to them.
    You’re right, but it’s time for people to stop allowing insurance companies such control. It’s just too much trouble for some individuals/businesses to research other insurance companies and fire the nannies.

  24. Gary March 27, 2014 at 11:11 am #

    “Ha!!! the place Nate linked is like 30min from me ”

    Wrong Mt. Laurel, this is the south jersey one, oh well…

  25. Jen (P.) March 27, 2014 at 11:12 am #

    @E–Your comment about the sign at the Y warning kids not to hold their breath for extended periods reminded me that when she was about 6 my eldest daughter managed to close our neighborhood pool for doing just that. She and a couple of friends were competing to see who could stay under the longest. Well she bonked heads with one of them on the way up, swallowed a bunch of water and while she was coughing made a retching sound and coughed up the tiniest bit of pink water. She had been eating skittles during the adult swim a few minutes earlier, and I swear it was about the equivalent of one skittle, but the lifeguard saw it and immediately blew his whistle, emptied the pool and closed it for the rest of the day 🙁

  26. Will March 27, 2014 at 11:16 am #

    On the flip side, there’s an indoor bouncy play place here in Scottsdale that has a parent’s only lounge area which is basically a balcony above the main play area that has couches and TVs for watching news, sports, whatever. You can see your kids (if you want – the staff is really good about keeping an eye on kids and enforcing the generally simple common sense rules), but you sure as heck aren’t in “hugging distance”.

    I only speak to parents who join me up there. The ones hovering downstairs are not the kind of parents I want to talk to. Yes, I’m turning in to a free-range snob, but I know from experience that trying to have a reasonable conversation with anyone hovering downstairs is a non-starter for me.

  27. E. Simms March 27, 2014 at 11:17 am #

    @E continued:

    In fact, a former employer of mine did just that. The insurance company was giving personnel a lot of grief when we were negotiating life insurance coverage because so many employees liked to snow ski, scuba dive and engage in other perfectly normal outdoor activities. When the big boss had had enough, he had personnel research other companies, fired the current insurer and hired an insurer that had no problem with active employees. The new company apparently realized that active employees were much healthier and had a longer life expectancy than couch potatoes.

    To a great extent, people put up with ridiculous demands from insurance companies because they can’t be bothered to do the research and fire them.

  28. SKL March 27, 2014 at 11:19 am #

    You know what’s funny, there was an adult knock-down-drag-out fight during a tot’s birthday party at one of the nearby indoor play places. So much for child safety. (The staff grabbed the cake knife and got the heck out ASAP, leaving the tots to watch and potentially get involved with the fight until the cops got it under control. The video was posted online. I don’t think any serious injuries occurred, thankfully.)

  29. Donna March 27, 2014 at 11:36 am #

    While I agree that the rules are stupid this comment kinda irked me: “The first time [they closed the room] was so that they could serve cake. Maybe my kids are not interested in eating when there are a ton of fun things to play on. Just let them play.”

    You do understand that if someone invites your kid to a birthday party, the hosts do kinda expect said kid to stop playing when the actual birthday festivities happen, don’t you? It is a birthday party, not just 2 hours of free play for your kid on someone’s dime.

  30. Jennifer Hendricks March 27, 2014 at 11:44 am #

    Reminds me of a similar party when my kid was young where the staff required all the children to stop playing and sit still in chairs to watch the birthday kid open all the presents.

  31. Nanci March 27, 2014 at 12:59 pm #

    I agree with Richard. My son had a birthday party at Pump It Up, and it was great! They have 2 bounce rooms, each with different bouncers. You spend about 40 minutes in one, then 40 minutes in the other, then 40 minutes in the party room having cake and opening presents. I didn’t find this to be restrictive at all. They have several parties cycling through, with this method each party gets each area to themselves. I’ve never heard of any party place where the kids can choose to opt out of the cake, ice cream, presents time to play more, that is part of the party. I’m thinking the writer’s kids are young and he has not gone to enough parties yet to realize how they work. You don’t get to do whatever you or your kid want while you are there, it’s about the birthday kid, when it’s time to watch them open their presents and share in the cake, that is what it is time for.

