Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Busy Bodies Playnasium offers cool alternative for playdates, parties

When we moved to Charles Town from Gaithersburg four years ago, we knew we'd be giving up a lot of the conveniences of the city for a more laid-back country lifestyle. No longer could we walk to Starbucks or easily scoot to a shopping mall or Target to pick up a dress or birthday present for one of the kids' friends. It was a trade-off we were willing to make in order to bring our children up in a safe environment.

What we did not realize, until the kids were of school-age, was that there was a definite lack of facilities or establishments to hold birthday parties or playdates. Whereas Gaithersburg had Chuck E. Cheese and The Little Gym and pottery painting places galore, Charles Town offered little in the way of indoor activities for kids. (We made this discovery when Sophie turned five and we found ourselves trekking to the Frederick Chuck E. Cheese in honor of her milestone b-day.)

Max recently turned five and we were frantically scrambling to come up with a venue for his first Big Birthday Party with his friends. Initially, we thought we'd hold it outside at our home, but the weather at this time of year is unpredictable and I was not prepared to move the party indoors, especially considering our basement remains unfinished from a flooding incident. JayDee's Family Fun Center was an option, but it's quite a ways from our house and we were looking to spend considerably less than the cost of their party packages. Someone had mentioned Busy Bodies Playnasium off Augustine Avenue in Charles Town, so I began to do a little research.

Busybodies is in the former location of Small Scholars Preschool and is run by Jefferson County parents Michelle and Kerry Vance. According to their website, Busy Bodies Playnasium is a safe and clean indoor playground and party place for children ages infant through 10. The facility touts 2,300-square-feet of open play area, including a kid-sized crooked playhouse (pictured at left), a separate safe infant and toddler play area, a traverse climbing wall, interactive Velcro and magnetic walls with rotating activities and the piece-de-resistance -- a large inflated moon-bouncer with
13-foot-high slide.

Busy Bodies offers a number of reasonably-priced party packages, including morning Kiddie Korner or Muffin Mania Parties, all the way up to the more elaborate Super Slumber Party which includes private use of the facility from 8 p.m. to 9 a.m. Party packages also offer a la carte accoutrement's such as cakes, ice cream, goody bags, video camera rentals and more.

For Max, we chose to have the private Let's Party package where we had private use of the facility for two hours with up to 15 children. We brought our own cake and ice cream (actually purchased the ice cream from Save-A-Lot just a few doors down from Busy Bodies), decorations, snacks and drinks, and I put together personalized goody bags for each child. All three of my children (ages 3, 5 and 7) and their friends had a blast running around, bouncing in the moonbounce, climbing the rock wall and playing on the whimsical slide. Sophie even requested that she have her next birthday party there--what better endorsement than that of a picky seven-year-old?

When the party was over, and all of the guests had dispersed, Max got to put his handprint on the Wall of Fame.

In addition to parties, Busy Bodies serves as in indoor playground for kids when the weather is less-than ideal. Summer hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday; and 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, with afternoons reserved for private parties. Admission is $6 per one child 9 months to 10 years and $4 for additional kids. Save money by purchasing a monthly pass. Parents and caregivers enter for free and will find a welcoming environment complete with plenty of comfortable seating.

I know we will be spending a great deal of time at Busy Bodies Playnasium this summer when the weather is stormy or just too darn hot to be out of doors. Maybe we will see you there!

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