Categories
Recommendations Reviews Secondary Features

Sandy Point State Park Beach Review

Sandy Point State Park Maryland

IMPORTANT: Sandy Point is currently open (Summer 2020), but no life guards are on duty. Please follow social distancing and no groups larger than 10! Swimming and boat ramps are open. * Sandy Point Entrance admission fees are listed below *(6/26/20)  

[See my list of gift ideas for brainy kids]

Central Marylanders are often faced with a choice during the summer–trek out to Ocean City or the Delaware shore or go to one of the closer in Chesapeake Bay Beaches.  If you don’t have time or money to head all the way over to the Eastern shore, there are definitely a few popular beaches in Anne Arundel and Calvert County.

I’d say that among the most popular Chesapeake destinations are North Beach, Chesapeake Beach, Flag Point and the one everyone knows – Sandy Point State Park.

The park is open year round. As of this writing, it is only closed on Christmas Day.

The street address for the park to put into your navigator is:

1100 E College Pkwy, Annapolis, MD 21409
1-800-830-3974 / 410-974-2149 (Office) General Information
Hours of Operation are 7am to sunset. Fishermen and boaters may have 24 hour access.

There are entrance fees (see below) that are paid either using coins (quarters or dollars) or credit cards (Visa/Mastercard).

See below for park entry costs (Updated for Summer 2020).

[Looking for the perfect solution for your child’s allowance? Have a look at my review of the FamZoo MasterCard Debit card for kids]

Sandy Point, which opened in the 1950’s, is located just to the western side of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge which looms over the beach. In fact, one drawback of the Sandy Point beach is that you may encounter some of the beach traffic you’re hoping to avoid by not going to Ocean City.

To get to Sandy Point, you head down Route 50 towards the bridge but exit (exit 32) shortly before you reach it to get to College Parkway.

Just plan your visit with the potential for traffic in mind and most days you’ll be able to get there without much of a delay.  In case you were wondering, a section of the beach is supervised by lifeguards from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays, and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekends and holidays, Memorial Day to Labor Day.

[See my hand-picked list of great places to host a birthday party in Baltimore County, Howard County or Anne Arundel County.]

As a state park, there is an admission fee which as of June 26, 2020, Sandy Point State Park entry for Maryland Residents is:

  • $4 per person on weekdays
  • $5 per person on weekends and holidays.
  • Children buckled in a child safety seat (infant and small children in a car seat or booster seat) are free.
    Costs are a few dollars more for non-Maryland residents. Rates may increase for holidays or special events.
  • Military and their dependents as well as disabled people get in for free–you have to present proper ID to get these free passes to Sandy Point.You can also buy a season pass or buy a Golden Age Pass for $10 if you’re older than 61. Here are a few more details: If you plan to go often, you probably want to consider getting a season pass. Golden Age Passes are available for purchase for people age 62+ –with it, you’ll get free admission (and unfortunately, the National Park Service Eagle Passees aren’t accepted).
  • The costs for out-of-state residents to enter the park is slightly more. I don’t have the exact amount right now, but it’s maybe a dollar or two above the in-state cost.

As mentioned above, those with a Maryland Park Service Disability Pass get in for free.  BTW, when you get a season pass, they give you a magnetic card to get you into the park, as the entry gates typically aren’t staffed.  By the way, aside from those passes, these automatic toll machines accept exact change only in the form of $1 coins and quarters. Alternately, you can use a credit card: MasterCard and VISA are accepted.

Be aware that sometimes, especially on certain holidays, the park can fill to capacity and they simply stop letting people in. That can really be disappointing because there aren’t really any comparable nearby beaches. If that happens to you, I can only suggest taking a ride to downtown Annapolis and taking in the sites, or if you a heart-set on the beach, take about a 1-hour ride down to North Beach and hope for the best.

The beach itself isn’t perfect, but it is a nice way to spend the day with kids. As mentioned earlier, there are life guards on the beach during the summer months from 10am to 6pm.  Snacks and concessions are available for sale at the beach.  They also have showers and restrooms available.

Aside from going in the water or hanging out on the beach there are also opportunities for crabbing and fishing (for licensed fisherman and people age 16 or under).  There are rock jetties you can stand on for fishing or you can rent a 16 foot motor boat/bring your own small craft. Fisherman enjoy 24 hour access to the park during certain times of year.

Jigging and chumming seem to be effective ways of catching striped bass at Sandy Point–especially if you’re there in the early morning hours. If you like hiking there is are several nice trails that take you through marsh land and a planted pine forest.  It is a great way to see wildlife such as birds and turtles.

Pets are allowed in the park only during the off-season times of year. Dogs must be leashed.

[Looking for things to do with kids in Maryland? See my list of ideas.]

Sandy Point might be a place to consider for group outings or parties.  For large parties they have shelters available for rental that can hold up to 300 people. Note that even if you rent a shelter, your guests will still have to pay to enter the park. You can pre-pay for each person, but you’ll also need to give them their entry tickets prior to their arrival at the park.

Note that this is the only place alcohol is allowed in the park, and you MUST get a permit if you intend to serve drinks.  Also, you are NOT allowed to have amplified music at Sandy Point.  Another important consideration for groups is that everyone entering the park must pay separately.  Youth and scouting groups can also reserve a campground area.

Another important thing to note is that Sandy Point is a “trash free” park.  What that really means is that it is up to the visitors to collect their trash and take it with them.

There aren’t any trashcans in the park.  Related point–you can bring your dogs to the park during the off season, but you are expected to clean up after them.

People ask me what I don’t like about Sandy Point.  Well, we’re lucky to have a close-in, convenient option, but well, it isn’t the same as Ocean City.  The sand is different, the bottom of the bay feels different to walk on and there seem to be more creatures that bite and sting (Both flying creatures and lots of jellyfish some years–especially when the water starts getting warmer).

Another issues is that the beach itself can get kind of dirty sometimes. Anyway, I do like it, but sometimes it makes me wish for O.C. — also, on most days, given the choice, I would rather trek out to North Beach which tends to be better maintained for sunbathers and swimmers.

Liked this post? Please check out my other reviews and lists. For example, my list of gift ideas for children and restaurants for kids in Howard County.

Categories
Childrens' Birthday Parties kids activities Party Ideas

Host a Virtual Birthday Party for Kids

Time to get a little more creative on how to celebrate your child’s birthday in the time of quarantine. After the birthday party parade is over, here are some suggestions to help you host a virtual, online birthday party. Since virtual doesn’t require “local” the people mentioned below are from all over the USA including California, New York, and Massachusetts.

Birthday Party Performers

Apart Party – They hit the spot with this offering: Games, laughs, and magic fun.

Bubble Dad – Bubbles and birthdays, what else do I need to say. Bubble Dad will host a virtual bubble show with magic and more.

Circus Science Zoom Show – Greg May has been entertaining people for years, particularly in Howard County, Maryland. This former Ringling Brothers Clown has brought some science to his act and perfected it online for virtual kids Zoom parties. Greg is great. Sure to be fun.

Scott Dietrich Magic Show – Scott Dietrich offers to bring his award winning magic to your child’s birthday party virtually. Magic, animals, and even balloon sculpting.

Tricky Tim Magic Show – Tricky Tim’s magic offering looks like a load of fun. Save the birthday party and invite Tim!

Jumpin’ Jams – Virtual music birthday. This is a fantastic way to have some fun and bring music to your guests.

CyberJams – A rockin’ 45 minute virtual birthday party, sure to get kids’ attention. The birthday boy or girl will take part in a musical performance.

Chris Palmieri Puppeteer – How about a puppet show for some great fun. A memorable show from a world-class performer.

The Pit – Since you can’t really “go” anywhere to celebrate your kid’s birthday, why not go somewhere you wouldn’t probably go “virtually.” The Pit is one of those opportunities. A Broadway impromptu performance. How cool!

Robert the Guitar Guy – Add some live, personalized music to your child’s online birthday party.

Guardian Adventures – Take an online interactive journey with your birthday hero at the center of the story. Fight monsters and save the world along the way. Possible themes include: Medieval, Warrior Princess, Superheros, and Zombies.

Games

Virtual Game Truck Party – Let the gaming experts from Game Truck handle the fun. Gaming party with kids together online.

Classes

The Art Farm – Consider streaming a live, virtual class from New York City’s famous “Art Farm.” Choose from arts, cooking, music, and more.

STEM

IMAG Museum – This world-famous museum in Florida can help you with a fun and educational birthday party for the cost of a $25 (or more) donation. Host a STEM-wars party.

Mad Science – Entertaining virtual kids parties with science.

Science Guys of Baltimore – Live stream birthday parties that consist of a 35-40 minute show with experiments, bubbling potions, and explosions.

Other Great Live Online Parties

Sky Zone – Sky Zone is offering FREE virtual birthday parties. See their video so you’ll know what the party is like. Unfortunately, there is a waiting list for the parties at this time–but why not sign up, heck, have two parties.

By now, most people have probably figured out a video chat platform that works for them. But in case you want to host your own party, I might suggest Google Meet or Houseparty. Both are great choices for easy setup and universal access.

Categories
Childrens' Birthday Parties Education Featured gifted and talented kids activities

Gift Ideas for Brainy Kids

Updated 5/04/20

This is a list of 80+ educational gift ideas for brainy kids for any occasion, including birthdays, Christmas, and other holidays updated for 2020.

There are plenty of great birthday gifts and Christmas presents out there to help smart kids of all ages get smarter…and lots of presents that will be a waste of your kid’s time and your money. I hope this list of educational math, engineering, and science gift ideas will help you find better options. Below are my suggestions for the best gifts for smart kids.

Each educational present idea includes a link to the item on Amazon.com, suggested age levels, and dollar signs to indicate the relative expense of each gift.

I have highlighted the costs of the gifts as follows:

  • $ – One $ sign indicates an inexpensive present of less than $30.
  • $$ Two $$ signs indicate a moderately expensive present of $30-100 dollars.
  • $$$- Three $$$ signs indicates gifts costing $100 or more.

Quick Gift Index By Child’s Interest:

All of the present ideas on this list have been handpicked because they are good for kids’ brains, develop smarts, creativity, and are at least to some extent educational and good learning toys.

I have direct experience with many, if not most of the items on this list, others have come highly recommended. If you have any ideas to add to this list of presents for smart kids, please send me your comments below.

[BTW, if you have a birthday party coming up, here are some suggestions for fun places to have the birthday event and some ideas for virtual birthday parties!]

Gift Ideas

My “Gifts for Gifted Kids” Top Toy Picks of the Month

  1. Augmented Reality Anatomy T-Shirt
    Might not quite be great for the squeamish, but this is a really cool idea and a great implementation. Point a smartphone at this t-shirt and get a human anatomy lesson like none-other. Great science gift!
    Cost: $
  2. Mini Drone
    This is really fun, and easy to fly. It’s an indoor mini drone for beginners that will teach your child the thinking and basics needed to move on to more advanced drones. I have found it to be pretty indestructible…And the price is right too!
    Ages: 7+
    Cost: $
  3. Ken Jennings Books
    Ken Jennings has a great series of books call the Junior Genius Guides. There are currently six books. They are great. Titles include Outer Space, Ancient Egypt, U.S. Presidents, Greek Mythology, Human Body and Maps and Geography. These books are witty, memorable and entertaining.Gifted kids who don’t always enjoy non-fiction books will still enjoy these while learning all sorts of useful facts to impress their friends, parents and teachers. Several years later my kids still occasionally quote information from these books. Available as a box set. Also, check out Ken’s other books such as “Because I Said So.” I would recommend this as a gift for gifted 6 year olds.
    Cost: $
    Suggested Ages: 6-10
  4. Sphero Mini
    Programmable robotic ball that helps kids learn to code while playing games. Also check out the larger sized Bolt version of this excellent, fun toy.
    Age: 5+
    Cost: $$
  5. FamZoo.com Financial Literacy Debit Card
    Okay, this one is a standout in this list of gifts because this one is a gift that keeps giving, and can really help families by changing the way you give allowance and rewards. It’s a debit card for each kid in your family. You can transfer money to their cards when they earn it or on a regular basis automatically. Kids can even setup an account for charity. Check out my FamZoo review or go directly to FamZoo.
    Age: 5+
    Cost: $ – $$$
  6. Lego Boost Creative Toolbox 840 piece lego kit. Robotics. Need I say more? If your super-smart kid is interested in engineering, coding, and/or legos, than this could be a perfect gift.
    Cost: $$$
  7. Riddles and Trick Questions for Kids and Family
    This book is fun and really gets everyone thinking with great brain teasers and puzzles. Great low-cost gift that any brainy kid and their family would enjoy. When my girls were 7 & 8 they loved this book. We got alot of mileage from it and others like it such as “Difficult Riddles for Smart Kids.”
    Cost: $
    Ages: 7+
  8. Moody Goat Terrarium Kit
    Inexpensive terrarium kit that glows in the dark. It is also a bit of  a craft. Fun to assemble and a great STEM experience.
    Cost: $
    Ages: 4 – 7
  9. Rocketbook Everlast Fusion
    This is a great birthday or back to school gift for gifted 11 year olds and older kids (High School or even adults who have lots of meetings or anyone who takes lots of notes). Much more than just a notebook: this is an erasable notebook that is supported by an app that is used to take photos of the notes and send them to the cloud for permanent storage and organization. For a lower cost option, look at the original Rocketbook Everlast or Read my full review.
    Cost: $$
  10. The Zoob Builderz STEM Challenge Kit
    This was better than I thought and my whole family really enjoys it. Basically this is a “build-it kit” with lots of parts that fit together, wheels, rubber bands, and string. They give you challenges, such as build a car with a retractable roof, with little guidance, and you have to figure out your own solution to build the car and the roof with the parts provided. This is a great engineering toy for kids because it’s so flexible.
    Cost: $$
    Suggested Ages: The ages for this kit are 6+, but don’t be put off by that if you have an older kid. I’d say up to 9-11 years old (or possibly beyond) would like to have this as a gift.
  11. Aerogarden Hydroponic Garden
    Kids love to grow plants, especially when the results are edible. Aerogarden has some great options for kids or the whole family to learn about plants and enjoy some fresh herbs, salad greens, tomatoes, peppers, or flowers.There are several levels/options that are available. Gardeners age 6 and up might enjoy the Herbie pizza activity kit.

    There is also a nice 3-pod solution or 6 pod solution available. You may also be interested in the more advanced ultra kit.

    Cost: $$- $$$

    Suggested Ages: The ages for this kit are 6+. The Herbie kit is specially made for kids, but the other kits are great gifts for kids 10 and up.