    As for the hugging rule and young kids can’t have plastic forks rule, well those are just silly. Can’t say I’ve ever seen things like that happen anywhere. I’m betting it was just a sign on the wall, not something that was really enforced. I see lots of signs that have ridiculous restrictions that are ignored by everyone including the workers. Once when my daughter was 5 we went to a pool. She had recently learned to read. She went down the slide a few times and then didn’t want to go anymore. She said she hated it, water kept getting up her nose. I told her to hold her nose. She said she couldn’t because the sign said you had to cross your arms over your chest. She would not believe me that she didn’t have to obey everything the sign said, so I had her ask a lifeguard. Lifeguard said of course she could hold her nose! If they were actually enforcing the hugging range thing then I would never go to that place again, because that is insane, just like I would never return to the pool if the lifeguard had tried to say no plugging your nose, your arms must stay folded across your chest.

  32. SOA March 27, 2014 at 1:40 pm #

    Yes, that food thing is just to get money so you have to buy their food. As a mom of a child with food allergies it is usually the opposite. They allow you to bring in food for the allergic child but keep others from bringing in food so you have to buy their food. But if they don’t allow any food at all then I am okay with saying “due to food allergies we keep this a food free place”. That is fine, but the heck if you won’t let me bring in safe food for my allergic kid to eat.

    Children’s play places can become free for alls and Lord of the flies sometimes and I do get irritated when parents don’t supervise their kids enough that if their kid is pushing over little kids or climbing up the giant inflatable slide the wrong way etc. Because then I have to step in and correct your child and I don’t want to have to do that. Not my job. I manage my kids, you manage yours.

    So I can understand the no phone rule or the please supervise your kids rule but hugging distance is too much. Mostly just don’t park your butt at a table the entire time and not look up from your phone the entire time. At least check in on your kids from time to time and make sure they are behaving.

  33. SOA March 27, 2014 at 1:44 pm #

    There is one bouncy play place we go to parties at that after the cake and ice cream and pizza they turn off all the inflatables and won’t let you jump on them anymore. Because they claim kids throw up after eating and then jumping.Which maybe some kids do but my kids never have and I have never seen any other kids do it either. At our party where we rented a bounce house kids bounced the entire time and nobody threw up.

    I prefer more open play parties. It is hard to make all the kids sit there and watch someone open presents for 30 minutes or if they don’t feel like eating sit there and watch everyone else eat. We do if that is what they want us to do, but at our parties I have food out the entire time so you can just eat whenever you want and the games and playing goes on the whole time. I think kids have more fun when everything is more open and free.

  34. Havva March 27, 2014 at 1:57 pm #

    Sounds like there were some staff attitude issues. But also sounds a lot like modern play places, and the general regulatory environment. My kid has been sanitized at every one of these parties, including the one where they put my just about to turn 3year old on a zip line :). I was far from hugging distance… as were most of the parents.

    Strangest thing in kids parties though. I did recently get a party invitation with a liability wavier attached! That was a turn off, even knowing about the zip line. But, ah well…you have to sign one when you sign the kid in at any such place, and the birthday girl is one of her best friends, and she loved the zip line.

  35. Andy March 27, 2014 at 3:01 pm #

    @Donna That may depend on location and party size. At least in bigger parties where I was, older kids went for cake, younger kept playing and nobody cared.

  36. anonymous this time March 27, 2014 at 3:20 pm #

    I lived for the “park your kid here and you go do something else” type of centres when mine were so little. It always galled me if there was a height or age requirement. Let me decide whether my kid can handle your plastic tube slide, thank you! Anyway, the hovery type of indoor play centre can kiss my ass. What use is that? It’s the worst of both worlds. I get nothing done that I need to, and my kid doesn’t get to take any risks or enjoy themselves.

