In our house, we use a “Choo Choo Board” to reward positive behavior. Each train has a velcro circle on the back; and the board has 10 velcro circles on the track. A.P. has the opportunity to earn a Choo Choo for various good deeds. It hangs on our dining room wall.
When he gets to 10 – a full board – we have a rotating incentive. It goes from Chuck E Cheese, to a small toy (think Dollar Store dinosaur), to Craig’s Cruisers, to another small toy. The bar is set pretty high, but still, we have gone to both places enough times to learn a thing or two about how to survive. Make sure you bring hand sanitizer.
Here are my Chuck E. Cheese tips:
First; make sure you use a coupon for tokens. Just go to the website, and sign up. You will receive coupons via e-mail. You can also find them frequently in the Sunday paper, as well as on different products. I think I found some on a macaroni and cheese box. There are also free token rewards, such as good grades, or other things Chuck deems worthy.
Second, don’t worry about geting your kids to eat there. Think if you plunked yourself down in the middle of the most interesting place you could imagine, and your mom kept insisting you eat some OK but not amazing pizza before you start exploring. Just get an endless salad bar and drink for yourself, a little casino-style bucket of tokens for the kids, and have a seat. They know what to do.
Today we found ourselves at Craig’s Cruisers. I actually do like the food here. No, it isn’t going to win any awards, but the pizzas come in interesting combinations, and for $6.99 it’s all you can eat. Just make sure you go hungry. It’s easier to get the kids to eat here, because they aren’t right in the middle of the games.
This is more difficult for me than Chuck’s place. First, it’s bigger. Second, it’s dark. And third, much of it is ‘too old’ for my kids. Fortunatley, our kids are too young to know that they aren’t actually playing the games; they are on the ‘start’ screen; so those are free.
Another fun, free thing to do at Craig’s Cruisers is watch the chubby middle aged guy with a receeding hairline (the one who is not your husband – that would be horrifying and not funny at all) do “Dance Dance Revolution”. I have not had to work so hard to stifle a laugh in a long, long time.
The Kiddie Coaster is always a hit. It simulates a ride on the Blue Streak at Cedar Point. I think. I get the Blue Streak mixed up with that rickety old thing at Boblo Island, if anyone is old enough to be able to say they remember that.
My favorite thing to do is a family activity. We play a game called “18 Wheeler”.
There is a huge seat, so all four of us sit together. I shift, Mr. Binder works the gas and brake pedals, Maybelle is on the horn, and A.P. is at the wheel. I ask you – where can a whole family have more fun for $0.25??
Maybelle and I blew a bunch of tokens playing those games where you put a coin it, and you think “This is the one. It’s going to push all those coins over the edge and they will all be MINE!” Alas, it never does.
One guy actually won 200 tokens playing the “Deal Or No Deal” game while we were there. It looked like the game was broken; the tickets just kept coming. To put that in perspective; a “Care Bears” wall clock costs 500 tokens. A Detroit Tigers batting helmet is 1500. I can’t even imagine how long it would take to amass that many tokens. I don’t want to know.
A few bucks for the games, a few laps around the go-kart track, and we were done. We did get the best little parting gift ever. We were deciding between another crappy rubber ball and some kind of multi-colored octopus thing when I spotted some binoculars. Yes, they are cheap and plastic and will be broken by Thursday. But we were able to get two pair, and the kids were remarkably quiet on the way home. We even had enough left over for miniature pterodactyl, which is inexplicably bright pink.
Both are so fun for your kids; and they don’t have to break the bank!