General Gift Ideas for Smart Kids

  1. Walkie Talkies
    This is a great gift, that can be relatively practical. There are loads of different walkie talkies on the market. Just know that most of them DO NOT have the reach that they advertise–not even close unless it’s line of sight, mountain-top to mountain-top. Even so, these are relatively inexpensive and great fun, even if it is just local fun. This set is pretty durable.
    Cost: $
    Suggested Ages: 6-12
  2. Amazon.com’s monthly STEM kit for kids
    This looks like a great idea, but I haven’t tried it out yet. Amazon will send your child a STEM toy each month for $19.99. You can select their age range (3-4, 5-7, 8-13 years old) and the rest will happen automatically.
    Cost: $$
    Suggested Ages: Ages 3-13
  3. Magic School Bus Science Kit Club
    The Magic School Bus Science kit has lots of great science activity that will keep your child busy and engaged and they will love getting a monthly package with great experiments.
    Cost: $$$
    Suggested Ages: 5-12+
  4. Globes
    Globes and maps of the earth are a must have for any smart kid. Here is a decent globe… If a good globe is out of the budget, consider getting a Painless Learning World Map Placemat which is guaranteed to spark interesting mealtime conversations.
    Cost: $$
    Suggested Ages 3-7
  5. Ravensberger Secret codes
    Project kit to learn the basics of cryptography. They learn to crack codes and the secrets of basic secret messaging. A cool activity set, for less than $13. When you follow the Amazon.com link, you’ll see other Ravensberger gifts in the “people also bought” carosel area–many of those are worthwhile gifts as well.
    Cost: $
    Suggested Ages 8-13
  6. Lab Coat
    Who doesn’t look smart wearing a lab coat. And they offer special insignias for doctors, vets, STEM, and Rocket Scientist… Basic coats cost about $16 on Amazon, but you can go up from there. My girls had fun with these, and used them for Halloween costumes more than once.
    Cost: $
    Suggested Ages 6-10
  7. A custom made puzzle
    Take a photo of the boy or girl doing a puzzle, then have a puzzle made on Amazon based on that photo. For a few years, I had a tradition going where I had a photo of my girls doing a puzzle in which they were doing a puzzle, doing a puzzle…kind of fun but it got too difficult to work out the detail in the photos because they canvas is a bit small. Nevertheless, a fun and unusual gift!
    Cost: $
    Suggested Ages: 5-9
  8. Educational Placemats
    Let the super-smart kid in your life squeeze in some extra learning while they eat. It is surprisingly effective and I have to say that some of these mats are true works of art. There are a large variety of these with maps, presidents, periodic table of elements, bugs, planets, weather, types of butterflies, rocks/geology, astronomy, multiplication tables. My kids learned alot from having these placemats around. Still today, even though my daughter is 12 years old now, she still remembers facts she learned when she was a toddler of 3 or 4.
    Cost: $
    Suggested Ages: 1 – 7
  9. Classic Games
    These two classic games allow for some family fun and keep your child thinking: Chinese Checkers and Scrabble. You may also want to check out TwixT.
    Cost: $
    Suggested Ages: 8+
  10. LED Backpack – PIX Programmable LED Backpack 
    This gift is definitely pricey, and I haven’t actually had a chance to get my hands on one, but I know plenty of kids who would have a great time customizing their backpack digitally with LEDs that can display millions of colors. Sky’s the limit on what could be displayed: Favorite bands, logos, sayings, perhaps even equations for some of the truly math nerdy children I know. It even does animations. It’s roomy, can hold a laptop.
    Age: 8+
    Cost: $$$

Non-Fiction Books

There is no shortage of great books for advanced kids.Here are some book ideas for kids of various ages. Depending how advanced they are they may benefit from any of these.

  1. Ken Jennings Books
    Ken Jennings has a great series of books call the Junior Genius Guides. There are currently six books. They are great. Titles include Outer Space, Ancient Egypt, U.S. Presidents, Greek Mythology, Human Body and Maps and Geography. These books are witty, memorable and entertaining.Gifted kids who don’t always enjoy non-fiction books will still enjoy these while learning all sorts of useful facts to impress their friends, parents and teachers. Several years later my kids still occasionally quote information from these books. Available as a box set. Also, check out Ken’s other books such as “Because I Said So.” I would recommend this as a gift for gifted 6 year olds.
    Cost: $
    Suggested Ages: 6-10
  2. Almanacs
    Another one of my favorite choices are Kid’s Almanacs. ❇ National Geographic Kids Almanac and National Geographic Kid’s Infopedia are both are great for kids who read starting from 5 or 6 years old. My girls found these very engaging. One of them picked up the almanac periodically to learn a fact or two, the other read it several times cover to cover, and even got her friends reading them too. An inexpensive and worthwhile birthday, Christmas/Holiday gift!You may also want to look for other similar books from National Geographic such as “National Geographic Kids Why?: Over 1,111 Answers to Everything,” I haven’t actually read this one, but it looks very interesting. I think my kids would probably like it alot. You may also want to look at “National Geographic Brain Games” and the “National Geographic Weird But True Collector’s Set.”
    Cost: $
    Suggested Ages: 6-10
  3. Chess Book and Chess Set
    There are some great chess books for kids. It’s never too early for any kid to learn how to play this classic brain game. You might consider pairing this book with a new chess set such as this decent quality wooden chess set. If your child is already a chess fan, and you want to get something fancier, there are giant chess sets that use pieces like these for outdoor chess ($$$).
    Cost: $
    Suggested Ages: 6+
  4. Logic Puzzle books

    Your young genius may also enjoy the Perplexors series of logic puzzle books. They recommend ages 8-10 for this book, but they have several levels. These are fun, interesting and inexpensive. See more logic puzzles below.
    Cost: $
    Suggested Age: 8-10
  5. Analogy Challenges
    This is a great educational gift suggestion. These books come in several levels.
    Cost: $
    Suggested Age: 7-10
  6. Greg Tang Math Books
    For younger kids who are just starting to learn math concepts, there are some great books by Greg Tang. For example, “Math Potatoes: Mind-Stretching Brain Food” and “The Grapes of Math” provide simple, but helpful math riddles for kids to do. These are fun, interesting books and as a former elementary school math teacher, I definitely recommend them–they surely help kids think about math in a different way, and many kids will find them really enjoyable.
    Cost: $
    Suggested Ages: 5-9
  7. Drawing Books
    There are some very good books that teach drawing skills–very important for the future inventor. I especially like this one, that teaches you how to draw in 3-D / Perspective drawing.
    Cost: $
    Suggested Ages: 7-13
  8. Make Your Own books
    If your child is a literary genius who would rather write than read, they may like to get started with these short blank books. They make a nice keepsake too. My kids had a great time with them. I will say that it got to be a bit expensive to keep ordering more.
    Cost: $$
    Suggested Ages: 5-8

Best Gifts For Smart Toddlers

Here are a few gift ideas for the youngest children. Given a chance, and some encouragement, kids can learn quite a bit from some of these.

  1. Busy Board – For the youngest toddlers, the busy board is a time tested idea. This one has plenty of gadgets to keep your child busy.
    Cost: $$
    Suggested ages 1+
  2. LeapFrog DVD series
    These are great for teaching kids to read, and they really like to watch them. There is a whole series to meet kids where they are at on the road to learning to read (and math too!). BTW, if you’re interested in teaching your kids to read early, consider Hooked on Phonics. BTW, you may also want to have a look at my list of educational kid’s TV shows for other worthwhile entertainment.
    Cost: $
    Suggested Ages: 1-5+
  3. Pengoloo
    This game is great for memory skill development, color recognition and more. A fun, very good gift for toddlers. It’s really a game that people of any age can enjoy, but of course the best part is seeing your kids enjoying the game, especially when they beat the adults! I recommend this a top game for toddlers.
    Cost: $
    Suggested Ages 3-6+
  4. Educational placemats
    As mentioned above, there are some wonderful educational placemats that make learning while eating fun. For example, this ABC placemat or this one on bugs and insects.
    Cost: $
    Suggested Ages: 1-8
  5. Periodic Table Building Blocks
    Well made, non-toxic blocks with periodic table of elements on them. You may need a chemist to go with these for maximum educational value, but they’re cool, nerdy, and probably will result in someone learning something about the elements.Cost: $$
    Suggested ages: 2 years+

Gift Ideas for Gifted Older Kids

Microscopes

Microscopes are a staple of brainydom. Try to get a decent one though–in my opinion, there is nothing worthwhile under the $75 range, as far as I know. The very cheap microscopes are just frustrating and fall short. They all have issues with lighting and don’t do well with magnification–that means they’ll be abandoned after a few uses.

  1. Carson BugLoupe 5x Magnifier (HU-55)
    My only exception is for younger kids: there is something called a “bug microscope” which lets kids magnify a bug from the top and bottom as it walks around in a small container, these are only $10-15, and are great fun for some kids.Cost: $
    Suggested Ages: 3-6
  2. Mobile Phone (Android & iPhone) Microscope Attachments
    This clever device is definitely cool and practical and giftworthy. You can attach it your mobile phone camera so you can view objects and take a photo. Gets pretty good reviews. Another example is a quick attach microscope that you can add to your iPhone. It gets good reviews, but I really don’t know if this works that well.
    Cost: $
    Suggested Ages: 6+

Otherwise, if you’re on a budget, please read the reviews on Amazon and find the best microscope you can for your price range–you AND your smart child will benefit. Here are some of my favorite general science microscopes:

  1. AmScope B100B-MS Microscope
    I know this one is a bit pricey at about $200 but it is a reliable, good scope that can really do some very good magnification – AmScope B100B-MS 40X-2000X Biological Binocular Compound Microscope with Mechanical Stage
    Cost: $$$
    Suggested Ages 5-15+
  2. Celestron 5 megapixel Infinaview
    Another great microscope is the -I LOVE THIS MICROSCOPE! It has a great LCD screen so your kids can see what the magnifications are easily. We have this microscope and I can tell you it is super fun. I got it for my daughter when she was 6. She still uses it sometimes — now she’s 13.

    Once you have something on the scope you can snap an image of it with the press of a button. I really love this microscope, but note that it is meant to look “at” things–this wouldn’t be good for looking at cells–more for examining bugs, coins, fabrics, foods, etc…”close up.”  It comes with a rechargeable battery which makes it great to carry around to various places for microscope fun. I know this is a bit pricey, but it is very good. This is a such a great science toy for boys and girls of all ages. I am recommending this for gifted children age 4 and up.
    Cost: $$$
    Suggested Ages 4-17

Climate Science, Astronomy and Telescopes

  1. Telescopes
    A relatively pricey venture for a good, worthwhile telescope. Also, if you live in an urban/suburban area, it may be difficult to get the most from a telescope due to light pollution. Expect to spend more than $100 for a good one. For example, here is a well rated telescope in that price range: Celestron 127EQ PowerSeeker Telescope – any budding astronomer will prize such a fantastic gift.
    Cost: $$$
    Suggested Ages 5-17
  2. Weather Forecasting and Climate Science
    There are a few interesting kits to be had in this category. For example, Weather Station Science Kit seems like a great gift for a kid who’s interested in meteorology.
    Cost: $
    Suggested Ages 8+

Biology Science Gifts

  1. Thames & Kosmos DNA Experiment Kit
    Educational kit that teaches quite a bit about DNA, including building a DNA model.
    Cost: $
    Suggested Ages 10-15
  2. Anatomy
    Skeleton Floor Puzzle, Squishy Human Anatomy and visible man/human body model These are great learning toys. My kids love the squishy human toy. I didn’t figure they would keep using it, but actually they return to it now and then and it makes a cool display toy too. Really “adds some science” to their room.
    Suggested Ages 7-10] Cost: $
  3. Anatomy placemats
    These are also good, but some people might not like having an anatomy lesson at the dinner table–I think it’s a great opportunity for a child to learn about the human body.
    Cost: $
    Suggested Ages 7-12

Building, Engineering and Robotics Gifts

  1. Meccano Robot Kit
    This is really fun and a great introduction to robotics. It does require some assembly but my 9 year old really loves it so that could be worth it and part of the educational value. You program this robot by training it’s limbs and also get it to move and record your voice via an app. The robot recognizes thousands of phrases through it’s voice recognition software.Cost: There are two versions, the MeccaNoid G15 2.0 2nd Edition (Cost: $$) and the four foot tall Meccano MeccaNoid G15 KS Cost: $$$. There is also an expansion kit that looks like even more fun.
    Suggested Ages Boys and girls 8-10+ years.
  2. Remote Control/Motor for paper airplanes-I wish they had this when I was a kid. The PowerUp 3.0 is basically a rechargeable, remote control motor that you can attach to any paper airplane. This means you can experiment and tweak the design, try different papers, etc to see what flies the best and is easiest to control. You need a bluetooth enabled smartphone or tablet in order to control the device. Gets great reviews.
    Cost: $$
    Suggested Ages: 8-10 years
  3. OWI Air Powered Car
    This is an interesting educational toy car that runs on compressed air. Note that there is alot of assembly required and some of it is a little bit complicated, but nevertheless, very worthwhile.
    Cost: $
    Suggested Ages 10*-99 (Ten year-olds will probably need some help with assembly)
  4. Geomag 120 Piece Color Construction Set
    This looks like a very fun magnetic building kit. The pieces are larger than older kids, so they should be a bit safer for smaller kids. I’d still use caution to purchase this for kids under 5 (or if you have kids under 5 in the house). Looks like a fantastic kit.
    Cost: $$
    Suggested Ages 3+
  5. OWI Solar Powered Robot
    Two levels of building so beginners and more advanced kids can be engaged. It has 14 modes.
    Cost: $
    Suggested Ages: 8-15
  6. Engineering Toy
    Roominate and GoldieBlox are two excellent choices for girls (and boys). I highly recommend both of these engineering toys for kids ages 4-5 (or even 6-7) –my girls definitely enjoyed them. There are several great kits for both of them, so definitely search on Roominate and GoldieBlox on Amazon to see the variety and different price points for these gifts. They will pay dividends.
    Cost: $ – $$
    Suggested Ages 4-7
  7. Lego Mindstorms Robotics Kits
    This is a relatively expensive birthday, Hanukkah or Christmas gift but the payoffs are huge if your child takes to this. You’re brainy child will learn programming, physics and many more things that are going to be very important to the economy in their lifetimes. There are several different kits you can buy, for example the EV3 kit and the Boost kit, Lego Mindstorms kits are the de facto standard robotics kids used in teaching at K-12 schools. I strongly recommend this as a gift. This is the ultimate STEM teaching toy for girls and boys of all ages.
    Cost: $$$
    Suggested Ages 7-16+
  8. KANO Kit 2018 Edition
    If the price for Lego Mindstorms is out of the question, there are various other robotics kits that can be great fun for kids. You might also consider a KANO kit 2018 Edition that teaches kids all about building computers using the Raspberry PI. I’d recommend this kit strongly for those super intelligent kids who’ve shown an interest in technology and engineering. Definitely a great present for the gifted who really want to know how computers work.
    Cost: $$
    Suggested Ages 7-16+
  9. Little Bits Star Wars Droid Inventor Kit
    Your kids might also enjoy Little Bits kits.
    Cost: $$$
    Suggested Ages 8-11+

Chemistry Gifts

Chemistry Sets

Chemistry experiments are all kinds of fun for boys and girls…and a great way for parents to work with their children to learn chemistry.