    On a happier note, my 9-year-old just changed schools and I am AMAZED at the space they give the kids to experiment and try and risk. Yesterday my girl wanted to show me, proudly, how she can walk on these rickety, splintery homemade stilts they’ve got lying around there. Then her friend jumped on so they could try having two girls on the stilts at once. Needless to say there was much falling, laughing, getting bonked, and the kind of stuff I have to frankly look away from because I don’t want anyone to get hurt. But I went on and on to the teachers I was standing with to rave about how GREAT this is for my girl and the other kids and PLEASE KEEP ALLOWING THIS and what a miracle it is that some inspector hasn’t come around to forbid it all because they also have a big wooden plank and a stump and the kids use it as a teeter totter, piling kids of all ages and sizes on it, sitting under it, spinning it…

    Egads, I might have jinxed the whole thing writing about it here, but I just had to tell you all how GREAT it is to see a school, an actual SCHOOL, where kids are encouraged to make their own equipment out of wooden odds and sods. The principal just told me that she’s partnering with the foundation here based on the “Last Child in the Woods” idea to encourage kids to be outdoors more, and they’re going to collaborate on making the “playground” a more natural, free-form, open-ended kind of play experience outside.


  37. SOA March 27, 2014 at 3:33 pm #

    I love the nature playgrounds and “Last Child in the Woods”. A nature center in Knoxville Tn has a nature playground and we visited it once. It was so cute. They made little huts out of fallen sticks and old logs because a jumping puzzle and little hills of dirt became paths and trails. Very cute.

    There is another playground we go to that is not technically a nature playground but feels like one in that it is in the woods and has a zip line on trees and other things like tire swings and kids get on rocks and get sticks out of the woods etc.

  38. lollipoplover March 27, 2014 at 3:34 pm #

    My kids have been to tons of bouncy parties and I’ve never had an issue. Granted, I sign the waiver and leave.
    They’re usually sweaty and disinfected when I return to pick them up.

  39. Buffy March 27, 2014 at 3:48 pm #

    I can understand about not bagging on the employees, but on the other hand…is it really a corporate rule that kids younger than ‘x’ age can’t use a fork? I totally blame the employees for that one.

  40. Havva March 27, 2014 at 4:38 pm #

    My guess is an over stringent interpretation of the rules. My daughter has been issued a spoon at a few of these things. I never thought much of it but that it was weird. The first time I thought it was an error. I’ve just asked for a fork and gotten one. I think I even mentioned that my daughter was having an awful time trying to eat cake with a spoon.

  41. Donna March 27, 2014 at 4:43 pm #

    Andy – I have never been to a birthday party where every invited guest wasn’t expected to stop playing for long enough to sing happy birthday and watch the birthday kid blow out candles and cut cake. There may be some toddlers that are younger siblings of the actual invited guest running off, but all the invited guests are expected to do the cake thing. Anything else would be considered rude. So I don’t find it odd at all that they would close the play area during this period to herd all the kids in that direction.

    Now, I’ll be honest, I think birthday parties for kids under 4 or 5 are ridiculous which is why my daughter’s first party was for her 5th birthday.

  42. E March 27, 2014 at 5:23 pm #

    @Buffy, you really think a staffer would make up the fork/cake rule? I can’t imagine why they’d care! It seems like exactly the kind of thing that owners/managers would list as procedure.

    @ESimms, perhaps you are right but I have no idea what the business demands or experience or resources are about this place. That’s why it’s up to the consumer to talk with their money. If people say that the rules at the place are too cumbersome that they’ll take their business elsewhere, then maybe the business will decide to do what you suggest. As a business owner, it’s up the them to decide how to run their business. It’s up to the consumer to patronize (or not) that business.

    Anyway, it sounds like the author enjoyed writing the YELP review, made very good points and then complained about stuff that was just for the sake of complaining.

  43. Andy March 27, 2014 at 5:41 pm #

    @Donna I guess that there are various types of parties and societies. I kind of tend to assume that the original writer was aware of company he was with and was not rude to anyone. There is no reason to assume worst possibility.

    As for close the play area, I would find it weird even if it would be rude to the party. When I was in such center, whole area was open whole time and staff did not cared how we use it (as long as reasonably safe and clean). They did their job as animators, entertainers, made sure everyone knew what is going on etc, but they did not played law enforcement.

    When I rent the place or pay entrance fee, I expect the place to be available to me and my guests.

    Plus, closing play area seems to imply it is not going to re-open in ten minutes it takes to sing and distribute cake. Is everyone really forced to sit and wait for slow eaters?

  44. Lindsey March 27, 2014 at 7:29 pm #

    One time when I was at the Virginia Beach Williams farm rec center I saw a lifeguard tell a toddler to wait for your parent when the parent was close by and the water dephness was up to his ancles!

