When The Mouse is a Blessing

Wow. I have to say, I'm a little surprised at the amount of vitriol out there for Chuck E. Cheese and his cohorts. I realize I didn't show a great deal of love in my last post, either -- but I was mostly being dramatic for comedic effect. (What, moi?)

For those of you who've never stepped foot in a CEC -- it's not nearly as bad as you fear. It's true that crowds of kids can be -- what's the word? Oh yes! Obnoxious. But I've found that most Midwestern parents are pretty good at policing their own kids. (Which was not my experience in California, by the way.) Good parenting can go a long way toward making a gang of little hooligans a lot less hooliganish.

(Can I make up words on my own blog? Or must I pull out my AP Style Book?)

Overall, I've found CEC to be clean, bright, safe (kids and parents hands are stamped coming in, and an employee stands guard near the doors) and fun family entertainment. And if you can go when school is in session -- which was my MOD before Natalie started first grade this year -- you can have the run of the place. I've met friends for afternoons at CEC when less than 20 kids were there the whole time.

There. I've said it. Chuck E. Cheese isn't that bad.

Please still like me.

Upon further reflection, I developed a theory. I'm wondering if many of you dislike CEC simply because you can. That is, you live in a climate where you don't have to entertain your children indoors for six months every year.

For those of us in the north, an indoor diversion such as Chuck E. Cheese is a blessing too great to ignore. Consider that my children haven't played outdoors since last October. (Those two sledding play dates excepted.) No backyard playgrounds, no neighborhood parks, no riding bikes, no walks through the woods. We've been inside, at home -- playing games, making projects, watching videos, setting up make-believe restaurants and tea parties and Little People worlds. We are desperate for a departure from the routine. Chuck E. Cheese is a oasis for those of us suffering from cabin fever.

So how about it? Does my theory hold water? Leave me a comment with your general location (warm climate, cold climate will suffice) and tell me if you've ever looked forward to a visit to CEC. And be honest. After my confessions the last few days, what do you have to lose?


  1. Colorado. Sometimes cold. CEC can be fairly considered should we get cabin fever, but I still wouldn't rank it as one of our top destinations. But desperate times call for desperate measures. I hear ya, sista.

    And for what it's worth, I totally think hooliganish should be listed right there under "hooky Not hookey".

  2. Not my favorite place, but during the long Chicago winter it is one of the few places we can go and let the kids burn off some energy, so it is okay in my book. I just make sure I give the kids a good bath as soon as we get home!

  3. We live in So.Oregon and have a fairly mild climate in the winter. We maybe have a combined total of 1-2 months of "too cold" to go outside. AND, we have no CEC, so I can't say....

    BUT I CAN SAY, I am deathly afraid at the phrase "entertain your children indoors for 6 months" b/c we are moving to NORTH DAKOTA one week from tomorrow...and I hear it's pretty hairy up there.

    I hope they have a CEC.

  4. I'll cop to your insight on the CEC phenom. Middle GA has winter 10 days (it seems like) spread out between January and March. Even if we have a really cold day (40's) we can expect that by the weekend we'll be having the 60's again.

    I have great admiration for the Moms of the Wintery Days that do go the extra mile in how to entertain littles during inside days.

  5. It's just that person who dresses up like a giant rat who creeps me out. I tell the kids, "That's what happens if you don't go to college."

    I would die if my kids were indoors that much.

  6. I totally agree with your theory. Our winters (Colorado) are generally pretty mild, and even though we're still getting snow this time of year we have lots of days we can play outside.

    I feel for you (six months inside?!?) and would probably be grateful for CEC if I lived where you do! You're a good mom, and I'm sure your kids love you for taking them there!

  7. San Angelo, TX; and we don't have a CEC here, but there is one in Abilene. I took my 4 and 2 year old there not too long ago and it was very hectic! I remember going to CEC as a child and it being SO much fun. But as an adult taking my own children, ugh! But they did have a blast! I would not rank it as a fave, but the kids do have a blast.

  8. Does your theory hold water? Didn't you mean to say snow!? :-)

    I absolutely get it...If I lived where you did, I would be there in a heartbeat.

    Especially since you don't even have the option of Chick-fil-A with their indoor playground!

    You should get a medal or something for surviving those winters. You can send the medal (and some snow!) to me in August when it's 105 here.

  9. Well I must say that I am a bit surprised at the negativity towards CEC. I have taken other peoples kids there- before I was a mom myself- and the kids had a blast. Was it super fun for me? Nope- but it wasn't about me- it was about doing something with the kids that they would enjoy. CEC is a fun and safe place for kids, so why not take them? Of course it's not as clean as a hospital- but lets be honest, what kid places are? When was the last time your local park was disinfected? When was the last time McD's playland was sanitized? I would venture to say- not too often. To be perfectly honest, I look at some of the toys at our church nursery and I wonder- when was the last time that thing was cleaned?!?