There are varying levels of these kits:

  1. Magic School Bus kid’s chemistry kit.
    Cost: $
    Suggested Ages 5-7 years
  2. Amazon sells more serious (and more expensive) chemistry sets
    The Thames and Kosmos set is a great set to get started with chemistry. Any curious kid will enjoy these classic experiments.
    Cost: $$
    Suggested ages 10-12+ years
  3. This a great middle of the road chemistry set
    Also from Thames and Kosmos, this is a more in depth chemistry set than the previous one. I would get this one for a more serious science-loving kid.
    Cost: $$
    Suggested Ages: 10-15+
  4. This one is the ultimate set
    This is an even more serious chemistry set for teenagers / older kids who are ready to work through high school preparations for chemistry. This would be an amazing science gift for a kid who has a deep interest.
    Cost: $$$
    Suggested Ages 12-15
  5. Happy Atoms set
    This is another great gift from Thames and Kosmos. It is a magnetic molecular modeling set, and is a rather serious gift for the serious chemistry brainiac. There is also a larger atom modeling set available ($$$)
    Cost: $$
    Suggested Ages 10-17

Other Chemistry Brainy Gifts

  1. Beaker Mug
    This could be a fun gift for older kids who love Chemistry. It’s a mug that looks like a beaker–it even has a caffeine molecule on it.
  2. Hand Boiler
    Fun, novel gift. This is just a fun, nerdy present. Kills will love watching the liquid boil by the heat of their hands. They can learn about atmospheric pressure and liquids/gas.
    Cost: $
    Suggested ages 9+
  3. MudWatt – Grow your own living fuel cell – Clean energy from mud. This is a living fuel cell that feeds on mud (and other stuff your budding scientist may decide to put into it). This has on multiple awards and definitely has some great STEM lessons. Great smart gift for smart kids.
    Cost: $$
    Suggested ages 8+

Math Gifts

  1. Fractiles 7
    Award winning fun. This is somewhere between a math activity, a creative jaunt and meditation. Kids will enjoy creating fractal patterns with diamond and square magnetic tiles.
    Cost: $$
    Suggested Ages 8+
  2. Prime Climb
    An award winning math game. 2-4 person game uses multiplication and division. Manufacturer recommends it for ages 10+, but it should be okay for younger kids who are good at math.Cost: $$
    Suggested Ages 10+
  3. Equate – The Equations Thinking Game
    Kind of like Scrabble for simple equations.
    Cost: $$
    Suggested Ages 8+
  4. Fun Math Books
    For younger kids who are just starting to learn math concepts, there are some great books by Greg Tang. For example, “Math Potatoes: Mind-Stretching Brain Food” and “The Grapes of Math” provide simple, but helpful math riddles for kids to do. These are fun, interesting books and I definitely recommend them.Cost: $
    Suggested Ages 5-8

Physics Gifts

  1. Physics experiment kit
    This looks like a very good physics kit with lots of interesting experiments.
    Cost: $$
    Suggested Ages 10+
  2. Bubble tools from Zome Tool…there are all sorts of interesting things you can learn from bubble kits…plus they’re just fun. Some of the zometool kits let the kids build geometric shapes and then the bubbles are framed by those shapes. Here is one example kit for about . The zometools are also great for just creating stuff. Check out the more advanced kits for intelligent 12 year olds and up and here is a more advanced kit for kids ages 6 and up.
    Cost: $$
    Suggested Ages 5-9
  3. Sick Science Fast Physics Kit
    A fun way to learn about inertia and some other physics concepts. Smart kids will enjoy the activities in this kit.
    Cost: $
    Suggested Ages 10+
  4. Chaos Machine
    A fun and interesting way to learn a bit about chaos theory
    Suggested Ages 12+
  5. Chaos Tower
    This kit offers some great Rube Goldberg fun + great physics learning from this kit.
    Cost: $$$
    Suggested Ages 7+
  6. Car Engine Model
    This is a great brainy gift for kids who like building models, and especially if they are interested in cars and engines. This is a “working” model of an internal combustion engine (it runs on an electric motor). It’s meant for older kids, but could be a project a parent and younger kid could work together on.
    Cost: $$
    Suggested Ages 12+
  7. Plasma Ball
    This is somewhere between science and fun. Plasma balls are the staple of any smart mad scientist.
    Cost: $$
    Suggested Ages 8-11+
  8. Spherio Ball
    This is another toy that may be a stretch for educational, but it sure looks fun and could have some educational value in physics. It’s basically a remote controlled ball–kids can build mazes and use ramps to get it to do some really fun tricks.
    Cost: $$$
    Suggested Ages 7+
  9. Kinetic Art Science Kit
    This is a great kit for kids interested in art, science, physics, or/and astronomy.
    Cost $
    Suggested Ages: 8-15 Year Olds

Magnetic games and toys

  1. Magnetic Toys
    Please be careful due to safety issues if you have young children in the house. Here is an example of a safe kit from Magformorers. Here is another one. Gearation Refrigerator Magnets also looks very cool and so does wall coaster.
    Cost: $
    Suggested Ages 4-8
  2. Magentic Levitation base
    This is something an older kid might like. It basically “levitates” lighter metal objects (you provide those). It is pretty cool.
    Cost: $$
    Suggested Ages 5-9
  3. Floating Globe
    This is basically a 6 inch globe that spins for quite a long time. Another cool but simple item kids of all ages would love. Here’s a video to give you the idea of what this miracle of physics actually is.
    Cost: $$$
    Suggested Ages 8-11
  4. Magic Penny Toy – This is a bit unusual. Make sculptures and do activities using British pennies (US Pennies don’t work because of their composition). Teaches kids math, science, creativity…just fun.

Geology Gifts

  1. Geodes
    This brainy gift is great for any budding geologist. You get unopened geodes — kids can break them open themselves.
    Cost: $
    Suggested Ages 4-9+
  2. Rock and Mineral Collection
    Kids who collect rocks will like this. Note that the packaging is not fancy, but the actual rocks you get are very cool and numerous.
    Cost: $
  3. Rock Tumbler
    There are a few of these on the market. The professional one from National Geographic is very well liked and they also offer a lower-end kit, this one is also rated well and somewhat lower cost. With patience, rocks can be polished exposing some real beauty…remember, it takes about a month to polish rocks and glass! This is especially good gift for brainy kids who are patient…
    Cost: $$
    Suggest Ages 6-15
  4. Metal Detector
    Great for beachcombing. There are a a variety of metal detectors kids might like–some of the ones that are meant for kids, just aren’t that good. This is a good compromise, but if it’s too pricey have a look at some of the other choices.
    Cost: $$
    Suggest Ages 6-14
  5. Crystal Growing Kits – These are always fun and interesting. There are several levels to these kits. This one is a bit more on the pricey side, but is more complete.
    Cost: $$
    Suggest Ages 10+

Geography Gifts

  1. Geography jigsaw puzzle.
    Learn about geography by doing puzzles. Other puzzles: World Map with Animals, 100 Piece World Map Puzzle, Magnetic Map of the USA (Ages 4+).
    Cost: $
    Suggested Ages 4-9+
  2. Geo-Cards
    This a great card game.
    Cost: $
    Suggested Ages 6+
  3. Globe
    Here’s a great globe that kids interested in geography will definitely like. Bonus idea: Inflatable, color-in/label globe.
    Cost: $$
    Suggested Ages 5 – 14
  4. Levitation Globe
    This is not the greatest political globe, but still really cool because it floats magnetically.
    Cost: $$
  5. Maps and Geography
    A great book by Ken Jennings – Jeopardy! superstar Ken Jennings offers his insights about maps in this excellent book.
    Cost: $

Electronics Kits

  1. Snap Circuits – These are good for kids of all ages…Snap circuits makes various kits for several age groups, for instance the Snap Jr. kit is for younger children. If your super-smart kid takes to these kits, they’ll have an advantage for the rest of their lives. Cost: $
    Suggested Ages 6-16+ These are invaluable at any age for the budding engineer
  2. The Raspberry Pi learning computer – This credit card sized, $35 device is an excellent tool for teaching a child how computers and electronics work. Here is an article that explains the device better. This is probably something a parent would want to work on together with their son or daughter–at least a first. Having said that, I am sure there are plenty of genius kids out there who will know what to do with it. There’s plenty of information on the internet about this device and it has really become a standard.
    Cost: $$
    Suggested Ages 7-16+
  3. Makey Makey Kit
    This is sold as “an invention kit for everyone”, and it definitely is fun and cool. No wonder it’s an Amazon best-seller. Turn anything into a keypad for your computer (Mac or PC). For example, you could make a few bananas into a music keyboard.
    Cost: $$
    Suggested Ages 7+
  4. The Kano Kit – This is a very interesting kit for kids 6-12. I’ve heard nothing but great things about it. Also based on the Raspberry Pi, it seems like a great way to get your genius child on the path to computer programming and becoming a “maker”. Definitely consider this gift if it’s in the budget Cost: $$$
    Suggested Ages 6-12+

Computers

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the idea of getting your favorite brilliant kid some sort of computer of their own.

  1. Tablet ComputersTablet computers are a good gift option — consider going with a cheaper Android tablet such as the surprisingly very low cost Amazon Kindle Fire.My girls both have one and they absolutely love it. My wife also has one and she loves hers too. It’s great for reading books, playing educational games (see my list of Amazon Fire Educational Games) and watching videos. Ours have lasted a few years.Many public libraries now offer free, downloadable e-books that will work with the Amazon Fire. Note that the Amazon Fire tablets do not allow you access to the Google Play Store–you have to use the apps that are on the Amazon App Store. There is a special “kids” version of the tablet that costs a bit more and has a few additional software features, plus it comes with a durable case…You may not need that though– the regular Fire does have the “Kids’ Free Time” app on it that lets you set limits for time and which apps they can use.We just have the regular 7″ Kindle Fire and it works great.Cost: $$
    Suggested Ages 5-16+
  2. Google Chromebook
    I am a huge fan of the Google Chromebook because it is so simple and malware/virus free. They are currently priced from about $150, most of the best values in Chromebooks are in the $200-300 range. ) for these. Recently some Chromebooks have been enabled for the Google Android App Store, greatly improving their usefulness. The Toshiba Chromebook 2 is slated to have this enabled later this year.
    Cost: $$$
    Suggested Ages 5-16+

Games and puzzles for smart kids

There are of course the usual suspects such as Chess Sets…but there are some other games for various ages.

  1. Perplexus line of mazes
    For example, there is the Perplexus line of mazes that come in various levels of difficulty. My seven year old loves the Perplexus Rookie and has spent hours working on solving it by getting the ball all the way to the end of the maze. Someone who enjoys puzzles like this might also like these Japanese puzzles.
    Cost: $
    Suggested Ages 7-16+

There are other games I can recommend:

  1. Chess is always great for the developing genius mind. Aside from general Chess Sets for kids who already know how to play, there are some great learn chess kits and books that teach chess for kids as well. Your brainiac might also enjoy Chess Solitaire. Kids of all ages can learn to play chess. Very young kids learn to play chess, but I would say a learning set would be good for a kids who are 5-year-olds and above.
    Cost $$
    Suggested Ages 7-10+
  2. Othello and Scrabble Junior also make pretty decent gifts as well.
    Cost $
    Suggested Ages 5-10+
  3. Cool Circuits by Sciencewiz
    This is a cool looking puzzle game. Complete the circuit to light up the board. 2013 Puzzle of the Year. The game is marked as 8+, but I think some seven-year-olds could enjoy it too.
    Cost: $
    Suggested Ages 8+
  4. Melissa and Doug Suspend
    This balance game is even cooler than it looks. I know you don’t usually think of Melissa and Doug gifts for older kids, but you can make an exception here.
    Cost: $
    Ages 8+
  5. Pengoloo – This is a great memory game for people of all ages, but works fine for toddlers and up. Helps with memory and color recognition. Nice wooden pieces.
    Cost: $
    Suggested ages 4+
  6. Quardillions – Great strategy puzzle meant for one player.
    Cost: $
    Ages 7+
  7. LONPOS 3 Dimensional 505 Brain Intelligence Game – 505 challenging, fun 2d and 3d puzzles in a compact form.
    Cost: $
    Ages 5+

Logic Puzzles

  1. Marble Maze – One of my favorites. Learn about gravity and logic with this addictive and challenging gravity game. I strongly recommend this-my 6 and 7 year old both really love this and it is truly educational. I frequently give this gift for children’s birthdays. Cost: $
    Suggested Ages 6+
  2. Quoridor is another good one. It’s meant for kids who are six and up…and definitely something a brainy kid would enjoy.
    Suggested Ages 6-10+
  3. ThinkFun Tilt This interesting logic game is loads of fun and a bit challenging.
    Cost: $
    Suggested Ages 8-15+
  4. <Laser Maze – This is a logic game that uses a real laser. It’s got some things in common with the marble maze above. This is a fun single player game. The same manufacturer makes a two player laser game (ThinkFun Laser Chess).
    Cost: $
    Suggested ages 8+

Drones

  1. Mini Drone
    This is really fun, and easy to fly. It’s an indoor mini drone for beginners that will teach your child the thinking and basics needed to move on to more advanced drones. I have found it to be pretty indestructible…And the price is right too!
    Ages: 7+
    Cost: $
  2. Remote controlled airplanes and helicopters can be very educational and lots of fun. There are many levels of price to these…
    For example, the Holy Stone drones are easy to fly but the cheaper remote controlled drones, helicopters and planes can be just as great. Adult supervision is probably required, especially for younger kids. Try to find one with a video camera built in.
    Cost: $$
    Suggested Ages 6-16+

3D Printers

The 3D printer is the ultimate gift. Probably best for your older brainiac or with help from an able adult.

  1. MakerBob Replicator Mini+
    The MakerBot is a popular 3D printer that has lots of support from the community. You can print some amazingly cool things. Kids who learn a little 3D design software can create whatever they can imagine (and that fits on the small format printer). Expect to spend $750-$2500+ for entry level models (which can do quite a bit).
    Cost: $$$$
    Suggested Ages: 7-16+ (younger children will need the help of an adult, at least to get started with this)
  2. Da Vinci Nano 3D Printer White 3D Printer
    The da Vinci mini is an affordable 3D printer. It uses non-toxic PLA filaments to print on a 5″x 5″ stage. This would be a good introductory 3D printer, it’s relatively cheap, and it’s compact enough to put right next to your computer.
    Cost: $$$
    Suggested Ages: 8+ (with adult help) or 14+

Creatures, Fungi and Plants

Live insects:

  1. Butterfly gardens and Lady Bug Land or if you’re a little more daring, you could go for a pet hissing cockroach. We have never given our kids a hissing cockroach, but both of our daughters loved the butterflies and lady bugs.
    Cost: $$
    Suggested Ages 3-10+
  2. Ant farms from Uncle Milton or other manufacturers…there are some great ones out now that use gel instead of sand…and have lights built into them. Very educational and fun! Cost: $
    Suggested Ages 3-10+
  1. Rolly Polly Farms – This is a great idea. Comes with a voucher for rolly pollies.
    Cost: $
    Suggest Ages: 5+
  2. Live praying mantis – Chinese praying mantis. Cost: $
    Suggested Ages 8-12+

Other Animals and Plants, etc:

  1. Frog hatchery – Your child will receive a tadpole in the mail and watch it grow into an adult frog. Beware this is really a long term commitment–frogs can live many years. The frogs in this kit are aquatic which makes them a bit easier to take care of.
    Cost: $
    Suggested Ages 5-10+
  2. Sea Monkeys or Triops This are cool, easy to care for pets. My kids loved having sea monkeys. Consider getting a wrist watch aquarium to transport a few of them to show friends. Fun, educational and interesting. Cost: $
    Suggested Ages 5-10
  3. Worm Farm – This is a little different. Your favorite intelligent kid can observe earth worms in action and learn about their important place in our ecosystem by helping things decompose/compost. If worms are a bit much for you, you could just get this composting observation system…it’s a simple way to watch how things get broken down in nature. I’d say even younger kids, maybe even three and four year-olds can get something out of this, and if it is maintained, the worms can last for years. We’ve had ours going on six years. Sounds strange to some people, but worms are kind of amazing! Cost: $
    Suggested ages 5+

  4. Grow Mushrooms: A grow your own Oyster Mushrooms kit and a grow your own shitake mushroom kit. This is cool and unusual. Some of the kits use organic bases for the mushrooms…great news for your dinner table. It’s definitely fun and interesting for kids to see how mushrooms grow–a sort of different experience from some of the seed/plant kits you can get. I recommend this as a gift for kids of any age, but probably for most kids, the ones who are older than six or seven years old will get the most out of it.
    Cost: $
    Suggested Ages 7-10+
  5. Grow plants: Amazon offers a Hydrodome where you hydroponically grow lettuce . There are also other kits which allow you to grow carnivorous plants, or cacti. Cost: $
    Suggested Ages 3-9

Do you have a suggestion for this list? Feedback on one of the items? Please email me to let me know. I only want to feature gift ideas that are safe, educational, interesting, unusual, and fun!

Don’t forget to visit my ideas for birthday party places.

eroncohen.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

Categories
Childrens' Birthday Parties Featured Kids Birthday Parties Reviews

Kid’s Birthday Party Place Ideas in Baltimore County

Are you looking for some ideas for places to have your child’s birthday party in Baltimore County? If you need ideas, here is my list of birthday party places around Baltimore County and other areas of Maryland, including nearby in Howard County Montgomery County, and Anne Arundel County for toddlers, kids, tweens, and teens.

[Looking for creative ideas for kid’s birthday parties during the quarantine? See my list of virtual birthday parties for kids.]

With each idea I try to include links to Amazon.com for some ideas for party favors and sometimes educational gifts that go along with the party theme.

Looking for some great birthday gift ideas for your girl or boy? See my list!