  45. Richard March 27, 2014 at 7:46 pm #

    @Andy: as for being rude, this really felt over the top to me:

    “Only employees are allowed to turn the lights on and off.” This was in a separate dance room with black lights and disco balls. I laughed at this one. Being the rebel that I am, I turned on the black light for the kids that were playing in the room at the time. That is how I learned about the “only playing in one room at a time” rule. The other two parents with me all gave each other a smirk as we escorted our kids back to the structured play activity.

    Harassing the staff is just plain rude. If you don’t like structured parties, feel free to leave or to stay and say something afterwards.

  46. SOA March 27, 2014 at 8:12 pm #

    Donna: Yes I think everyone can gather around and sing happy birthday for a few minutes. But I do think it is kinda ridiculous to make kids sit still for 30 mins watching them open gifts or making them sit still while everyone eats even if they are already done or not hungry. Because a bored kid to me equals a lame party.

    I spend a ton of money on my kids birthday parties and spend almost a year planning them. They are a big deal to me and I want every kid there to have an amazing time meaning I don’t want bored kids. I would never make the kids sit there and watch them open presents forever or sit there and watch everyone eat. I say let them go play.

  47. Donna March 27, 2014 at 8:23 pm #

    Andy –

    Obviously you are not well-versed on kid parties in party venues like this in America. You absolutely do not “rent the place.” You pay for a structured party hosted by the venue. Everyone is expected to engage in the prescribed activities at the prescribed times, including cake and present opening. The other activities are closed unless it is a place that is open to the public while you are there. Doing cake time in the middle of playtime seems very odd to me – and poor planning on the part of the venue. It is far more typical to do it at the end.

    These types of parties are very formulaic. The activities and food may change, but for the most part, there is little variety from one place to the next. By this time in my kid party-going career, I can predict what is going to happen at any one of them and be darn near 100% accurate, even if I have never been to that particular place before.

    My daughter has had both venue and home birthday parties over the years. Both have advantages and disadvantages. She seems to prefer to have home parties, but loves to go to venue parties of her friends. We are off to Pump it Up for the hundredth time (and that is only a slight exaggeration) this weekend. Ugh.

    As for knowing his company, I certainly wouldn’t assume that. Almost all the parties that my kid attended at that age were for her daycare classmates. I knew the parents to say hi and bye if we happened to pass at drop off or sign in. Several times I didn’t even know the parent’s name until I saw it on the invitation. Based on this guy’s comments, it is pretty clear that this is one of the first parties that he has been to at these types of venues so he is not a kid-party guest expert.

  48. Donna March 27, 2014 at 8:31 pm #

    SOA – My kid LOVES to watch her friends open their presents. It is her favorite part of the party. She actually cried at a friend’s party when she realized that the friend wouldn’t be opening her presents there. And obviously, she wants everyone to watch her open her presents when it is her party.

    The point is that what makes a party great is going to vary by the kid. If you don’t want to make kids have structured time to eat cake, then don’t have your party at Pump it Up or similar venue.

    But you also don’t get to dictate the activities at other kids’ birthday parties. You can either choose to go to Johnny’s party at Pump it Up, which will involve a designated time for play, a designated time for cake and a designated time for present opening or you can choose not to go. But you absolutely don’t get to just ignore the host’s plan and do whatever you want to do.

  49. SOA March 27, 2014 at 9:20 pm #

    Donna: I already said we do whatever is done at the party but that does not mean we like it.

    If a child asks my kids to open their present, we will but for every kid that wants to watch them open their present there is one that doesn’t.

  50. SOA March 27, 2014 at 9:31 pm #

    Even at Pump It Up you can do things differently. We followed the room to room thing when we had a party at PIU but we still did not do present opening. We let everyone eat and talk and mingle instead.

    When it is your party you still can tweak it a bit. I am also a frequent kids party goer at least one a month if not more and lots of people don’t open presents or have a set everyone eat now time at all kinds of venues.

  51. BL March 27, 2014 at 9:35 pm #

    Now we know why so many parents are making their kids helpless.

    The parents are helpless themselves. They can’t stage a birthday party without professional help. Make that anal, overregulated professional help.


