Surviving Chuck E Cheese

Jace riding the mini carousel at CEC

Jace riding the mini carousel at CEC

Chuck E Cheese. Unless you live under a rock, I am sure you have either gone there or have heard of this place. Chuck E Cheese’s is an oasis of good times (for kids) with games as far as the eye can see, prizes, pizza, singing, dancing. It’s like a hot spot for tikes. A trip to Chuck E Cheese’s is at the top of almost every child’s wish list. But, with all that it has to offer, a visit to Chuck E has always been a source of anxiety for me as a parent. I mean, really, their slogan says it all. “Where a kid can be a kid.” Yeah, that translates into “where your kid can act absolutely crazy and we won’t put them out”. And the parents of these kids are not excepted from this rule because some of the craziest, manic, head shaking scenes that I have witnessed in my lifetime have occurred right inside those four walls. But since I have so many children, I can hardly avoid making several trips to Chuck E Suck, I mean Chuck E Cheese each year. Thankfully, through my experiences, I have compiled a list of practices that have made our trips there more enjoyable, or at least slightly less stressful. So, if you are planning on taking the plunge, try implementing some or all of these strategies and maybe, just maybe, you won’t need counseling when you leave.


1. GO EARLY! Chuck E Cheese’s opens bright and early at around 9 am. When Jace turned 3 years old, I had his birthday party there at 9:30 am. My parents weren’t too pleased with the early morning hour but when we got there and had the entire place virtually to ourselves, they understood. There was no one there other than us, Chuck, and a tumbleweed that was blowing throughout the place. And since my children start jumping and sweating at around 7 am each morning, by 9:30, they were raring to go. If you don’t play well with others or crowds of screaming kids and their dazed and confused parents irk you to no end, get there early or suffer the consequences.

2. HAVE A PARTY. Honestly, having a party can be a great deal at Chuck E Cheese, especially if you book one online. I have enough children in my family to book a party at any time. So if you are celebrating a birthday and you want some extra bells and whistles, a party is the way to go. And booking online will get you extra tokens, which is always a plus. I got an extra 100 tokens just for booking an early morning party over the internet. Sweet! Believe me, you can never have too many tokens, at least not from a kid’s perspective. So the more the merrier.

3. BRING A COUPON AND A BAG. If you don’t have the time or energy for a party, having a coupon is your best bet. They are everywhere. If your local newspaper doesn’t have them, you can always print a set from the Chuck E website. This venue has a corner on the market for kid entertainment so they are not cheap. They are pricey and not having a coupon just rubs salt in the wound. Plus, they allow you to use more than one so if you need to purchase extra tokens, then you can do so at a discount. That tip is more for your mental psyche than anything else. Also, grab a plastic bag or whatever recycled tote you carry before you head out. That way when your child wins 200 tickets on one game, you can throw them right in that bag without having to keep up with a mile long string of tickets that some bully will probably jack them for anyway.

4. GET UP AND PLAY! Look, a trip to Chuck E is not the time to sit and do nothing while your kid runs wild. I understand that you may have a hot game of Words With Friends going on but there are too many things going on around you for you to mentally detach at this point. Chuck E Cheese is full of rough children who may not care that your little 3 year old just wants a turn to inappropriately throw a ball as hard as they can at the ski ball machine of the person playing next to them. And, unfortunately, everyone isn’t warm and fuzzy about losing their 25 cent token when your child ruins their game. Even if your children are the best behaved kids on the planet, share in the good times and play with them. They will enjoy seeing you try and fail to get mega tickets or they just may giggle at the opportunity to have you watch them play. I admit, when I was a much younger parent, I didn’t always keep the best watch on little AJ. I couldn’t find him in Chuck E a couple of times and both times he had joined a birthday party. One family was fine, they put him on a birthday hat and he had himself a good time. The 2nd family kicked my son out. Oops! I felt bad about that and learned from the experience. The point is, the best way to avoid a mishap is to stick with your child.

5. DRESS FOR THE OCCASION. This is a public service announcement to those who get confused about where they are. Chuck E Cheese’s is a restaurant and play area for KIDS and their families. Say it with me…K…I…D…S. So please stop wearing your low cut tight jeans with your butt crack and back tattoo of your baby daddy’s name in cursive showing. It’s inappropriate, and disturbing. Also, being a hot mom is fine if that’s your goal in life but wobbling around on 3 inch heels chasing your toddler and scowling because some child ran into you and almost knocked you over isn’t a good look. Dress for the occasion. You can look nice without going overboard. And if your next stop is the club, because we know CEC keeps late hours, then please stop at home and change first. Thanks.

6. UNDERSTAND THE CLIENTELE. Chuck E Cheese’s is a place for kids. All kinds of kids. Some will have manners, some won’t. Some are polite, some will steal your child’s tokens at the blink of an eye. Some are there with their parents, some get dropped off. The point is, like adults, you will run into so many different types of children, it is best to have the right mentality when you arrive. Every parent does not think the same way you do so don’t expect every child to act as yours does. Be understanding, be alert, and for goodness sake, if you don’t play well with others, just stay home.

7. DON’T FORCE THE ISSUE. What may seem like fun to you may be frightening for a child. Yes, posting a cute pic of your wailing child standing next to a six foot tall mega-rat may seem like the photo op of the year to you, but to them, this is just another reason why your child will be giving you the side-eye as a parent. Instead, let them lead you to where they wish to go. Kids are natural explorers. They know what they like and are not afraid of expressing what they do not like. Forcing the issue will only make that expression louder. And then we all have to suffer.

8. BRING HELPERS. If you have more than one child and don’t have older children that can play but still help you with keep an eye on the younger ones, bring an older cousin or other family member or friend. Children do not have patience, and putting them in an environment in which they are excited and overstimulated while they have to wait patiently for their sibling to finish their turn doing something is a recipe for a scream fest. Yes, there are important lessons to learn in life and patience and sharing are important ones. However, trying to explain that to a crazed youngster above the sound of loud music, hundreds of kids and their cell phone toting parents, and the constant stampede of children running past them at break neck speed is only going to cause you frustration. So having someone there to help is just as much for your benefit as your child’s.

9. USE YOUR TICKETS AS CASH. Look, there is nothing worse than having your child win 700 tickets and then walk away with a pile of crappy trinkets that break before you even get them home. Be smart and use your tickets as cash. Each ticket is worth a penny. There are plenty of items at Chuck E Cheese that you can purchase that will give you more bang for your buck. One of the best prizes I got for my child was a dinner set that has a plate, bowl and cup. My child loves it and four months later, the entire set is still in tact. Not bad for a CEC prize. So even if you have to add a dollar or two to what they have already won, you can purchase something that your child will have to use for longer than the time it takes to make it back home.

10. FACE REALITY. No matter what you do, there are some things you cannot control. You cannot control the fact that even if you stayed in Chuck E Cheese from open till close, your child will not be ready to leave. Don’t try to explain to them that you’ve been there 6 hours already and you have to go to work. They don’t care. Just snatch that little joker up with no warning and hit the door. And don’t ask a child under age 5 what they want from the toy bin. There are too many choices and most of them suck. Have your helper watch them for a few minutes, go pick out what you want them to have and hand it to them once you get them strapped into your vehicle. That may calm them down. Just make sure you didn’t pick out any sharp and pointy objects.

Do you have any helpful tips that will help make a trip to CEC better? Please leave a comment and share!

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