First, here are some of the more typical birthday party place ideas from around Baltimore County. These are popular and possibly done too often (I am purposely not mentioning bouncy parties–I am so tired of them!), but kids of the right ages will usually have a great time:

  • Laser tag
    laser tag party
    (Ages 6+)
    Red Zone Adventures in Lutherville is a great place for a fun birthday party. Although alot of kids have laser tag birthday parties–there is a good reason. They have a great time every time! This is a good kids party place for older kids and teens.
    Locations: Lutherville/Timonium
    ✳Party Favor Ideas: LED Bumpy Ring, Magnetic drawing tabletsMini LED carabiner Flashlights
  • Bowling
    birthday bowling party
    (Ages 8+)
    Bowling parties are a great idea for older kids. The younger ones who may have trouble handling the ball will enjoy it less, and may get frustrated, even with bumpers in place. I’d definitely, strongly recommend using a duckpin alley because the balls are smaller and lighter so it’s a better venue for birthdays, especially for the younger kids. There is one in Parkville that offers kid’s parties.
    Locations: Parkville
    ✳Party Favor Ideas: ✳LED Rubberband Helicopters ✳(I love these!) or Rocket Copters

[Need a great solution for your child’s allowance? Check out my review of FamZoo.com, a debit card for kids]

  • Movie Parties
    Cinemark movie birthday party towson md
    (Ages 4+)
    Kids love going to the movies. Most people don’t think of it, but you can host a great party at some movie theaters. A great example in Balt. County is Cinemark in Towson. The theater has a party room, and if you have twenty or more guests, you can even do a private movie screening. Pretty cool! With the right movie, this party is a good idea for any age, and it’s definitely a great party place for toddlers.
    Locations: Towson
    ✳Party Favor IdeasKid’s Card GamesMini Uno CardsPuffy Kush Balls
  • Pool Parties (Age Range 1+)
    Indoor and outdoor pool parties are always fun for kids of any age from toddlers to teens. Great for a 1st birthday party.
    If your child likes swimming they’ll probably love the idea of inviting their friends to a swim party. There are lots of options for outdoor parties in the summer, but winter/colder months will require some research.
    As far as I know, your best bet in Baltimore County would be the YMCA, for example I know that the Y in Catonsville offers birthday parties, but I am not able to find a page for this on the website.  They definitely have a great pool for indoor pool parties in Baltimore County.
    Kid’s First Swim School in Perry Hall, Cockeysville, and Dundalk offers parties that would be good for younger kids.  Same with Goldfish Swim School in Owings Mills. These are especially good for toddler birthday parties.
    Otherwise, you may want to consider places like the Columbia Association swimming pools in Howard County.
    Locations: Catonsville, Dundalk, Cockeysville, Owings Mills, Perry Hall
    ✳Party Favor IdeasWater ToysGogglesFlip-Flop KeychainsHawaiian Flower LeisHibiscus Flower Hair Clips
  • Gymnastics Parties (Ages 2+)
    These parties tend to work out great — especially for toddler birthdays and for other younger kids. Everyone has fun running, jumping, and playing on gymnastics equipment, not to mention it’s great exercise. There are lots of gyms that offer birthday parties in Baltimore County. For example Rebounders in Timonium offers great parties as does Gymboree on Rossville Rd.
    ✳Party Favor IdeasRibbon WandsNecklacesJump Ropes
  • Indoor Parkour (Age Range +)
    Kids love to climb. The Alternate Routes gym in White Marsh takes it to the next level with indoor parkour birthday parties. Kids will train in a simulated urban environment to overcome obstacles. In short, they’ll have a great time getting worn out climbing and jumping. Sure to be a great birthday party.
    ✳Parkour Party Favor Ideas: Lego Bricks, Jump Ropes, Create Your Own Bouncy Balls Kit
  • Wonderfly Arena (Ages 3+)
     This is definitely a fun kind of party for even the tiny tots to teenagers. Imagine a party in a hamster ball. Just keep in mind that keeping these giant balls moving is alot of exercise with lots of motion–meaning people who aren’t in the best shape or get dizzy might not have fun. They do have other party options though!
    Locations: Arbutus
    Wonderfly Party Favor IdeasSilly Putty Balls
  • Basketball Party (Ages 5+)
    If you’re child is into basketball, there are a few places around Baltimore County for a themed party. Freestate Sports Arena in White Marsh or Goals in Catonsville can host a basketball party.  Also see Coppermine Fieldhouse locations in Baltimore City for more sports party ideas.
    Locations: Catonsville, White Marsh, Mt. Washington
    Basketball Party Favor Ideas: Atomic Basketballs, Basketball Mini-Stress Foam Balls, Basketball Keychains
  • Chuck E Cheese’s (Ages 3-7)
    I am not the biggest fan of Chuck E Cheese, but I know many families like it. There is a location in Catonsville. Token prices are low—maybe around 20 cents each depending on which package you get. This is a great party venue for toddlers and younger children.

Looking for some great gift ideas for your girl or boy? See my list!

And here are some more unusual ideas. These parties are possibly more memorable because they are more likely to be “one offs” that none of their classmates or friends have already done:

  • Escape Room Party (Age )
    There are a few escape room locations in the Baltimore area. The one I have experience with is Breakout Games (Timonium and Columbia). They offer several types of games. I am told that the best choice for kids is Museum Heist. They have no party room, and there isn’t really a group rate. You can just visit their website and purchase the number of tickets you need.Please note that you have to have an adult in the party and the maximum number of people is 8. So the most you can have is 7 kids. Still this is a great party, especially for older kids (Younger kids might find it frustrating rather than fun).
  • Fencing (Ages 8+)
    I am not sure if there is a fencing club in Baltimore County, however in Baltimore City there’s Chesapeake Fencing Club and then there’s the Baltimore Fencing Center in Columbia in Ellicott City, MD . Both of which have a great facility for unusual birthday parties. Guests learn the basics of fencing and can get a little practice in at the party. If you’re looking a different kind of party location, this is your place.
    Locations: Ellicott City, Baltimore City
  • Pirate Party
    Pirate Birthday Party
    (Ages 7+) on the Urban Pirate boat that sails from Baltimore Harbor.
    ✳Party Favor Ideas: Gold Pirate CoinsPirate Eye Patches, Bandanas
  • Nature Center Parties (Ages 2+)
    There are several choices around Baltimore County for Nature Center birthday parties. One of the best is Irvine Nature Center in Owings Mills. They have an excellent offering at a reasonable price. Fun for children of all ages.
    Location: Owings Mills
  • Craft Parties (Ages 4+)
    There are lots of options for this. One easy one is to have your party at either Michael’s (for example the one in Owings Mills/Reisterstown) or JoAnn Fabrics (stores in Parkville and Cockeysville). You may also want to check out Social Studio in Roland Park/Baltimore.
    Locations: Parkville, Cockeysville, Baltimore
  • Pottery Parties (Ages 6+)
    Paint your own pottery is a great idea for a birthday party. Kids in kindergarten and beyond will enjoy paint parties with their friends. In the Baltimore area, one of the best places is in Catonsville — the Pottery Cove.
    ✳Party Favor Ideas: Playdough, Magnetic drawing tabletsPutty Balls
    Locations: Catonsville
  • iFly (Ages 3+)
    An amazing new venue in White Marsh! Possibly the most unusual idea on this list, indoor skydiving would make for a wonderful birthday party place. Your boy or girl will never forget this birthday party! Be warned, this is a bit of a pricey option, at the end, each child will probably only get maybe 2 to 4 minutes of flying time. I would suggest that due to the amount of patience needed while waiting for your turn to fly, this venue is best for kids older than 7 even though toddlers are welcome.
    Locations: White Marsh
    ✳Party Favor Ideas: Parachute Cord Bracelets, LED Finger Lights
  • Rock Climbing (Ages 5+)
    Earth Treks has an amazing facility in Timonium that makes a wonderful place to host a bdp. Your kids will also definitely enjoy ClimbZone in White Marsh. Lots of great things to climb there.
    Locations: Timonium, White Marsh
  • Toy Store Party at AmuseToys (Ages 2-6)
    In Pikesville (Baltimore County). Parties in the lab are great fun. This is definitely a different kind of place to hold a birthday party.
    Locations: Pikesville
  • Indoor Playground (Ages 3 – 7)
    Kiddie Crusoe might be a good party place option for younger kids. Large indoor playground & party room.
  • Roller Skating (Ages 8+)
    There are three rinks in Baltimore County that all offer roller skating birthday parties. For example, Hot Skates in Woodlawn and Skateland in Putty Hill offer a party that is currently under $100.
    Locations: Woodlawn, Putty Hill
    ✳Party Favor Ideas: Glowing GlovesGlowing Bracelets, Light Up Finger Rings
  • Rent a pavillion at Local Park (Ages 2+)
    The tire park at the Hilton area of Patapsco State Park. This is a two acre playground made from recycled tires. Loads of fun and the nearby pavilions  for a barbeque or just to hang out and do a craft. This is an inexpensive party venue, especially if you want to have lots of children attend. This is a particularly great party location for the warmer months.
    Locations: Catonsville
    ✳Party Favor Ideas: Sidewalk Chalk, Bubble Wands, Beach Balls
  • Fire Station Birthdays(Ages 3-7)
    Many people don’t even know that you can host a birthday party at some of the fire stations in Baltimore County (Pikesville).  I know quite a few kids who love fire trucks and love birthdays…so why not combine the two. It’s fun for the kids, and they get some fire safety tips too! My only caveat would be that an emergency could potentially cut the party short.
    As an alternative, there is a Fire Museum in Towson that provides a pretty good bdp experience. It’s an interesting place for both adults and children. Toddlers are likely to get a thrill seeing all the fire equipment.
    ✳A great gift to go with this birthday party would be a pair of walkie talkies. Here is one suggestion for a pretty good pair–but please read my caveats about them in my gift ideas for brainy kids blog post.
    Locations: Towson, Pikesville, and other fire stations around Baltimore County.
  • Zoo Parties (Ages 1+)
    Wherever you are in Baltimore County, the Maryland Zoo isn’t very far. They offer great birthday party packages, and it is sure to be a great time for kids of all ages. Toddlers will really enjoy looking at all the animals, and even 8-year-olds and 9-year olds will have fun. The zoo is relatively small, which is really a plus. They do a great job of highlighting the animals, habitats, and ecology. A great place for a Maryland birthday party.
    Locations: Baltimore City
    ✳Party Favor Ideas: Zoo Animal Headbands, Cat Keychains, Magic Snake
  • Maryland Science Center (Ages 6+)
    As you probably know, the Maryland Science Center is in the Inner Harbor. They offer several birthday party options . If you’re near Towson, you may also want to have a look at Snapology’s offerings.
    Location: Inner Harbor/Baltimore City, Towson
    ✳Party Favor Ideas: Invisible Ink Pens, Rubik’s CubesAnimal Sticker Sheets
  • Day Spa Parties (Ages 4 – 14)
    Towson is home to SparTea The Pink Door Day Spa For Girls. A great place to have a glamorous spa party for your kid! You may also want to check out Twinkle Twinkle Little Spa also in Towson and Posh & Play Kids Spa (in Nottingham)
  • Aviation Museum Party (Ages 5+)
    This is a bit of a different kind of party. The airplane museum in Middle River offers birthday parties that are interesting, educational, and fun.
    Locations: Middle River, Maryland
    ✳Party Favor Ideas: Inflatable Airplanes, foam gliders
  • Port Discovery (Ages 2 – 8)
    (Located in Baltimore City near the Inner Harbor) – Always a popular place to take kids for any reason, Port Discovery makes a great place for a birthday celebration. Depending on the package you get, this can be a rather pricey place to hold your party, and you really need to plan ahead because they need 2 months notice in most cases. Still, this is sure to be a fun, memorable experience for your child and their friends.
  • Granite Rose Tea Parlour (Ages 11+)
    Located in charming Granite, Md in Southwest Baltimore County ) – If you’re thinking of an especially fancy birthday party venue, this might be the place for you. Hosted in an authentic Victorian house, kids will enjoy attending a “real” tea party.
    I think this would be a great party for 11-year olds, and older, but if say you are looking for ideas for 7-year olds…perhaps extra-well-behaved 7-year-olds, they might also find this party interesting.
    Party Favor Ideas: Tea Party Hats, White Formal Gloves, Friendship Bracelets
  • Trampoline Party (Ages 5+)
    (Timonium) – SkyZone is the place to go for a trampoline party. Great atmosphere, lots of options including “sensory” jump hours for quieter time for kids with special needs. I hesitate a bit on this one, because I am concerned about safety issues–people do get hurt at these kind of places and that can really spoil a good time, especially if it is a serious injury. Having said that, SkyZone does a pretty good job of making trampolines as safe as possible.
  • IKEA – (Ages 13+)
    This might sound a little odd, but for some kinds, a party at IKEA may be great for teens and older kids. Friends dine in the cafe, and then have fun checking out the rooms. Photo contest anyone? $5 or less cactus plants for party favors…$1 ice cream cones. What could be better?
    Location: Whitemarsh

Hopefully this list of party ideas helps you out. If you can think of any places I missed, please comment below. Don’t forget to check out my list of gifts for gifted kids.

If you’re reading this during the quarantine, you may be looking for some more creative birthday party ideas. See my list of virtual birthday parties.

Categories
Education kids activities

Educational activities and fun things to do with your kids when schools are closed under quarantine

Since schools in our district (Howard County, MD) are closed, I put together a list of online learning / distance education resources, plus other ideas for things to do during the break/quarantine.

If anyone has any additional ideas for activities or other resources, please send them my way and I will add to this list – comment below!

The list is divided into eight topic areas:

I hope all of us who are well, but home, can all use this unexpected time together wisely! If you’re sick, get well soon.

[Looking for virtual birthday party ideas?]

Educational video classes and other learning fun learning opportunities

This break in school is definitely an opportunity for parents to get to know their kids’ academic strengths and weaknesses, in case they don’t already.

The good news is that there are loads of fantastic educational websites — many of which are normally for pay, but are free for now. Some include video lessons and classes, distance learning, others are paid courses.

Here are a few popular sites. I have selected them by hand, so I hope you’ll find something that will engage your child in the list below:

  • Khan Academy – This is very helpful, free website with loads of educational videos on all sorts of topics. It’s “gamified” so your child can earn points and badges as they progress through lessons.

    The videos are broken down into very specific how-to’s so you can zero right in on what you want to learn, or just follow along a given course. I very highly recommend this site. Here is a daily schedule for various grade levels using Khan resources.
    Grades Pre-K and above.
  • Khan Academy (again!) – This is a special mention because I really like this activity – Imagineering in a box. “Designed to pull back the curtain to show you how artists, designers and engineers work together to create theme parks.”
  • Outschool – For a VERY limited time FREE $100 credit for classes (Sign up here) I think this is a great opportunity for kids to learn. They have classes that are prerecorded, and others that have a live teacher that teaches your child along with classmates via video lessons. One of my children is currently taking a language class from this site and it’s really working well. I just signed the other up for an American Sign Language class.
    Grades Pre-K and above.

    You may also want to have a look at Unschool.School because it also offers a wide range of resources for different ways for kids to learn.
  • Varsity Tutors – Free live online classes for K-12. Wide variety of courses.
  • Learn At Home with YouTube – Great list of educational channels on YouTube. I like Crash Courses and It’s Okay to Be Smart.
  • Kids Discover – This website is normally a paid resource, but they’re offering free access to families with kids in districts that have closed schools. Click here to request a free account. Here is a list a librarian created with some other resources.
    Grades 1 and above.
  • Coding schools – Ok, now would be a good idea for kids who may have some interest in learning computer programming to take some courses or improve their skills with practice. There are some wonderful options for kids of all ages to get started. Here are three popular choices:
    • Code Kingdoms – Very good choice to get started coding!
    • HourofCode is a great example, and it is very well done. Honestly, great for any age.
      Grades Pre-K and above.
    • Scratch very good for kids age 6 to 12. Fun, entertaining.
      Grades 1 and above.
    • Code.org also a great option for learning to code.
      Grades 3 and above.
    • CodeAcademy – another great resource with free and paid lessons.