  52. Donna March 27, 2014 at 10:11 pm #

    BL –

    It isn’t helplessness. It is sometimes desirability. Other times, it is simply ease.

    The first time that we had a venue party (Pump it Up) , it was what my kid really wanted after going to several others. I knew what it was going in as I had been to a dozen at that point. Whatever. The stuff mentioned in this complaint just isn’t a big deal to me. As long as my kid has a fun birthday (she did), the rest is just silliness.

    Then we had two very simple home parties that she planned to the extent that there was planning.

    This past birthday, I insisted on a venue party. We were moving 3 weeks before my daughter’s birthday and I didn’t want to deal with a party at my house on top of that. She was cool with that.

    At all of them, we stopped the activities at some point to have cake and open presents. I’m not sure why this is such a novel idea on this blog. It is what I did at every party when I was a child too.

    Next year, she will have whatever party she wants. If she wants to do it at home, we’ll do it at home. If she wants to have it somewhere, we’ll have it somewhere. It is her day so it is her choice (within reason). I’m not going to get bogged down in the minutia of it or make her birthday about my statement.

  53. Donna March 27, 2014 at 10:37 pm #

    SOA –

    I cater my child’s birthday party to my child’s enjoyment only. She wants to open her presents at her party so we open her presents at her party. If she didn’t, we wouldn’t. If some of her friends are bored for a few minutes, oh well. Since I can’t remember attending a kid party where the vast majority of the guests were not into the present opening, I don’t see where this is the great kid hardship that you want to make it.

    Maybe it is a boy/girl thing? Although my daughter has some boy friends and attends the occasional boy party, she is a major girly girl so the majority of her friends have always been girls and that is the largest number of parties that I have been too.

  54. Gina March 27, 2014 at 10:50 pm #

    @Will..what’s the place in Scottsdale? Where is it? I nanny a toddler and it sounds wonderful!

    Otherwise….the WIPES is what kills me. They wipe them down and then the kids breath all over each other and cough and sneeze…KIDS GET SICK…It’s part of the deal and preventing it isn’t doing them any favors. We’re killing their immune systems!

  55. hineata March 28, 2014 at 12:46 am #

    @BL – love those catered parties. Takes the mess out of your place. Whereas when I had them at home it seemed we’d be finding party bits and pieces round the house for months after. If that makes me helpless, roll on helpless :-).

  56. SOA March 28, 2014 at 3:19 am #

    Just my personal opinion on the present opening but if I pay $300 to rent a huge bounce house for example I want the kids to get their money’s worth of play on it meaning I would rather they play the whole time than spend some of that time sitting around opening presents. Just my personal feeling. And yes, it probably could be an older kid thing and a girl thing.

    Every time I see little kids do the present opening it results in the little kid wanting to get the toys out right then and play with them and then crying when told they can’t. Or their friends wanting “Help” them open the presents and then they want to open the toys and play with them right then too. For boys they just want to run around because boys have unlimited energy. I think mine at almost 7 are just now into watching other kids open presents. They kinda like it now but before it has actually caused meltdowns sometimes with my autistic son who did not want to stop doing whatever fun thing he was doing to sit there and honestly I did not blame him but we tried to do it anyway.

    So its a personal preference thing mostly. At our parties usually I only really make everyone gather round to sing Happy Birthday and that is it. The rest of the time I just want them to play. We are doing a pool party this year and we will have some kids swimming, some people eating at the tables set up, some people probably playing some party games I have set up all at the same time and that is fine. We invite kids of all ages so I want all the kids to have fun and not get upset including the tiny ones who may not be able to sit for 20 minutes and watch presents being opened.

  57. Jennifer March 28, 2014 at 3:20 am #

    It strikes me that some of these complaints are the parent being snarky because they didn’t get to go off and do what they want when they want.

    My understanding is that this was a birthday package that involved a series of play rooms on a schedule, with a break for food and cake. If that’s what they paid for, that’s what they get – the business doesn’t have an obligation to let the customers run around into the other rooms, flipping light switches on and off because that’s what they want to do instead of the package. They can book out a whole facility for the afternoon if that’s what they want.

    The food-break thing makes sense to me too – if for no other reason than the staff is unlikely to want to have to scrub mashed cake and spilled orange drink off the play areas because the kids want to play and eat at the same time.