    As a mom now, I will absolutely take my son to CEC when he is old enough to enjoy it if he wants to go. It would not be something we do every week (because it can be pricey)- but it is something different then the norm that kids can do. Right now, I live in CA and everytime I took my friends kids to CEC it was packed- rain or shine.

    I think you are a great mom for taking your kids to CEC because they have fun! One important thing about being a mom is making fun memories with your kids- and it will be a fun memory for them. I remember going as a kid- and I am sure all of the things we gripe about CEC now were true then too. And going to CEC as a kid was a blast. I am glad that my parents took us to CEC occasionally even though it wasn't there favorite thing to do.

    THE END (of my very long comment)

  10. I'm from Western Canada. Need I say more?

    LOVE the mouse.
    LOVE indoor playgrounds.
    LOVE malls with petstores.
    NOT loving the snow that fell this morning.

  11. Oh and Elle, the 40's is not a really cold day.
    That is when you put your kids in spring coats and get outside.
    We have a party at 40.
    -30, that's cold.
    40 not so much.

  12. I am in California. For the most part it is mild, but let me tell you, the rain can come down in the winter making it hard to enjoy the outdoors. So, I am all for CEC. My older one loves it and my little one (19 mos.) loves going because sissy loves it there. I do think of the germ factor and cringe, but we wash our hands before we eat and right before we leave. And really, we have to let kids be kids, I mean how did we ever survive childhood?

    Does anyone remember Bullwinkles? I loved it there better than CEC. But maybe it was only local to where I grew up. It was cleaner, the food was better and the characters were better, who doesn't like Bullwinkle and Rocky? I have thought of opening one up.... hmmmm....

    PS Amen to the CA parents comment, come on people get it together. You would think they could control their kids, or at least watch them!

  13. Hawaii. Warm Climate.

    I used to dread CEC because Girlie Girl was too young to run around by herself and I'm not much into playing video games. Now that she's old enough to play by herself, I love it!

  14. When I was growing up n Pensacola, Florida, a trip to CEC was a luxury. I remember being so excited when our end of season soccer parties would be held there. I also remember achurch lock-in being held at CEC.
    We never went there as a family just for us kids to play, so those events where we did go were a big deal.
    Now as a mom, I've taken my kids there when we've visited grandparents for something to do on an afternoon. It's great because grandma and grandpa can sit in the booth and watch while the kids run off their energy.
    I've met girlfriends there once when we lived in Ca, and we've been to several birthday parties there and have used the venue for two of my own.
    Since I have two teenagers, a tween and a pre-schooler, going to CEC now-a-days cost us bewtwen $80 and $100! So, needless to say, we don't go that often as a family.
    However, I have entertained the thought of taking Bren, my pre-schooler alone while the other kids in school.
    She would love a day dedicated to just her entertainment and I would have fun pretending that I'm one of those "one-kid mom's" whose attentions are focused and not an overwhelmed mom with four kids!


    PS...we are Navy and have lived everywhere....CEC is universally hated or loved depending more on the temperment of the parent than the temperature of the region.

  15. I live in the south, so we don't have wintery miserable days very often. But.....one year when my boys were 5 and 2, we had a bad "ice" event. We were trapped indoors for 10 days straight. I started dreaming of CEC. A lot. Longing for it even. Wanting the pizza. Wanting the tokens. Hoping my children would come home with all kinds of plastic "junk". I couldn't wait to hear what the mouse and all his friends would sing to me. Seriously.:)
    What can I say, it happens to us all sometimes.:)

  16. Does anybody else remember when CEC used to be Showbiz Pizza? No? Maybe that was just where I grew up. Showbiz was much better than CEC, but the games and stuff were the same, however the skeeball shutes were much longer than the ones at CEC, atleast that's what my 7 year old memory tells me. :)
    I live in Texas and while I cannot even begin to imagine 6 month-long winters, I can honestly say that a good 2 months of our summers are way too hot to play outside without worry for heatstroke or sunburn. But I'll definitely take that over all the snow. We don't have a CEC close by so I haven't taken my 2.5 year old yet, but I do look forward to it. I know he'll enjoy himself and I also remember the pizza being good. Of course I was 7 the last time I ate there...
    As for all the hatin' on CEC, I hate all places that are crowded, even the beloved mall. It's all about timing, if you go during off time periods then you can relax and enjoy yourself. You couldn't pay me enough to step foot in one on a Saturday!
    (This is my first time commenting, but I've been reading for awhile. Love your blog!)

  17. I'm also in Colorado, which isn't as cold and snowy as people think.

    I'm one of the haters. Every CEC I've seen is really, really dirty and dismal, worn and germy with a slight vomity smell like an aged amusement park.

    I like the Chik-fil-a indoor playgrounds. They well-maintained, clean, bright, and the food is edible.

  18. Yet one more reason to love the South...


  19. Yes. Minnesota. Refer to my comment in the previous post ;)

    I think your theory could be scientifically proven.

  20. We're well beyond the CEC stage, but near the end I swore not to go back until they started selling margaritas...and earplugs.