  • Scholastic – This resource goes up to 6th grade. Lots of great materials to keep kids learning.
  • National Geographic Explorer Classroom has some excellent webinars. Definitely check it out.
  • EdX, Coursera, and MIT OpenCourseWare – This could be an option for older kids – free online courses from major universities including Harvard, Yale, MIT, and probably most of the colleges you can think of. (There is even a course about cat and dog behavior from the University of Edinburgh)

    The classes are on just about any imaginable topic. Some are self-guided, others are “live” in that if you pay a fee, you can submit work for grading and you have to complete work in a given time frame.
    Grades 8 and above.
  • Linked In Learning/Lynda.com – Lynda offers a huge collection of online classes, mostly aimed at adults, but older kids/teens would benefit from many of them. For example, they have courses in Photoshop and other digital art tools that kids could benefit from. (Moms or dads would probably also find a worthwhile topic) Howard County Library offers it for free to their patrons, but if your library system doesn’t, the cost to join Lynda is not very expensive and is month to month.
    Grades 6 and above.
  • Instructables – I love this website. Loads of crafts, and other how-to’s on a wide variety of topics. Most kids are likely to find something that interests them–these would be good for parents and children to do together. (Thanks to Milanjali for the suggestion to add this one!)
  • Acheive3000’s Actively Learn Platform – I really like Achieve 3000’s ELA current events platform. I have used it with students for two years when I taught school and thought it was excellent. They are offering their Actively Learn remote learning platform for free for the time being.
  • CommonLit – Reading and writing program. Free. Parents have to go through a verification process, but this is a worthwhile platform with guides for teachers and parents.
    Grades 3 to 12.
  • Learn a language with Duolingo. This is a fun, easy way for your child to learn a language or learn more of a language they already know. You may also check with your local library to see if they have any other online language learning resources. For example, Howard County Library offers Rosetta Stone for free. I like Rosetta Stone for a few reasons, but top among them is the fact that it can listen to your pronunciation and tell you if you have it right.

    I would also mention that one of my kids is taking live online language lessons on Outschool.com. It’s working great even though the teachers and all of the students are in different states.
    Grades 4 and above.
  • Prodigy Math – Math activities for grades 1 – 8.
    Grades 1 – 8.
  • Delta Math – My kids are using this now. Lots of great activities. Create a free account as a teacher to get started.
  • First in Math – This is a great math resource with entertaining games and world-wide competitions. Paid subscription ($20 for 6 months).
  • iCivics.org – Great stuff on this site — this is a link to some excellent social studies games…including a game where you have to get the votes in a run for president.
  • Get out your library card and check to see what kind of electronic learning resources your local library has. (Note that in many places, you can get a access to libraries anywhere in your state and beyond).

    Here are some examples from the Howard County, Maryland library system (click to see them all – You need to go back to the library website and start there to login with your library card and Pin! Forgot your PIN? Reset it here):
    • Kids Infobits Grades Pre-K and above.
    • LearningExpress – Practice tests for AP exams and the SATs. Library card needed to register.
    • Muzzy
    • ScienceFlix
    • Tons of electronic books for all ages to download to your phone, Kindle, or tablet.
    • Bookflix


  • Do a project. This is one of the best ways to learn. Here is an article about project based learning–at the end of it are 15 ideas for projects including things like redesigning your city’s public transport system and solve your parents’ problem of being too busy.
  • Watch and compare/contrast movie versions of Romeo & Juliet and Westside Story. Take it deeper by adding in Rent (The Musical) and La Boheme (Thanks Debra T)

  • StarFall – This is a venerable, popular website for younger kids. Great fun.
    Grades Pre-K – 3.
  • Whizzimo.com – Free until July. Help for different learners including Orton-Gillingham.
  • This Way Up – Great mental health resource. This is a link to their Covid page, but be sure and look at all of their offerings.
  • Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth – Very well reputed online courses. This one is here because it’s a great option for some kids. The courses definitely aren’t free (quite the opposite), and you have to get accepted into the program.

    This could be a problem under quarantine since you have to test into the program.
  • MobyMax and ListenWise – These two are suggestions for schools and school districts rather than individual families: MobyMax helps your child catch up to grade level. This is great for different learners or learners struggling with school. It’s free for the rest of the school year. Call 888-793-8331 to get started. Listenwise offers articles and podcasts about a variety of subjects, and can be effective for different learners.

Random fun

Games and online fun

Here are some ideas for some ideas for fun, some of the suggestions may even be educational.

Worksheets and Learning Packets

Although I am not the biggest fan of worksheets, these free downloads will be helpful for parents who need something quick and easy for their kids to do. Worksheets have their place, but parents who have additional time may want to consider the idea of working on a project with their student instead (or in addition).

Preschool letter tracing worksheets
Phonics worksheets

Handwriting worksheets
Math worksheets

General packets for grades K – 5
General packets for middle school
Middle school math packets
Reading packets for grades 1 – 9

Easter Seals School Closure Toolkit for young students with autism

More advanced kids might take advantage of these algebra, geometry, and calculus worksheet packets with answer sheets.

More worksheets on this Google Drive from KES, and more from education.com and Curriculum Associates.

Do science

Music activities

  • Have a family sing along or a home karaoke session. Use YouTube for karaoke or try one of the a cappella apps to create your own cool arrangements. Look up rounds on the internet and try singing them together. (Thanks Debra T)
  • Take turns playing your favorite songs for each other – the things you used to listen to as a young person, and the things they like to listen to now. Notice similarities and differences in style and production. Then check out a style you don’t usually listen to and try to figure out what people enjoy about it.(Thanks Debra T)
  • Learn to play the Ukulele – Great lessons on YouTube for how to play the uke. Don’t have a ukulele handy? You can get one that’s decent at a low cost on Amazon.
  • Have an iPad or iPhone? Now would be a great time to learn how to use Garage Band. So much fun. Why not have your child come up with a new ring tone for you to use when they call you or a family theme song! Garage Band is free from Apple. Here’s an introduction on YouTube…bonus: the presenter sounds like Shrek.

Physical activities

Baking and cooking ideas

  • Get out that old bread maker. Everyone loves fresh bread, and your kids will enjoy helping to make something the whole family will enjoy. Of course you’ll need to have yeast on hand, but there’s a good chance you have the rest of the needed ingredients. There are loads of great recipes out there…Our challenge this break will be to make rolls that are most similar to Subway Italian bread. TIP: If you don’t have a bread maker, just visit your local thrift shop, there’s a strong chance of finding one there.
  • Make ice cream in a bag
  • Cooking contests. If you have more than one child, hold a cooking contest. Think Kids Baking Championship or Cutthroat Kitchen. Or see who can come up with the lowest cost recipe using staple items from your pantry. Grades Pre-K and up.
  • Make a pizza…from scratch. Here is a link to my daughter’s favorite recipe. It’s Rosanna Pansino making an “Avengers Pizza” but you can just make it “regular.” You’re going to need yeast.
  • Make cookies. Have the kids help you adjust the recipe by doubling or tripling.

Arts and crafts

Virtual field trips

Go on a virtual field trip. For example, this Madden Football by the Numbers field trip is great. Here are some others:

Didn’t find any activities you liked? Here is another list that someone posted on Facebook with more quarantine activities for kids. Definitely has some great ideas for things to do!

Categories
Education Featured Parenting Summer Camps - No School Camps

Summer Camps in Howard County for Summer 2020

26+ High Quality, “Don’t Miss This”, Great Summer Camps

NOTE: I am beginning to hear of camps that will be available “IN PERSON” this summer. I will add “In Person” to those camps that are open and following Covid-19 guidelines. I am also noting camps that are completely canceled.

Summer 2020 is approaching, and so is summer vacation–so I have made a list of summer camps in Howard County (as well as near me in adjoining counties). The list of camps includes academic sessions for the many Howard County GT students, sports, drama, arts, crafts, and music.

As a former teacher, I can tell you that summer break can do some damage to your child’s academic skills.  Every year there are too many kids who come back to school with lower reading and math abilities than they left with the previous school year.

The reason this happens will be obvious to most parents who have themselves spent their childhood summers watching TV, hanging out with friends, and avoiding anything remotely academic. Some of this is great, but not too much it seems.

[Need gift ideas for the brainy kids in your life? See my list of present ideas for toddlers, kids, and teens]

Of course, there were always a few kids who did not suffer from the summer effect and still had time to relax and be kids during summer.  These were the children whose parents were on top of making sure that some of the kids’ summer experiences would actually add to what they learned in the previous school year.

With that in mind, my friends and I have been discussing all of the fun and interesting summer camp options that are available these days around Howard County, Montgomery County, and Baltimore Maryland.

Please drop me a comment if you know of ones that I missed. BTW, I am only listing camps that I have first-hand knowledge of–these aren’t paid listings, but just interesting summer camps that I think kids will actually benefit from attending–some are learning camps for gifted and talented (GT / TAG) kids, and others are just general fun camps.

[BTW, if you’re looking for birthday party ideas for kids in Howard, Baltimore, Montgomery County, or Anne Arundel County I have been keeping a list!

You may also want to read my review of Google Fi Mobile Phone Service]

  1. Idea Lab Kids –  IN PERSON – A friendly place with loads of options. Great STEM Camps in Ellicott City. Here is their 2020 camp schedule.  They also have a great aftercare program.
  2. Glenelg Country SchoolIN PERSON – In Ellicott City, this school has some amazing choices for summer learning fun including in theater, GT math, dance, chess, robotics and sports. I highly recommend checking out their offerings. The school has a wonderful campus in the forest in a rural part of Ellicott City. Camps run until the end of July.
  3. Johns Hopkins Center for Talented YouthCANCELED –  Great offerings for gifted and talented kids around Maryland including classes in Baltimore and Sandy Spring Friends School.  Students must be specially admitted to the program before they can attend the summer camps, and that won’t be possible for kids who aren’t advanced in academics.  CTY camps are renowned in the USA and we’re lucky to have them right in our backyard. BTW, if you’re looking for an alternative to the CTY camps, there is also SIG Day Program at the Woods Academy in Bethesda.
  4. Camp Invention – This is a really cool idea for kids in grades 1 to 6. There currently aren’t any schools hosting this camp in Howard County, but they may be worth some travel time or could be close to mom or dad’s office. The one that I have linked is in nearby Catonsville, at Westchester Elementary.
  5. Howard Community College – These are very popular summer GT camps and summer classes–popular like a rock concert–the registration begins and ten minutes later it’s “sold out”…Check out the options.  Many of them are very good! For 2020 registration opens on January 30, 2020. Don’t miss your chance–review the options and get ready to sign up in time! 
  6. Terrapin STEM Camp – Located in Laurel at St. Marys of the Mills Elementary School, this camp offers all day long programs for grades K-5 with before and after care. Kid’s learn about several aspects of STEM each day through fun and hands on experimentation. Activities include Zome Tools (I am a fan of these!), Lego robotics, 3-D printing, and coding,
  7. Imagination Stage – This Bethesda, MD venue is a promising place for fun and creative learning. This is definitely not in Howard County or even Baltimore, but if you happen to work out that way in Montgomery County, definitely consider sending your kids there for a week or two. Registration for 2020 now open.
  8.  Howard County Art’s Council Center for the Arts–they have all sorts of art camps, including acting. There is very limited space for these summer camps that go late June until Mid August. If your child is interested in the arts, this is definitely a “don’t miss” summer camp! Registration for 2020 opened 1/3/2020.

    [Need a gift for the brainiac child in your life? I’ve handpicked over 75 educational presents.]

  9. Club SciKidzIN PERSON – Space explorer, science chef and other great days of fun await your child at this camp in Ellicott City. Deep space robotics? 3-D Printing? Minecraft? Emergency Vet? YES! My kids have really enjoyed their camps. Registration is now open!
  10. Columbia Academy  (Not updated for 2020!) Columbia Academy in Columbia Maryland has some wonderful summer camps for all ages of kids. For more about Columbia Academy–see my post about private schools in Howard County.
Camp IO Hands on Science and Yoga Camp in Maryland
Great Summer Camps in Central Maryland
  1. Camp IO– Yoga and science camp in Columbia, MD for kids ages 6-11. $330/week (as of January 2020.  This camp looks great for boys and girls who love science and need more balance in their lives-mandalas and model rockets, a brilliant combination! My kids have enjoyed their camps in the past (including their School’s Out camps).
  2. Howard County Conservancy has some great camps.  They are nature themed and take place in Woodstock, MD and Elkridge, MD. Conquer the trails of the Patapsco Valley, learn about some of the amazing beasts in our forests and streams, go green! My kids have enjoyed their camps in the past (including their School’s Out camps). Registration opens January 15, 2020.
  3. IDTech  – Computer programming summer camps camps for kids and teens. In College Park and Towson. Great for gifted and talented kids.
  4. Howard County Parks and RecreationIN PERSON – Affordable and interesting camps for younger and older kids.
  5. Howard County Public Schools – Want to learn Chinese this summer? How about a biomedical skills camp? Only at HCPSS! In person registration begins February 1, 2020.
  6. Karate Camp – Wilde Lake Karate would be a great place to learn martial arts this summer. Check it out!  
  7. Drama Learning Center – Great camps where kids can hone their drama skills in Columbia/Ellicott City.

[Looking for gift ideas for the brilliant kids in your life? Check out my huge list of ideas for kids of all ages]

  1. Columbia Association – Columbia Association offers many nature and art camps that I have heard good things about. This year’s program looks fantastic.
  2. Columbia Center for Theatrical Arts / Toby’s Dinner Theater camp – Great way to get into some great acting skills.
  3. Walters Art Gallery – The Walters Art Gallery in Baltimore has summer camps!  Sold by the week, these camps are very interesting for kids first grade and older.  This looks like a wonderful experience!
  4. Terrapin Adventures – If you’ve never been to Terrapin Adventures in Savage (near Savage Mill), you’re in for a high-flying treat. Their camps are full of outdoor fun, exercise, science and more. This looks really cool. Very limited space.
  5. Loyola University – Reading skills for elementary aged kids and speed reading camps for grades 6-8th taking place in June and July. Call 800-834-3693 for camp information (Ellicott City, Columbia, Elkridge and Catonsville).
  6. YMCA Camp – The YMCA in Ellicott City has several options for traditional summer camps. You may also be interested in the camps at Lifetime Fitness in Columbia.
  7. Camp Oasis – Music, drama, and other fun in Columbia.
  8. Columbia Horse Center – Horsemanship summer camps for Howard County horse lovers.

Thanks for reading my list of summer camps. I also have a list of school’s out camps in Howard County.

Categories
Childrens' Birthday Parties Recommendations

Birthday Party Places for Kids in Montgomery County, Maryland

[See my list of online/virtual birthday party ideas here!]
Here is my list of birthday party place ideas for toddlers, children, tweens, and teens in Montgomery County, MD. 

I also include links to ideas for party favors that are available on Amazon.

[Looking for some great birthday gift ideas for your gifted girl or boy? See my list!]

First, here are some of the more typical birthday party place ideas from around Montgomery County.

  1. Laser tag (Ages 6+)
    laser tag party

    Shadowland in Gaithersburg is an fun venue for your party. Most kids seem to enjoy laser tag, and Shadowland’s birthday party packages make it easy for parents. Gaithersburg is also home to Castle Laser Tag.
    Locations: Gaithersburg
    ✳Laser Tag Party Favor Ideas: LED Bumpy Ring, Magnetic drawing tabletsMini LED carabiner Flashlights, LED Finger Rockets

  2. Duckpin Bowling White Oak(Ages 8+)
    birthday bowling party
    Bowling parties can be fun for kids. The key is to go to an alley that has duckpins rather then standard balls. This is because duckpin smaller balls are much easier for toddlers/younger kids to handle. There are obviously a few bowling alleys in Montgomery County, but I only know of one with duckpins: White Oak (near Silver Spring).
    Locations: White Oak
    ✳Bowling Party Favor Ideas: ✳LED Rubberband Helicopters ✳(I love these!) or Rocket Copters

[Need a great solution for your child’s allowance? Check out my review of FamZoo.com,a debit card for kids]

  1. Movie Parties (Ages 4+)
    Cinemark movie birthday party towson md
    With the right movie, a movie theater birthday party can be a fantastic choice. This can take a bit of planning and luck to be sure an appropriate movie is going to be playing when it’s time for your child’s birthday. One option would be the  Arclight Theaters in Montgomery Mall. The party goers could enjoy the movie and then a party in the mall at the Food Court.
    Locations: Bethesda
    ✳Movie Party Favor IdeasKid’s Card GamesMini Uno CardsPuffy Kush Balls
  2. Pool Parties (Ages 1+)
    Most kids enjoy a pool party. Whether it’s an outdoor party in the summer or fun at an indoor pool, kids of all ages will have a great time. There are a few options in Montgomery County including Rockville Swim and Fitness Center or Kid’s First Swim School in Germantown.
    Locations: Rockville, Germantown
    ✳Pool Party Favor IdeasWater ToysGogglesFlip-Flop KeychainsHawaiian Flower LeisHibiscus Flower Hair Clips
  3. Gymnastics Parties (Ages 2+)
    There are several gyms that offer birthday parties in Montgomery County. Examples are Little Gym in Silver Spring and Olney, My Gym in Potomac, Hill Gym in Gaithersburg.
    Locations: Silver Spring, Potomac, Olney, Gaithersburg
    ✳Gymnastics Party Favor IdeasRibbon WandsNecklacesJump Ropes
  4. Indoor Parkour (Age Range 7+)
    Kids love to climb. Bolt Gym in North Bethesda takes it to the next level with indoor parkour birthday parties. Kids will train in a simulated urban environment to overcome obstacles. In short, they’ll have a great time getting worn out climbing and jumping. Sure to be a great birthday party.
    Location: Bethesda
    Party Favor Ideas: Lucky Bambo, Jump Ropes (*or better quality jump ropes), hula hoops
  5. Chuck E Cheese’s (Ages 3-7)
    I am not the biggest fan of Chuck E Cheese, but I know many families like it. There is a location in Rockville and Takoma Park. Token prices are low—maybe around 20 cents each depending on which package you get. This is a great party venue for toddlers.
    Locations: Rockville, Takoma Park

Looking for some great gift ideas for your girl or boy? See my list!