  58. Trina March 28, 2014 at 8:31 am #

    I feel like this story is equating free range with letting your kid ignore rules and do whatever they feel like doing all the time. To me, that is more indicative of helicopter parenting: “My precious child must be catered to at all times.” And it is an attitude that drives me nuts. Free range does not mean ignoring rules.

  59. E March 28, 2014 at 9:42 am #

    @Trina and @Jennifer sum it up well. Did this place have some rules that seem silly or over-reaching (hugging distance)? Sure, but if this place has several groups rotating thru the venue, there’s probably some organizational processes and rules that make that manageable.

    I get that parents can supervise their own kids, but that’s not the same as going to an event and expecting a custom experience. I presume sometimes kids are dropped off at the venue so keeping the entire party on the same task is simply how the staff can manage it. If a parent attends with a sibling, that doesn’t mean that they (the staff) can make exceptions (again – they are just trying to do what’s expected of them as employees).

    As to Donna/Andy’s discussion about cake/presents. Sure, some situations might be different, but in this case, that’s what was the expected behavior. That’s kind of the end of the story.

  60. BL March 28, 2014 at 10:20 am #

    “keeping the entire party on the same task”

    Task? Is this a party or a work-crew for prison inmates?

    What’s even the purpose of these places? A playground of any sort sounds like it should be a fun place, but this sounds like anything but.

  61. Matthew March 28, 2014 at 12:59 pm #

    Just like free range, this a fortunately a free market thing since it’s not government mandated.

    This definitely decided me in favor of Monkey Joes (one of the places where they have recliners that can see the entrance) instead of Pump it Up. Pump it Up annoyed me with their web site since the party options seemed to be only about birthdays. We don’t celebrate birthdays (special attention is for actually achieving something), but do like to have just a general themed (Should I be worried my 4 year old wants a McGuyver party?) party for the kids.

    Monkey Joes also just has the time limit on the room. It’s a fair trade to share the play area but have no time limit on the kids playing.

    They need to get the liqour license though.

  62. E March 28, 2014 at 1:13 pm #

    @BL, if you have a business that relies on people booking parties back to back and then using the facitilities in a manner that allows from that, then yeah, you might need to have rules that give you enough time to clean the ‘party room’ or whatever before the next group needs it.

    If that’s not how you’d like your kid’s party to operate, then don’t book a party there.

    I’d be curious about the reviewer’s kid. When they left, would they have said they had fun? Did the birthday kid enjoy the party? If the answers are yes, then good for them.

    I’m not suggesting a negative review that give insight into how the place works is bad, that’s helpful for potential customers (who share any of the same concerns).

  63. Emily March 28, 2014 at 1:51 pm #

    To the people who say “Book a party somewhere else if you don’t like the indoor playground’s rules,” well, that’s all well and good for parents of kids with non-winter birthdays, but winter birthday parties are harder to organize. Home parties depend on having a big enough house to accommodate a party of kids, and not having any family members with conflicting needs (for example, a home repair or redecorating project, or a sibling studying for an exam). Outdoor snow-related parties (sledding, ice skating on outdoor rinks, making snow forts/sculptures),are a possibility, but they’re dependent on reasonable weather–as in, not a blizzard, or a thaw turning the party activity area into slush soup. In Canada, this time of the year is very much still winter, and the “blizzard or thaw” scenario is entirely possible. So, naturally, parents of winter-birthday kids turn to parties at venues, such as indoor skating rinks, pools, movie theatres, museums, laser tag arenas, mini golf, and for younger kids, indoor playgrounds. In that case, I think it’s reasonable for parents to want their child to have a birthday party that’s not micromanaged, especially if they have another child with a non-winter birthday who can have his or her choice of party.

    Besides, we don’t know that the party website/flyer/representative at the venue spelled out exactly what the party would entail. For all we know, all the information the party-organizing parent received was something like, “Playtime in the room with the playground equipment and the blacklight room, followed by cake and presents, $X for Y number of kids.” So, for all we know, nobody knew all of the “rules” until the party was happening. In that case, I don’t think it’s fair to blame the host parent, the guest parents, or the kids, for being upset at being hovered over.

