Birthday party bonanza

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School’s out and birthday party invitations are shooting out of the mailbox like Hogwarts’ letters out of Harry Potter’s uncle’s fireplace. Since my son just hosted one of these parties and I heard the question “What is he into?” dozens of times, I thought I’d offer some ideas for those who might be attending or planning 8-year-old boys’ birthday parties in Bel Air this summer:


What to get

If you want to buck the usual Lego, Mega Bloks, Magnetix fare at Target and Toys R Us – although these are well-loved by 8-year-old boys – try shopping the Learning How educational store in the Bel Air Plaza on Route 1 near SuperFresh. This store, which has six locations in the area, started as a teachers’ supply store but now includes plenty of toys that make kids think. My son loves the Rush Hour traffic jam puzzle that comes with a travel pouch for carrying on long car trips. His aunt gave it to him and we have since given one to each of the boys who’ve had birthday parties in the past week. Another favorite sold at Learning How is the Blink card game, which is a little like a round of high speed Crazy Eights.

Serial books also make a great gift: Magic Tree House series, The Box Car Children, A to Z Mysteries, and Goosebumps. Bookstore gift cards are a good idea to make sure you don’t get a book a child already has. Those constant Scholastic Book Club sales throughout the school year keep them pretty well stocked.

Eight-year-olds also like toys that keep them busy. We spent the day making crafts with the Perler Beads Activity Kit he got from a friend and building a Pirates of the Caribbean Mega Bloks set. Scientific toys like telescopes and binoculars are popular along with magic trick kits.

Wondering where to host your birthday party?

The trick here is to find the place that all your kids friends haven’t already been to in the past few weeks. Although, the boys really don’t mind hitting these spots more than once: Churchville Miniature Golf, Putt Putt Fun Center’s laser tag, Fallston Swim Club, Aqua Culture Swim School, Bel Air Athletic Club — for parties in BAAC’s kid’s arena, tree house or swimming pool.

An article from Harford County Kids from 2004 has some other great birthday party ideas. Read it here. (And thank you HCK for your comment. Click here for updated news on goody bag ideas and a link to a rather comprehensive list of places to host parties courtesy of Harford County Kids magazine.)

A proper thanks

My sister-in-law who lives in West Chester, Pa. said she noticed a new trend in birthday party thank you notes. She said some party hosts are including a general thank-you-for-coming-and-bringing-a-gift card with the goody bag that’s handed out to children as they leave the party. I suppose this saves time, but as a gift-giver I like to get a note that says something about the particular gift we gave the child. Having said that, I should go and get my son started on those thank you notes.