Today is Big O’s 5th Birthday. Yesterday I overheard him telling a friend’s mom that I was taking him to the water park today…what??!! I’m not sure where he got that idea from but it made me begin to wonder what I could do special for him today. Birthdays are definitely celebrated in our house, but not as BIG as in some families. We have parties for the kids and (most) years I will cook them their favorite meal (or take them out to their favorite restaurant). O’s party was last saturday and the only thing he asked for on his birthday was a pumpkin pie. So in thinking what else I could do special for him today it came to me. I could make his (random) wish come true! So after preschool pick up, off we went to the “Splash Zone” at a local family fun center. He enjoyed it…mostly. See, he hates water in his face. Naturally a “Splash Zone” wouldn’t be his favorite destination. I knew this. He had to figure it out. So much to my surprise (not really) after an hour of getting squirted in the face he agreed to leave. Wow! That was easy, I thought. Then he mentioned the arcade.
On the way out we had to pass through the arcade. My kids love these kinds of places. Personally , I feel they are a waste of money and provide little benefit except sensory overload! But none the less, it was HIS special day. So I cashed in my $5 for a handful of game tokens. He was in birthday heaven! As I maneuvered through the blinking lights struggling to hear my own thoughts over the noise, I began to wonder, “Is there any benefit to this type of place?” (aka How can I feel better about allowing my kids to indulge in this type of “fun”?) Hmmm…why yes! Yes there is!!!
These are the thoughts that entered my mind:
1. Kids learn to recognize numbers at arcades. O had to read the number on each game to tell me how many tokens it took to play, he then had to count out the correct number of tokens. This was a good test for him and enlightening for me. He can definitely recognize 1, 2 and 3!
2. Kids learn addition, subtraction, multiplication and division at arcades. When it’s time to cash in those tickets for those wonderfully coveted plastic treasures behind the counter kids have to count, divide and decide how best to trade up what they have earned.
3. Kids learn how to handle disappointment. Often times my kids want the big, purple, stuffed monkey on the wall that costs 5,000 tickets. Does anyone really win those things??? Quickly they learn that the amount of tickets they have will only earn them the few dollar store items in the glass case. Such is life…you win some, you lose some.
4. Kids learn patience and perseverance. When my kids are sad that they don’t have enough tickets to get the dusty monkey off the wall, I remind them they can save their tickets up if they really want the monkey. We have yet to have this happen, but it is a good opportunity for them to practice perseverance. (If only the monkey were a bit more enticing!)
5. Kids learn patience. Just like at many kid themed attractions, kids have to wait their turn. Thankfully today, due to the sweltering heat, the arcade wasn’t very busy. The crowd was mostly outside in the water park. But there have been many other times where my kids have had to patiently wait their turn to play a favorite game. Or they’ve had to endure the shoving and pushing at the prize counter to wait their turn to claim their treasure. Both good lessons in patience.
6. Kids learn to respect limits. Sounds a bit contradictory since this post has mostly been about how I indulge my kids at places like these but my husband and I always set a limit before we enter the arcade. Whether it’s a time limit or a token limit, once it’s over, it’s over. And following suit today, Big O was okay with leaving after he played his 5 game limit. Shockingly we even left with some tokens in his pocket. I think that’s his insurance plan to return someday soon 😉
Maybe next year, buddy! Especially now that mommy can justify our trip as more than just overindulging, wasteful, sensory overload!!
Happy 5th Birthday, O! I love you!