  64. AmyO March 28, 2014 at 2:58 pm #

    What exactly is hugging distance?

    If I saw that sign I would probably pass out laughing.

  65. Beth March 28, 2014 at 3:58 pm #

    The whole modern concept of parents having to attend a birthday party with their child just boggles my mind, and I’ve found that it’s common with home parties too, at least in my area.

    My kids are past birthday party age, but let me tell you, I would have been beyond peeved if any parent had stayed at my house during the party.

  66. bmommyx2 March 28, 2014 at 9:01 pm #

    Wow, I’ve been to a lot of indoor playgrounds & have never encountered ones like that. I doubt they will be in business very long. Even helicopter parents don’t want strangers parenting their children or telling them what to do.

  67. DirtyHooker March 29, 2014 at 11:17 am #

    This makes me sad. I remember my birthday parties when I was a kid. The only parents who even stuck around for the party were the ones who were personally friends with my mother. The rest dropped off their kids and left. No one died or was even seriously injured.

  68. Lea March 29, 2014 at 12:34 pm #

    Why are parents staying for birthday parties at these things, much less required to be within hugging distance? If the parents are good friends with the host I suppose I can see staying but otherwise why do they need to hang around? If it’s because the kids are too little to drop off and leave….why are parents having expensive big parties for kids so little?

    I have seen many ridiculous rules at places for kids and family venues. I tend to ignore them and tell my kids to smile and then do it there way. Yep I tell my kids if it seems absurd and you can’t get a decent explanation as to why a rule makes safety sense…ignore it.

    Adults make up rules and decide things are safe/unsafe with little to no reasoning or reasonableness behind them all the time. It has little to do with insurance or cooperate rules or actual safety hazards. Because adults run places kids go and being overly safe and ridiculously cautious of imagined harms has become an acceptable way of life, weird and ridiculous rules have been a way of life in places.

    Far to many adults think that things like forks are dangerous for small kids and get mad if little kids get them when they are in charge. I’ve known parents that got made when their three and four year olds have been directly handed pieces of cake a fork and told to carry it to a table/spot to go and each. They wanted the cake handed to them so they could safely carry it and then help their child each it.

    Last year at the YMCA pool, my twelve year old (and others int he pool), was told that anytime he was swimming under water he must keep one finger held up above the water. It wasn’t a posted rule. It was something the lifeguard on duty decided was a safety feature. I was in the pool with him at the time. I told him to ignore it as it was ridiculous. You can’t swim under water, much less dive down for things, if your hand is up in the air. I asked the pool supervisor about it later. I was told the lifeguards have authority to make up rules they deem fit to the situation or that they feel will improve pool safety.However he could not explain any reason as to how this rule could improve safety at all.

    I once asked the public pool lifeguard why they wouldn’t let us play with a beach ball in the water. I was told someone could get hit in the head and drown???????

    At one inflatable indoor playground place a sign said no adults on the equipment. I didn’t want to play in the bouncy house but I was curious why since I know some others might like to bounce. I was told the weight of an adult could collapse the bounce house. As the closed the session down, three adult employees climbed inside the bounce house with spray bottles and rags to clean it. Odd, I guess adult employees weigh less than other adults?

  69. Susanna K. March 29, 2014 at 7:57 pm #

    My 8-yr-old recently had a birthday party in what must be the polar opposite of this place. There were bouncy houses, a black light mini golf room, and the kids could go wherever they wanted whenever they wanted. There was also a zip line. Yes, that’s right: they let kids as young as 4 zip across the warehouse-size room 12 feet up in the air. Of course, the kids were never in any danger, but it sure looked scary, and the kids loved it.

  70. SOA March 30, 2014 at 3:30 pm #

    I think that is norm around here as far as the parent stays for the party. At least up to 6 years old which is where my kids are at. I have never dropped them off at a party but we have been to probably 100 parties. Most of the time I am friends with the parent so I stay and socialize and I have a good time.

    It would be a lot to ask them to handle my autistic son and my son with a food allergy along with 20 other kids on their own. So I stay and handle my kids. Just about every other parent stays too. Now for older kids like 9 and up I do see some drop off parties once they are about that age.

    I think it is stupid to say no kid should have a party until they are old enough to be dropped off. If someone wants to pay for their kid to have a party and plan it, that is their business. You can choose to attend or not.

