Entertaining kids in the Netherlands: The party's out!
Parents wishing to treat their children to a day out to remember on their birthday will be spoiled for choice in Holland—anything goes, from laser games to Formula-1 racing.
I looked at the mound of coloured plastic balls inside the cage of netting and imagined the little boy buried somewhere beneath, perhaps concussed, while hoards of other children ran and bounced over him. I decided to give it ten minutes before reacting, hoping that he would suddenly appear from another part of the maze of climbing frames and slides.
“Don’t worry,” I told the three panting seven-year old girls who’d brought me the news of the boy’s disappearance, “he’ll turn up soon”.
It had all seemed pretty easy up until then. Along with three other adults, I’d brought 13 children on the tram to the indoor playground TunFun, which lies directly under the big roundabout at Visserplein (near Waterlooplein market), Amsterdam, to celebrate my eldest daughter’s seventh birthday.
Miraculously, ten minutes later, as I was pushing away the unwelcome vision of me informing the boy’s mother that her son had suffocated at TunFun, buried under an avalanche of plastic balls, the little boy came running up to me. He was accompanied by his kidnappers, two girls of around 11, who’d decided he was so cute he was worth playing mummies with.
“See,” I told the seven-year olds wisely, “I told you that you should wait and not panic.”
Out with Circus Elleboog
The message I would like to transmit to parents seeking to avoid the stress and mess of organizing their child’s birthday party at home, is ‘getting out of the house is a great idea’, and ‘you’ll be spoiled for choice in Holland’.
So let me continue. The TunFun party was last year.
This year, to mark my eldest daughter’s eighth year, I took her and thirteen friends to Knijn bowling, a bowling club which is within walking distance of the Rai in Amsterdam. Included in the children’s birthday package is around an hour of bowling and such lekker happjes as patat accompanied by either frikandel, kroket, knackworst or kaasouffleé. The kids were in heaven.
One word of advice; these children’s outings are great for taking the pressure off busy parents, but make sure you have confirmed up-front exactly what you are paying per child. And always ask if you can expect to pay any extras on top of that.
For instance, at Konijn bowling, we set up a tab at the bar so that any extra drinks or food could be added to the bill. As well as neglecting to control the accompanying adults’ beer intake, I allowed the children to select drinks which weren’t on the official list of kids’ drinks to choose from. This lack of foresight, along with the cost of special buffers for the bowling alleys’ to help the children hit more skittles, practically doubled the bill.
This year, my youngest daughter has asked me if she can go to Bleekemolens Race Planet to celebrate her seventh birthday. She’s been to this indoor fun park twice and says you can drive little electric Formula-1 racing cars. I remember that she even brought back a child’s driving license as confirmation of her driving ability from her last excursion to the Race Planet.
I’ve also heard good reports, from both parents and children, about the following places:
Intersphere Lasergames, where the children don special vests, divide into teams and shoot at each other with laser guns from within the intricacies of a maze. When the laser beam ‘connects’ with a vest, this is recorded on a computer as a hit.
More educational perhaps is Kinderkookkafé Vondelpark, which arranges for groups of children cook a selected meal for themselves – lunch, tea or dinner.
Linnaeushof, an outdoor playground with a wide selection of attractions for children from one upwards is a good choice for a summer party. The parents can also enjoy a bracing workout because, rather than being motor-powered, most of the play fixtures such as swing roundabouts and a ‘little’ big wheel run on parent-power. In the summer, families can enjoy splashing about in an outdoor water playground; a shallow swimming pool area decked out with slides, fountains and a selection of amusing water-powered mechanisms which the children can interact with.
If your children enjoy the circus, then visit the Circus Elleboog website . This circus club does children’s parties as well as giving shows and workshops, plus your children can join a weekly circus club. Both of mine attend a Circus Elleboog every Wednesday afternoon. They are learning trapeze, mono-cycling, ball-walking and juggling, which as well as burning up any excess energy are great for balance and concentration.
Lastly, invest in a copy of Kids Gids (there is an English edition if your Dutch isn't up to it). As well as listing parties, Kids Gids includes sections for eco-friendly outings, recreational events, museums, child-friendly restaurants, walks, theatre, music and dance.
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20 March 2007
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