Here are some other ideas that aren’t as popular. This will give your kid the chance to do something more unusual:

  1. Escape Room Party (Age 11+)
    There is an escape room in Rockville – A Game of Rooms. They offer several types of games. There is a conference room available for rent for parties, but there isn’t really a group rate. You can just visit their website and purchase the number of tickets you need. You need to be 11 or older to enjoy this birthday place. Keep in mind that the puzzles are very challenging and some might find it frustrating instead of fun.
    Location: Rockville
    ✳Escape Room Party Favor IdeasMini Magnetic Board Games, Mini Rubics Cubes, Mini Teaser Puzzles, Snake Twist Cube Toy
  2. Fencing (Ages 8+)
    If you’re looking for something different, try a fencing party. Contact Capital Fencing in North Bethesda. You might also try
    UR Fencing in Rockville. If you’re looking a different kind of part location, this is your place.
    Locations: North Bethesda, Rockville
    Fencing Birthday Party Favor Ideas: Lego BricksMake Your Own Bouncy Ball Kits, Atomic Soccer Balls
  3. Nature Center Parties (Ages 2+)
    There are several choices around the Montgomery County area for Nature Center birthday parties. Consider Black Hill in Boyds. They have several types of parties available. Bonus suggestion: Just over the Montgomery County line in Frederick County is Gaver’s Farm in Mount Airy – beautiful place to have a party, but only available in the fall!
    Location: Boyds
    ✳Nature Center Party Favor Ideas: Succulent Plants, Worm on a string
  4. Craft Parties (Ages 4+)
    Kids can have a great time at craft parties. There are several options for locations including Michael’s Stores and JoAnn Fabrics.
    Locations: Rockville, Wheaton
  5. Pottery Parties (Ages 6+)
    Paint your own pottery is a great idea for a birthday party. Kids in kindergarten and beyond will enjoy paint parties with their friends.
    Color Me Mine in Rockville is a great choice for this type of party.
    Locations: Rockville
    ✳Pottery Party Favor Ideas: Playdough, Magnetic drawing tabletsPutty Balls
  6. iFly (Ages 3+)
    An amazing venue in Gaithersburg! Possibly the most unusual idea on this list, indoor skydiving would make for a wonderful birthday party place. Your boy or girl will never forget this birthday party! Be warned, this is a bit of a pricey option, at the end, each child will probably only get maybe 2 to 4 minutes of flying time. I would suggest that due to the amount of patience needed while waiting for your turn to fly, this venue is best for kids older than 7 even though toddlers are welcome.
    Locations: Gaithersburg
    ✳iFly Party Favor Ideas: Parachute Cord Bracelets, LED Finger Lights
  7. Rock Climbing (Ages 5+)
    Earth Treks is a fantastic place to host a birthday party. The location in Rockville on Gude Drive is convenient for all of Montgomery County.
    Locations: Rockville
  8. Indoor Playground (Ages 3 – 7)
    ZavaZone in Rockville, Kidville in Bethesda, and Badlands in North Bethesda are two fun places for kids birthday celebrations. Both are in Rockville. Your child might also like the party options at BusyBees in Chevy Chase. If you’re in the north of the County, you may want to check out Adventure Zone in Gaithersburg. Although I have concerns about the safety of trampoline parks, this one has some other options too.
    Locations: Rockville, Gaithersburg
  9. Ice Skating (Ages 8+)
    Plenty of kids love to ice skate. The Cabin John Ice Rink is a
    great venue to host a birthday bash.
    Locations: Cabin John/North Bethesda
    ✳Ice Skating Party Favor Ideas: Glowing GlovesGlowing Bracelets, Light
    Up Finger Rings
  10. Rent a Pavillion at Local Park or Community Center(Ages 2+)
    Rent a pavillion at one of the local parks. Brookside Gardens or
    Wheaton Regional Park would be great choices. At Wheaton Regional Park, younger kids would enjoy the train ride and excellent playground at the park. There are several great themes for birthday parties at Brookside Gardens including a Wings of Fancy Butterfly party, a Garden Tea Party, Dinosaur party, and a Paint a Pot Party. You might also want to consider renting a room at the Thomas Farm Community Center.
    Locations: Wheaton
    ✳Outdoor Party Favor Ideas: Sidewalk Chalk, Bubble Wands, Beach Balls
  11. Fire Station Birthdays (Ages 3-7)
    Many people don’t even know that you can host a birthday party at some of the fire stations in Montgomery County (Potomac).  I know quite a few kids who love fire trucks and love birthdays…so why not combine the two. It’s fun for the kids, and they get some fire safety tips too! My only caveat would be that an emergency could potentially cut the party short.
    ✳A great gift to go with this birthday party would be a pair of walkie talkies. Here is one suggestion for a pretty good pair–but please read my caveats about them in my gift ideas for brainy kids blog post.
    Locations: Cabin John/Potomac, Rockville.
  12. Zoo Parties (Ages 1+)
    It’s a bit of a trek from most of Montgomery County, but the National Zoo is a prime idea for a birthday party. Kids could take Metro down to the Cleveland Park Metro Station and walk from there.
    Locations: Washington DC
    ✳Zoo Party Favor Ideas: Zoo Animal Headbands, Cat Keychains, Magic Snake, Invisible Ink Pens, Rubik’s CubesAnimal Sticker Sheets
  13. Basketball Party (Ages 5+)
    If you’re child is into basketball, there are a few places around Montgomery County for a themed party. Some of the Sport and Health Club Locations (Bethesda, Gaithersburg) can host a basketball party. You can also have a great time at Pat the Roc Basketball Skills Academy.
    Locations: Bethesda, Gaithersburg
    Basketball Party Favor Ideas: Atomic Basketballs, Basketball Mini-Stress Foam Balls, Basketball Keychains
     
  14. Day Spa Parties (Ages 4 – 14)
    There are some great spas in Potomac, Bethesda, Chevy Chase, Rockville, and Silver Spring that can host children’s birthday parties. One option would be Cutesy Celebrations in Kentlands/Gaithersburg. They offer spa parties and tea party theme packages for kids.
    Locations: Around Montgomery County, Kentlands
  15. Imagination Stage (Ages 2 – 8)
    Why not have a dramatic birthday party with a show or class at Imagination Stage in Bethesda. This is sure to be great fun and it’s a one of a kind kids party venue.
    Location: Downtown Bethesda
    ✳Theater Party Favor Ideas:Tea Party Hats, White Formal Gloves
  16. Indoor Miniature Golf (Ages 8+)
    Monster Mini-Golf is an interesting place to have a birthday party for older kids. The place is dark, flashy, and rather loud in my experience, and I realize that for many kids this will be a plus. Since it’s also coupled with “monsters” it might be a little bit too creepy for younger kids, so I’d steer you away from this place for kids 7 or younger.
    Location: Gaithersburg
    ✳Miniature Golf Party Favor Ideas: Colorful Mechanical Pencils, Noise Putty, Active Flyers
  17. Music Birthday Parties (Ages 4+)
    There are some options for music-related birthday party fun. One venue suggestion is Bach to Rock in Gaithersburg featuring a two hour jam session for 7 year olds and older kids. They also have programs for kids 4 and older as well. 

Bonus Idea: For any birthday party, consider getting a photo booth. These can be great fun and provide lasting memories. Choose your  photo booth provider carefully. I’ve had great luck with Shelly’s Sweet Photo Booth (410) 961-2983.

Hopefully this list of party ideas helps you out. If you can think of any
places I missed, please comment below. Don’t forget to check out my list of gifts for gifted kids.

Categories
Education Parenting Recommendations Reviews

FamZoo: A Debit Card for Your Kid’s Allowance

My Review of FamZoo – An Allowance and Finance Education Solution for Families

Looking for advice and ideas on how to make more out of giving your child a weekly allowance or to reward them for meeting goals or doing chores? Look no further than FamZoo.com.

FamZoo is a great solution for families to handle this time-honored tradition. Not only does it provide a great, easy-to-manage system for giving your kids money, it teaches financial literacy, and encourages charitable giving.

Here’s a quick summary of the features that make this a great option for families with kids:

  • At its most basic level, FamZoo is a MasterCard debit card for each of your children.
  • The card is the same as many bank-issued debit cards/ATM cards.
  • When you order the cards, each kid over the age of 13 years old can get their own name on the card.
  • Kids younger than 13 years old get their parent’s name and their name on the card.
  • The parent’s transfer money into a FamZoo account and then it can be distributed as required either automatically in regular intervals (such as for an allowance) or as the parent authorizes.
  • There is a web-based and iOS application that parents can use to setup accounts, transfer money to kids’ cards, and keep track of transactions/spending.
  • Savings and charity accounts can be created. Parents can decide on an “interest rate” for their child’s savings account. (The parent pays the interest, but the kid learns about the value of saving.)
  • When a child earns money, some of it can automatically be diverted into the charity or savings accounts. Parents can setup a “savings match” program if they like.
  • If a debit card is lost, there’s a checkbox in the app/web account that can disable it instantly.
  • Since it’s a debit card, and you set the pin, the possibility of theft / fraudulent use is minimized. It is easy to order replacement cards and to transfer the money on the old card to the new account.
  • Debit cards also mean no chance of accidently going into debt, late fees, overdraft fees. The money that you put on the card is all that is available for your child to use.
  • The debit card is on an ATM network (MoneyPass), so your child can withdraw cash as needed (from the available balance on her card).
  • Teaches responsibility.


Watch the video below to learn more about how FamZoo works:

Interested in a 30-day trial? Click to learn more about FamZoo.



Categories
anne arundel county Childrens' Birthday Parties Party Ideas

Birthday Party Ideas Anne Arundel County Md

birthday party ideas in Anne Arundel County

SEE MY LIST OF 33+ IDEAS FOR KIDS’ BIRTHDAY PARTIES IN ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY, MD BELOW

Are you looking for a great place to host your child’s birthday party?

There are so many choices, but unfortunately, many parents return to the same old places again and again – for example, bounce houses.

Below you’ll find some other party ideas that may be a bit more creative. Please note that this is my own collection of birthday party place ideas – no business have paid to be on it. The list contains links to party favor ideas which are sponsored by and link to Amazon.com.

This list of birthday party ideas is mainly for people who live in or near Anne Arundel County, but if you live elsewhere, there are probably similar places near you!

(I also have a list of kid’s birthday party venues in Howard County, Montgomery County, and Baltimore County as well as other birthday party-related posts. For instance, I have a post about giving out party favors and gift ideas for intelligent kids!)

Where to have children’s birthday parties in Anne Arundel County:

    1.  Whole Foods Cooking Lesson Party (Ages 5+)
      whole foods kitchen annapolis md
      The the Whole Foods in Annapolis has a closed off kitchen area where they hold classes and parties. The kids will get a cooking lesson and learn about the store. If you’re looking to hold a baking birthday party, this is definitely the place.
      When I attended a party at Whole Foods Annapolis, we made guacamole in a bag, which was great for a party for 6-year olds. Older kids can make more serious culinary creations. Unfortunately, not available for toddlers.
      Location: Annapolis
    2.  Go Kart Speedway (Ages 5+) in Crofton Maryland.
      Crofton Md Go Carts
      Looks like a blast. This venue doesn’t really have a reservation system, so you just show up with your party and have a ball. This would be especially good if it’s a last minute party. There will be plenty of fun and smiles.
      Location: Crofton
      Party Favor Ideas: Balloon Racers, Balloon Helicopter Racers
    3.   Craft parties (Ages 4-10): Have your party at Michael’s Craft Store. Michael’s provides a party room where your group can do a craft together.
      Location: Bowie, Annapolis, Glen Burnie, Hanover
    4. Jewelry Making at Twisted Bead and Rock Shop (Ages 5+):  The twisted bead is located in Edgewater and has jewelry making options for all ages.
      Location: Edgewater
    5. Paint Parties (Ages 5+): Muse Paintbar in Annapolis hosts kids parties where they can paint on canvas or glasses.  The painted masterpiece is the party favor.
      Location: Annapolis Towne Centre
    6. Is your child a cat lover? (Ages 7+) Have a birthday party at Cats in Cups on defense Highway in  Annapolis. Cafe setting with a dozen or more cuddly cats to play with.
    7.   swim birthdayIndoor pool parties (Ages 2+) There are many places in Anne Arundel County where you can hold an indoor pool party. For example, at Kid’s First Swim School in Severna Park you can hold a party for about $250 for an hour of swimming and an hour of room use. There are also other venues that offer kids’ pool parties.
      For example, the North Arundel Aquatic Center is a great choice. They also have a party room and very reasonable rates for large parties. This is a great birthday party place for toddlers, but usually the parents are going to have to swim with their kids.
      Location: Severna Park, Glen Burnie
      Fees: $225-$350
      Party favor idea: Goggles and water toys
    8.   theaterLive Theater Parties (Ages 3+)   There are a few choices around Anne Arundel County and surrounding areas for live theater that kids would enjoy. One possible choice is Medieval Times in Arundel Mills Mall. Kids will enjoy the show and the amazing moves of the trained horses. Another place with great show opportunities for kids is the Children’s Theater of Annapolis, Annapolis Musical Theater, and don’t forget about the amazing performances at the Maryland Hall for the Arts. (Click here for more Children’s Theater ideas)
      Location: Hanover, Annapolis
    9.   rock climbing partyRock climbing parties (Ages 5+) There aren’t any notable rock climbing facilities in AA County. If Laurel isn’t too far away, consider a party at ClimbZone. The place is really fun with some very creative climbing walls including a giant book shelf and “Mount Rushmore”. You may want to check with the Pip Moyer Center in Annapolis, as they do have a climbing wall there. Also, see Big Vanilla, below.
      Location: Laurel
    10.  Ballet and dance parties (Ages 2-10)
      ballet
      The Annapolis Dance Academy in Arnold is a great choice for kid’s BDPs.
    11. Location: Annapolis
    12.   Gymnastics parties (Ages 2-10)
      Gymnastics BDP Places
      Severna Park Gymnastics does great parties for kids. Works well for girls or boys. Also, in Severna Park is We Rock the Spectrum, a perfect place for a birthday party for a child with autism…their value proposition sounds great: “Finally a Place Where You Never Have to Say I’m Sorry”
      Location: Severna Park
      Party Favor Ideas: Ribbon Wands, Necklaces
    13.   build a bear annapolis mallBuild-A-Bear (Ages 2-7) – Kids of love Build-a-Bear parties. The location in Annapolis mall does a great job with parties. Consider having snacks in the food court area before the party.
      Location: Annapolis Mall
    14. Bowling parties (Ages 5+) Bowling parties can be fun, but I would caution parents to steer towards older kids with this idea. Even with bumpers, the game can be frustrating for younger children. Definitely go for duck pins if possible. Although they are relatively rare, the bowling alley in Severna Park still has them. By the way, the Severna Park alley is a great environment and kids older than 7 are sure to have a great time there. My only complaint about this place is that the food choices just aren’t healthy. For example, their popcorn is full of chemicals. If you have a party here, you aren’t allowed to bring in your own food except for a cake. Glen Burnie also has a duck pin alley. There are certainly other bowling alleys in Anne Arundel County such as Crofton Bowling and Annapolis Bowl, but no duck pins there.
      Location: Severna Park, Glen Burnie, Crofton
    15.  Crofton Roller Rink birthday Roller skating (Ages 5+) The Skate Zone roller skating rink in Crofton has birthday parties starting at about $260. Another good choice is the roller skating rink in Odenton.
      Location: Crofton, Odenton
      Party Favor Ideas: Invitation Tickets
    16.   Ice skating (Ages 5+) The Piney Orchard Ice Arena is a great place for a birthday party year-round. Great deal! They have a party room upstairs, and accommodate quite a few people with skating for $200. For kids who don’t know how to skate, they have “walkers” to help them on the ice. Nice place. In the winter, there’s also the Glen Burnie outdoor ice rink.
      Location: Odenton, Glen Burnie
    17.   Music Birthday Parties (Ages 2-7) – School of Rock in Gambrills and Arnold offers music birthday parties.
      Location: Gambrills, Arnold
      Party Favor Ideas: Inflatable Guitars
    18. Paintball (Ages 8+)  Paintball parties can be lots of fun…there is a great paintball venue in Pasadena called Paintball Sports and Supply (Curtis Bay).
      Location: Curtis Bay, Md
    19.   soccer birthdaySoccer Parties (Ages 5+) This is a great idea for your soccer loving girl or boy. The Soccer Dome in Harmans is a great place to host a party.
      Location: Harmans
      Party Favor Ideas: Bouncy Soccer Balls, Soccer Whistles, Soccer Stress Balls, Soccer Birthday Candles, Soccer Key Chains, Soccer Pinata
    20.   horse back riding bdpHorse center parties (Ages 6+)   Mane Event in Pasadena offer birthday parties for your horse-loving child.
      Location: Pasadena
    21.   Terrapin Adventures (Ages 6+) (301-725-1313) This is a tree-top adventure park located in Savage, MD (Howard County). This place is really fun, and would be an especially good party in late spring or early fall.
      Location: Savage, Md
      Party Favor Ideas: Tickle Plant Seeds
    22.  pirate cruise birthday partyPirate Party  (Ages 7+) on the Urban Pirate boat that sails from Baltimore or the Chesapeake Pirate Boat that leaves from Eastport. This is a great idea for a warm-weather birthday.
      Location: Eastport or Baltimore
      Party Favor Ideas: Pirate Eye Patches, BandanasGold Pirate Coins, pirate masks
    23.  movies party Movie Theater Birthdays (Ages 3+)  Arundel Mills Cinemark Egyptian Movie Theater or Bowtie Theaters in Annapolis Mall are easy choices. They have party areas and offer group rates. Let the movie you watch dictate the theme of your party (ie-Peanuts or Disney Princesses).
      Location: Arundel Mills Mall, Annapolis Mall
    24.   like a carnival Dave and Busters (Ages 4+) Dave and Busters in Arundel Mills mall is a very popular party venue. Kids will have fun, but usually very busy there.
      Location: Arundel Mills Mall
    25.  fondue pot cookie chocolate turtle dessert The Melting Pot (Ages 7+) This is a great place to have a party with a small group of your child’s friends. This place is always a hit. Parties here are probably going to take at least 2 hours, so just collect parent’s mobile phone numbers and text them when dessert arrives to pick up their kids.
      Location: Annapolis
    26.  quiet-waters-partiesRent a pavilion at Quiet Waters (Ages 2+)  In the summer, Quiet Waters park is a great place for a party. Rent a pavilion and enjoy some time with kids running around. You could also consider renting kayaks or canoes there for added fun for older kids.
      Location: Annapolis
      Party Favor Ideas: Dolphin Necklaces, Tickle Me Plant Seeds, Fractal Succulent Plants
    27. Ecoventures – Animals and fun.
      Location: Millersville
    28.  Have a Lego birthday party (Ages 5-10) – Brikz for Kids -You’ll need to provide a space for this party, but this is definitely a cool way to go.
      Location: Crofton, Annapolis
    29.   Birthday Party Idea in Odenton AA CountyFire house birthdays (Ages 3-7) Consider having a birthday party at one of the firehouses in Anne Arundel County. These parties are exciting and fun, plus it is a wonderful way to support the local volunteer fire departments. For example, see the Odenton Volunteer Fire Company website.
      Location: Odenton and other fire houses in Anne Arundel County
    30.  Pottery Party in Annapolis Md Pottery Party at Clay Bakers (Ages 5-10) Clay Bakers on Main Street in Annapolis is a great place to hold a birthday party.  You’re guests will be able to socialize together as they paint mugs, plates, etc (whatever the hold chooses) and then they will be able to have their creation as a party favor memory (there might be a few days before they have a chance to put the items in the kiln). This is a great place for a party!
      Location: Annapolis
    31.   YMCA (Ages 3-10) – YMCA (formerly Big Vanilla) has a variety of parties including dance, martial arts, swimming, cheer leading, tumbling, and rock climbing for kids. Even if you’re not a member, I believe you can still have a party at this venue in Pasadena, Maryland.
      Location: Pasadena
      Party Favor Ideas: Sports Mini-Stress Balls
    32. Chuck E Cheese’s – I am not the biggest fan of Chuck E Cheese, but I know many families like it. There is a location in Glen Burnie. Token prices are low—maybe around 20 cents each depending on which package you get.
    33.   Miniature GolfMiniature Golf (Ages 7-10) – Night Hawk Golf Center in Gambrills/Crofton has a fun, 19-hole miniature golf course. They also have basketball and batting cages. Party packages are available.   Severna Park Golf Center also offers miniature golf. Younger kids can play, but the game may be frustrating for newbies.
      Location: Severna Park
      Gift idea: Home mini golf set
    34.   BaseballBaseball Park Birthday Parties (Ages 6+) – Obviously these three aren’t in Anne Arundel County, but an unforgettable birthday could take place at Camden Yards or Nationals Park. Another option, just as fun might be a Bowie Baysox birthday.
      Location: Baltimore or Bowie
    35.  Glam spa party for girls Lady Bug Kid’s Glam Spa (Ages 5+) – Hold a princess party with manicures, pedicures, and more in Crofton.  They have a party room, a stage, a candy bar. Sounds like a great place to hold an amazing party. You may also want to check out Pig Tails and Crew Cuts in Annapolis for a variety of parties for girls and boys.
      Location: Crofton
      Party favor idea: Clip on colored braids
    36. Wiggle Room – Located in Crofton, this new 3,800 foot indoor play space hosts fun parties with free gourmet coffee for the adults.
      Location: Crofton
    37. Bonus idea: Kids love to take photos of themselves with funny props and goofy expressions. Add a photo booth to any party for added fun. Sure to please kids of all ages. I’ve had good experiences with Shelly’s Sweet Photo Booth (410) 961-2983.

    Looking to have a birthday party at your house? See my birthday party theme ideas. Also, check out my review of the FamZoo debit card for kids.

Categories
Phone Bills Reviews Save Money Technology

Google Fi vs Republic Wireless 3.0 Mobile Phone Service Customer Review 2020

tldr; – I am a fan of both mobile phone companies, however at this time (January 11, 2020), I feel that Google Fi is the better value. Get a $20 credit here.
Read my Republic Wireless / Google Fi review below to find out about the ups-and-downs of both discount mobile phone companies, information about Republic Wireless and Fi compatible phones, see sample bills, and more.

If you’re tired of the big U.S. mobile phone companies (aka Sprint, AT&T, Verizon, U.S. Cellular, and T-Mobile), you may want to consider two very strong contenders: Google Fi and Republic Wireless 3.0.

Below is my review and comparison of the two mobile phone service providers.

I am a current customer of both Google Fi and Republic Wireless. I have been with Republic Wireless since the beginning and am a more recent Google Fi phone company (formerly Project Fi) customer starting in July 2016.

I currently have two mobile phone lines on each service–my wife and I mainly use Google Fi, and my kids are on Republic Wireless phones.

At the moment, I’d say Google Fi is the better option – especially because it supports more phones (Android and iPhone) and has additional connectivity options, particularly when traveling internationally (no “roaming” fees in 120 countries).

I also prefer Google Fi, because it has built-in security in the form of a virtual private network (VPN) when you’re accessing service via WiFi. This is important because it will give you more confidence that your data isn’t being stolen when using public WiFi hotspots (eg – at the airport).

Right from the start, I’d like to say that neither Google Fi, nor Republic Wireless are perfect for every mobile user.

Google has a helpful tool to help you determine if this sort of service will meet your needs and save you money (or more importantly–whether it won’t!):

Take the Google Fi “fit” quiz to find out if Google Project Fi is the right choice based on your current mobile needs. Just answer a few questions about your usage habits and typical location, and it will help you to know if the costs and Google Fi coverage will work for you.

Pro Tip: If the Google tool tells you that Fi phone service isn’t right for you, then the Republic Wireless service probably won’t be right either.

Service coverage generally isn’t an issue for U.S. customers of either carrier, the main question is whether or not you’ll require more than the tipping point of data to make it worth it. In most cases, if you can commit to connecting to WiFi as often as possible, you can make the switch to Fi or Republic worthwhile. Much of the time, service is better over WiFi anyway, so it’s really a bonus.

BTW, if you decide to go with Google Fi, please use my “refer a friend” code. After you’ve been on the service for 30 days, you’ll get a credit for $20, and so will I! The Google Fi coupon code/promo code is EM35EF or you can just follow this link

You should see something like this at the top of your screen:

Google Project Fi Coupon Code
This is valid for single accounts (not group/family plan accounts) and may expire (they have extended the deadline for this program, but haven’t stated a new end date–but if the link works–and it will tell you immediately that it did, then you WILL get the credit. It is definitely still in effect as of May 2020, and looks like it will continue for now.)

BTW, check here for current Project Fi special offers.

What Do Google Fi and Republic Wireless Have in Common, and What’s Different?

Executive Summary

    • iPhone Support: Google Fi supports iPhones. This is exciting news because it opens the door to cheaper service for all users-not just on Android. Most iPhones should work fine on the service. Unfortunately, iPhones don’t support network switching for now.
    • Both companies allow you to purchase a phone from them or bring your own unlocked phone. Republic Wireless has a more limited list of bring-your-own options.
    • Both companies allow you to make calls and send text messages over WiFi. Both try to save data by connecting you via WiFi when possible. Google Fi has the added advantage of built-in VPN security over WiFi. This means there’s less worry about hackers snooping your data when you’re using WiFi in public places because it will be encrypted.
    • Both companies are month-to-month, no contracts. Stop service at any time.
    • Google Fi service automatically routes your calls and data on one of three 4G LTE networks (Sprint, T-Mobile, and U.S. Cellular), depending on which has the best connection when you place a call or use data. It will support 5G on Sprint’s network as it rolls out, provided your device can accommodate 5G. On the other hand, Republic Wireless is only on T-Mobile’s network.
    • Both companies offer very competitively priced data plans. The real savings come into play when you use WiFi for calls, texts, and data as much as possible. Google Fi offers an unlimited plan.
    • You are more likely to have better mobile call quality with Project Fi than you are with Republic Wireless, but I have had very few problems with Republic Wireless’ call quality in recent years. If you are placing calls on a decent WiFi network, either provider works great.
    • Both companies offer the option of monthly payments/financing on the phones they sell.
    • Republic Wireless plans start at $15/month and Google Fi’s plans start at $20/month. These are the base prices to keep your line activated and make calls and send texts via WiFi — you’ll be charged more if you use any mobile data. (Which can be avoided by using WiFi for data when possible.)
    • Data on Republic Wireless is cheaper than on Google Fi, however, Google Fi’s “flexible plan” billing model is much more, well, flexible since you only pay for the data you use–and you only pay to the penny. In other words, although they quote $10/gig, they only charge you for any fraction you actually use when you select this plan–you don’t have to pay for an entire gig.
    • With Republic Wireless, you will know exactly how much you will be billed at the end of the month based on which plan you select. With Project Fi, you will know the base costs, and then the actual bill depends entirely on how much data you use. Google’s “Bill Protection” feature puts a cap on the monthly charge and amounts to an unlimited plan.
    • Google Fi has an “unlimited plan.” It is a great deal if you use lots of data. The most an individual will have to pay in a month is $70. For that price, an individual on the plan will get 22 gigs per month of high speed data without throttling and without paying anything more. If you exceed 22 gigs, but don’t want to be throttled you can opt to pay an additional $10/gig.The same deal exists on the family/group plan…but for instance the most two people would have to pay is $120/month. There are additional savings for each person you add to the plan.Here is a table with pricing as of September 22, 2019:Google Fi Plan PricingYou also get free calling to over 50 countries included in the unlimited plan. Google One membership with 100 gigs of Google Drive space is also included.
        • Republic Wireless requires you to upgrade your plan when you hit your data limit. You can upgrade and downgrade your plan up to two times per month. This is a bit of a pain. You also must pay for the entirety of the amount of data in the plan you select no matter what portion of the data you use.
        • Republic Wireless does not have a family or group plan, Project Fi has a “group plan’  with very competitive rates, convenient “bill splitting” features if you’re sharing with friends, and data plan sharing. This can be an especially great deal for members of your family who don’t use alot of data…and the bill splitting is very innovative.Google Fi will let you pause a member of your group’s data usage or pause their service completely. On Republic Wireless, you can downgrade a user’s plan to not have data, but you can’t really pause their account yourself (although you may be able to do this by contacting customer service).
        • If you purchase your phone from Google Fi, you can enroll in their “Device Protection” insurance plan for about $5 – $7/month. I highly recommend this, as it has been hassle-free help for me on three occasions including one where a $300 phone was dropped in water. In the event something goes wrong with your phone it’s will be replaced with a refurb for around $60 – $90. If your screen is broken, you can take it to a local retail shop and have it fixed for around $20.

      What’s So Special About These Two Mobile Phone Carriers?

      They have some great selling points and great phones in common. As mentioned earlier, I am a customer of both of these services, so I wanted to share some insights for people trying to figure out if Fi or RW is right for them and whether or not they should dump the usual suspect mobile carriers and save money. (The answer is probably YES!)

      Below is a review of some of the feature differences between the two mobile phone service companies:

      What are the Phone Options for Google Fi and Republic Wireless

      Republic Wireless and Google Fi get the best performance with certain pre-selected Android phones. Importantly, Google Fi allows you to use an iPhone, Republic Wireless does not.

      When you sign up for either of these companies, you’ll either have to bring your own phone (which, in the case of Republic Wireless, will need to on their list of approved phones) or purchase one from the company.

      The phones they recommend are generally among the higher-end phones.  If you purchase a phone from either company, it will come “unlocked” — it will be yours to take with you should you ever decide to move to a different phone company. This is good to know as it is often not the case when you buy a phone from other carriers.

      [Learn More About Google Fi]

      Likewise, if you buy your own phone (or if you already had one that’s compatible), it will need to be “unlocked” for it to work. If you are purchasing a new phone, just be sure that not only is it a compatible model, but that it is an unlocked phone.

      If you have a compatible phone that you purchased on a plan through AT&T, for example, it may not be unlocked. You may or may not be able to get AT&T to unlock it for you, depending on your contract. You’ll have to call and ask to be sure.

      Both Republic Wireless or Google Project Fi will provide you with a SIM card that you’ll need to install to use their service.

      Google Project Fi Phone Options

      At the moment (as of May 2020), Google Fi supports most Android phones. Their recommend phones are the Google Pixel (1 – 4 / Pixel 3a), LG ThinQ, Moto G6, Moto G Power, Moto G Stylus, certain Samsung phones, OnePlus, iPhone, and the Moto X4. These are venerable phones.