    So far every party we have thrown the parents stay. Because we have kids from age infant to age 12 attending.

  71. Buffy March 30, 2014 at 7:42 pm #

    Why on earth would a parent(s) want to entertain 20 sets of parents along WITH 20 kids?

  72. Kath March 30, 2014 at 7:45 pm #

    My kids are intolerant to gluten, dairy, soy, artificial flavours,flavour enhancers, buckwheat and probably other stuff that I just haven’t cared to try. I usually ignore the ‘don’t bring your own foods’ signs. For convenience, I’d like to bring nuts or nut products, but I never do, because of other children’s allergies.

  73. SOA March 31, 2014 at 7:10 am #

    Because they like the parents and are friends with them too? Or want to make new friends?

    It costs more because I buy enough food and drinks for the parents too in case they want some, but I actually enjoy hanging out with the parents because we are all good friends.

  74. Melissa March 31, 2014 at 4:26 pm #

    I *try* to keep an eye on the 2-year-old just because she’s tiny AND pushy, and one of these days a bigger kid is going to call her bluff and push her off of something (which she will likely deserve). The 4-year-old checks in once in awhile if he has to pee, and to tell me how fun the big slide is, or if he hurts himself on something. I put them in bright shirts so I can look up and find them at a glance if I feel the need. Then I sit on a comfy couch and enjoy my free time! And laugh at the six foot tall fathers climbing through 30″ diameter plastic tubes.

  75. SOA April 1, 2014 at 8:56 am #

    I use that trick too! I always put mine in like a red shirt or another color that I can easily spot. I just look for the red shirts and spot mine and then can go back to chatting with my friend or reading my book or walking or whatever.

  76. J April 1, 2014 at 1:24 pm #


    Hello all,
    I completely forgot to check out the site to see when this would be posted. I guess I should not have bothered with anonymity seeing as how yelp reviews are easy to find…

    I still stand by my review. I think it was based on the fact that I have been to several 1-3 yr old birthday parties. I have also taken my kids to several different indoor play places. The one we like the best offers the most free play.

    This is the first place I have been to that was so structured it bordered on absurd. We were the last party of the day and the only party there at the time.

    To the point that I turned on the black lights blatantly ignoring the “rules”: At that point in the party I was weak. I was tired of multiple children crying because they could not be free to play in a particular area. It was not a very good teachable moment for my kids.

    To the fact that I did not think it fair that no one was allowed to play in the play area during cake/snack time: Everyone was gathered to sing “happy birthday”. From there if my kids don’t want to eat snacks or cake what am I supposed to do with them? They are at a play place. Why not let them play?

    The worst torture was the fact that the play area was open after cake for only 6 minutes. This was so the kids could play with a parachute. The parachute play time only lasted as long as the one song they played to accompany the play. That is why I know it was 6 minutes long. After this one structured activity the main play area was closed and we were forced into the black light room. This is a very minor fact that I did not feel needed to be in my yelp review.

    This is a small business run by women who are clearly helicopter parents with a very strong sense of order. There were no “employees” to speak of. It was clear that the people running the show were the owners.

    In the end, it’s as simple as never going back to that place. I vote with my dollars. Thanks for all the great conversation everyone 🙂

  77. Amanda Matthews April 1, 2014 at 7:23 pm #

    The combination of no outside food and all kids must stop playing at cake time is too much. Two of my kids are allergic to milk, which means ice cream is out, and most cake is out too. If I can’t bring a cupcake made with soymilk, then at least let my kid keep playing so that he doesn’t have to sit with no food watching the other kids have ice cream and cake. Either of those rules on their own is understandable, but combined make it ridiculous.

  78. Buffy April 1, 2014 at 7:52 pm #

    OK Dolly you got me, you are a much better person than crabby old friendless parent-hating-don’t-want-to-entertain-upwards-of-40-people-at-a-children’s-birthday-party me.

  79. BL April 1, 2014 at 8:54 pm #

    “In the end, it’s as simple as never going back to that place. I vote with my dollars.”

    I think I would have been out the door with the kids the first time they screamed “MOVE!!!” at me. The hard part would have been keeping my middle finger holstered.