      As you may be aware, the Pixel 4 phone is now the flagship phone of the Android operating system and has some fantastic features-I am a HUGE fan of this phone (EXCELLENT camera, fast response, waterproof, very good all around and perfect for Fi–follow this link and click SHOP to see the discounted Fi customer price).

      If you need a cheaper option, I am also impressed with the  cheaper version of the Google Pixel 3 (Google’s previous flagship), the Pixel 3a. It is a bit slower, and has a plastic body (NOT waterproof), but also has an excellent camera, just like the Pixel 3’s.

      Generally speaking, if you have a Pixel 2, 3, or 4, you’ll get a monthly software update from Google–You will always have the latest release of Android–a truly a nice feature, rather than waiting and hoping that your phone will get an update…a chronic problem due to a combination of phones and phone companies.

      The Moto X4 and Moto G7, and the newer Moto G phones are also well regarded and certainly have a lower price point than the Pixel phones. Although having said that, you may want to look at the refurbished Pixel phones on Amazon.

      Along those same lines, you can purchase these phones from Google when you sign up for service, but you should double-check the price on Amazon just to make sure you can’t get a better deal — here are some links to refurbished older Pixel phones:  Google Pixel, and Google Pixel 2.

      You can finance the phones when purchased on Google or Amazon. Having said that, a compelling reason to purchase the phone from Google is their trade in program that is applicable to certain phone models and includes a Google Fi credit of varying amounts depending on the age and condition of the trade.

      I have bought several phones through Google Fi’s store and have had good luck that way. It definitely does make it a little bit easier than bringing your own phone.

      A Word About Google Fi Device Protection

      Google Fi Device Protection December 2018The Google Fi device protection will cost you $5 to $7 per month and covers things like: cracked screens, spills, and device malfunctions.

      If something goes wrong they will replace your phone with a new or refurbished similar phone. I have used the service once when the battery was failing on my Nexus 5x. It was quickly replaced with a refurbished identically configured phone. There is a deductible to consider.

      See the table above for example costs for device protection and the deductible you’ll have to pay if you get your phone replaced using this service. Note that you can only sign up for device protection if you buy your phone from Google.

      Bring an Additional Data Only Device to Google Fi

      Google Fi will allow you to add a free additional “data only” SIM card to your account. This will let you share your data plan with another device (without any additional monthly fees!) So for example, you could have your main SIM card in your Google Pixel phone, and then put the data-only SIM in an iPad. Whatever the device, so long as it’s able to use a compatible SIM card, and it is “radio compatible” with T-Mobile. You would not be able to use the phone’s dialer with this option and there is no tethering.

      Here is a list of devices they have verified are compatible with the free data-only SIM card:

      • Android tablets running 7.0 or higher with LTE bands 2 and 4 (US versions)
      • iPads running iOS 10 or higher with  LTE bands 2 and 4 (US versions)
      • Samsung Galaxy Tabs S2 or newer (US versions)
      • Nexus 9 LTE (US versions)
      • Sony Xperia Z4 (US version)

      Other devices not on the list could work, if they are unlocked and radio-compatible with T-Mobile (GSM Radio) and they have the right sized SIM slot. For example, I have heard of people using it with their iPhone 6.

      You can just order one and try (it’s totally free! You don’t even have to pay for shipping.) if you think you have an unlocked device that will work. Just remember there will be no calls or texts through the normal channels (although you can certainly replace the regular dialer and text messenger with some other app for example, What’s App, Viber, or Skype…). Note that you might potentially need a “nano SIM to Micro SIM adaptor” for some devices.

      Republic Wireless Phone Options

      Republic Wireless is compatible with lots of phones, but they only allow you to use specific models, and there is no iPhone support yet, although it is available in beta, so coming soon. Having said that, the list of choices are fairly substantial and that gives you more freedom if you’re bringing your own unlocked phone that is on their short approved list. Below is a list of a few of the phones they are currently compatible with (The model number IS important!).

      I have included a link to Amazon.com for each phone. You are likely to find the phone cheaper on Amazon than on the Republic Wireless site, in some cases $50-100 cheaper–especially for the Moto G, since Amazon is selling it at a discount, but it includes some relatively innocuous advertising.

      At any rate, as long as the model numbers match, you will be able to use it on Republic Wireless–just be sure it is unlocked and double check the model as sometimes these links get switched out to different products on Amazon’s end, and I can’t control that:

      • Moto G Stylus (XT2043-4) – Amazon 
      • Galaxy S20+ (SM-G986UZKEXAA, SM-G986UZKAXAA, SM-G986UZAEXAA, SM-G986UZAAXAA, SM-G986ULBEXAA, SM-G986ULBAXAA) – Amazon
      • Samsung Galaxy Note 10 (SM-N970U1K1XAA) – Amazon

      If you already have one of the above phones and want to check to make sure it’s compatible, you can just download, install, and run the Republic Wireless app from the Android app store. It will tell you if your phone is compatible.

      At this writing Project Fi also offers insurance on the phone, Republic Wireless does not. Insurance is something Republic is said to be working on.

      Multiple Mobile Networks and WiFi in Use

      One very cool feature of both Republic Wireless and Google Project Fi is the way they can move seamlessly between wireless networks, and they can also place calls/send text on WiFi networks.

      Google Fi has the upper hand here, as it can make use of 3 major US mobile phone networks: Sprint, T-Mobile, and US Cellular. Whichever network is providing the strongest signal is the one that your call will be routed on. It does this in real-time, so if you should move to an area where one of the three providers is giving you a better signal your call will switch networks and you’ll be “none the wiser.”

      Republic Wireless utilizes just one network–T-Mobile (actually, they don’t tell you, but they hint that it’s the one that has the best 4G LTE network.)

      The Seamless Handover Between Phone and WiFi

      Both Republic Wireless and Project Fi will allow you to seamlessly switch over to and away from a WiFi connection. This is REALLY handy. Especially if you live in a place where there just isn’t really any strong cellular signal (or if, for example, you work in a basement that has WiFi, but no mobile signals get through).

      If you’re connected to a WiFi hot spot, you don’t incur any data charges and you can use voice, data, and texting as you would on the mobile network. Did I mention how great this is? 🙂

      If you place a call, and then move away from your WiFi network, your phone is going to seamlessly jump on to the wireless network, assuming one is available.

      Google Fi also keeps a database of hundreds of open WiFi networks that it can automatically connect to. When it does, it always uses an encrypted connection to protect your calls and data. It seems to work very well and saves you money.

      The Data Plans and Costs

      Depending on your situation, you will probably find that you’ll save money using either one of these companies, when you compare them to AT&T, Sprint, or Verizon.

      The Cost of Google Fi

      Google Fi has two basic plans: Unlimited and Flexible. You can choose which one you’d like and switch between them at will–the change takes effect on the next billing cycle.

      The Flexible Plan on Google Fi

      The formula for pricing is something like: Google Fi Monthly Payment = Base Cost of $20/month + data used & international calls + phone insurance (optional) + taxes, fees (in my case $3.62 in October 2016 for a single line to be exact–see sample bill below).

      Google’s FAQs state “Taxes and government surcharges vary by service address, but are normally between 10-20%. For example, if your monthly bill is $40, the taxes on your statement could be between $4-8.”

      If you’re paying for your phone on a monthly basis, that fee would also be charged on your monthly bill along with device protection fees if you are enrolled.

      Google Fi “Flexible Plan” is really a pay-as-you-go offering.  They do give you benchmark “data plans” but really, at the end of the month you’re only going to pay for what you actually used as far as data (down to the megabyte). This is a bit hard to grasp, because we’re so used to phone companies that charge you the minimum of your chosen data plan and then charge you for additional data as you go, but in specific large blocks of data. This is not the case with Project Fi.

      When you sign up for Google Fi on the Flexible Plan, you will “choose a data billing plan,” but really it’s just to give you the idea of what you will be spending each month. That might sound scary, but it works–especially with their bill protection feature.

      Even though you signed up for a plan, they charge you by the megabyte. To put this more specifically, Google currently charges a base of $20/month to keep the service activated for voice and texting, then they charge $10/gig of data used (plus a monthly fee). In reality though, if you only used 350 megabytes in a month, you would be charge $3.50 for data, not the whole $10. So you are always charged for just what you used, no matter which plan you select.

      Project Fi’s help explains signing up for a data plan on their network this way “You’ll always pay for what you use, so changing your data budget is like setting a goal. We’ll send you alerts as you get close to your budget.” They go on to explain that “With Project Fi, you’re charged $10 per GB for data. If you use more data than your budget, you’ll be charged for the exact difference–at the exact same rate. If you use less, you’ll get credited for what you don’t use. ”

      If you really need to have no more than an exact amount of data used, you can use your phone’s “set mobile data limit” features to set a hard limit. This way, when your phone notices you’ve reached a certain data threshold it will shut off its mobile data usage.

      Pro Tip: I’d recommend the Datally app made by Google to control your data usage in any case.

      The Unlimited Plan on Google Fi

      The Unlimited Plan is a pretty good deal. At the moment, an individual line on this pays $70/month. A family of 4 would see a bit of a discount, paying $45/line. This includes 22 gigs of high-speed data. After that you will be throttled.

      The Unlimited Plan also includes free international calling to 50+ countries and a subscription to Google One with 100gigs of Google Drive space.

      Traveling and International Calls on a Google Fi Plan

      An important, and notable feature of Project Fi is that if you travel to any of 135+ other countries, your data plan will still be in effect–you won’t be charged any extra (beyond the regular $10/gig if you’re on the Flexible Plan and nothing additional on the Unlimited Plan), and you’ll be able to consume data, just as you did in the USA. I recently traveled to Italy, France, Spain, Ukraine, and Germany with my Fi phone and had success with calls, text messages, and data. This is a great feature because you don’t have to worry with purchasing a local SIM card or anything like that.

      Once I got to a new country, it took a few minutes, but I’d get a message from Google Fi confirming my phone had been registered in the given country, and then I could make calls, send texts, and use data. For more details and to see the list of countries that are in Project Fi’s plan, click here.

      Note that although your data costs will be the same as they are in the USA, expect to pay 20 cents per minute for calls. Assuming you have a US phone number, WiFi calls within the USA and abroad would be free, and beyond that, if you’re calling another country, the same international calling rates would apply.

      If you are wondering, yes, you can send text messages to other countries from Google Fi phones–I have texted to Germany and  Ukraine without problems.

      A Word About Groups and Families on Google Fi

      Google Fi offers a group plan/family plan. Each additional line above the initial primary line is $15/month, and then the data is shared at the same rates mentioned above.

      If you have younger kids and want to be able to control their data usage, you’ll want to use Google Family link app. It lets you set limits on the child’s phone including which content they’re viewing but you can also create settings and alerts for data usage that the youngster can’t tamper with.

      One great feature of this group/family plan is the bill splitting/”repay” feature. “Fi plan members can repay group plan owners for their share of the monthly bill directly through the Google Fi app. No need to pull out your calculator—Project Fi will handle the math. Reminders, payments, and tracking are all just as simple.” That means it’s a bit easier if you’re sharing an account with friends or roommates, everyone can easily pay their share of the wireless bill.

      The Cost of Republic Wireless 3.0 Plans

      Republic Wireless has a base cost of /month. This base cost includes no data, and doesn’t include things like taxes and fees, phone payment plan, etc. But if you own the phone outright, that is a great starting point. For college students who are near ubiquitous WiFi, that could truly be all you need. Plans go up from there. Most people will need a data plan, and with Republic Wireless, you get 1 gig included for $20/month. Not bad.

      Here is a chart (as of 8/6/2016) that shows how the rates increase with more data. You will find these rates turn out to be lower cost than Google Project Fi. See below for a direct comparison.

      Republic Wireless Data Plan Rates - A Great Deal

      Republic Wireless allows you to switch plans via their app whenever you want, so if you hit your limit or need to cut back, you can do that at will. It is important to understand that unlike with Project Fi, you can’t just keep using data beyond your selected plan. The data will stop when you hit your data plan limit. At that point you can upgrade to a higher plan through the Republic Wireless app, and you will immediately have more data at your disposal.

      On the other hand, if you then want to downgrade again, you can request it, but it doesn’t take place until the beginning of the next billing cycle. (I think you can just do this immediately after you upgrade, so you won’t have to wait an extra billing cycle to switch back down). With Republic Wireless, you still get billed for the entire amount of your data plan, even if you don’t use it.

      A Word About Using Google Fi and Republic Wireless with Kids

      If you have children and those children have a phone, you’ll probably have concerns about their data plan usage. The question will be: how can I restrict my child or teen’s data usage so that they don’t cause the parents to go bankrupt. Here are a few thoughts on this:

      1. With Republic Wireless, it’s a simple matter – you just select the amount of data you’re okay with and that’s what you’ll be charged — provided that your kid doesn’t upgrade their plan themselves–a possibility, but definitely a deliberate action, and one you may be able to restrict (see Family Link bullet below)
      2. On Google Fi, there is no “hard stop” on data usage. It will let you keep going, and you’ll be charged until you hit your plan’s threshold for unlimited data. After that there will be no further charges. So if you have a kid who uses lots of data, there is no line where the data will be “gone.”
        Having said that, they do have two features that are useful in cases where you need to control your family member’s data usage.
        First, you can set a data usage “alert” at whatever amount you think is appropriate. So for example, if you think you’re child should only use 1 gig per month, you can choose that amount, and you and your child will receive an alert when they hit that benchmark.
        Second, you, as the account owner can sign in to Google Fi and  pause the data for your child’s account. So if you’re on the ball, you can sort of control how much data is used. Depending on your child, the alert itself might be enough for them to curb their data usage.
      3. On Android devices, you can setup the “Family Link app.” Family Link is a free Google app that allows you to control all aspects of your kid’s phone usage.
        Family Link doesn’t specifically let you control they amount of data they can utilize, but it would allow you to restrict their ability to access certain apps. So this may be a way for you to stop them from adjusting the phone’s settings. It definitely lets you restrict the amount of time kids can spend using specific apps.
        I don’t know much about it, but there are similar apps for iPhone/iOS.
      4. I think it is worth mentioning again that both Google Fi and Republic Wireless are built on the idea that you’ll use WiFi as much as possible — including for sending text messages and making phone calls. Therefore, in many situations that other mobile phone companies would have you using data from the data plan, these two companies stand out since they save you from this where possible.

      Comparing the Cost of Republic Wireless vs Google Fi

      In short, although there are some nuances to this, Google Project Fi is slightly more expensive than Republic Wireless. It really depends on how you intend to use the service which of the two would be better.

      Base Plan (No data) cost

      Republic Wireless: $15/month (no group/family plan at this time)

      Google Project Fi: $20/month first line, $15/month additional group plan lines

      Data Costs:

      Republic Wireless: Depends on the amount of data. All plans already include unlimited voice & texting: 1 gig $20; 2 gigs $25; 3 gigs $30, etc. (as of 8/6/2016). You DO have to pay for unused data.

      Google Project Fi: Base Cost of $20 PLUS the data costs (but only for the exact amount of data you use): $10/gig. So a one gig plan would be $30/month; 2 gig plan would $40/month, etc. +taxes, fees, etc. I am in Maryland, and I paid $3.62 in taxes and fees on my October bill (see below).

      Google Fi Sample Bill

      Here is a sample bill from Google’s Project Fi for one line in October 2016… and if you’re wondering about Google Fi taxes and fees, there is a breakout (again for October 2016 in Maryland! It might be somewhat different in other states):

      Project Fi Taxes and Fees

      Closing Thoughts

      You can’t go wrong with either of these phone companies. Both offer great service and operate with very decent phones. Google Fi has the power of additional phone networks, encrypted WiFi, international data, phone replacement insurance/device protection, etc, but Republic Wireless gets the job done at slightly lower costs. Since there are no contracts with either company, you can leave and take your phone with you at any time — you just have to finish paying for the current month and you’re done.

      You can certainly try Project Fi and if you don’t like it, you could switch to Republic Wireless (assuming you are using one of the compatible phones that work on both mobile services!). The hardest part would be changing out the SIM card in your phone (which isn’t that hard, but can be kind of a pain if you’re a bit ham fisted like me.)

      Like what you read? See my review of the Vitamix 5200 blender and my list of gift ideas for Brainy / Gifted kids.