Review: Pump It Up – Knoxville

pumpitup3My son has a winter birthday. That means, we can’t plan on having his birthday party outside. Normally, we just do cake and ice cream at home with the family. But for his fifth birthday, we felt we really ought to have a party. This was a major birthday and would be his last chance at inviting kids he’s spent his entire life with at daycare.

Looking around town, there are several options, Chuck E Cheese, a couple of gym places, but the place that seems to be the post popular with the five-year-old set is Pump It Up.

We’ve been here several times now for friends’ birthdays so decided to go here.

Here are some of the things I really like about it:

  1. There is a time cut off. The parent is not the bad guy telling the kids they have to stop playing.
  2. I don’t have to come up with games for kids to play. Parents just have to watch the kids to make sure no one gets too rough and everyone follows the rules (as closely as a bunch of excited five-year-olds can, anyway).pumpitup1
  3. You have options for different types of parties. Since we were inviting all 20 kids from his pre-k class, plus several kids from church, we went with the package that was two hours and let up to 25 kids (plus the birthday kid as #26) play. I really like that package. You get 1 1/2  hours to play and a 1/2 hour to eat cake and open gifts. The smaller package has an hour of play time and a 1/2 hour to eat. For the difference in price, I’d go with the extra play time, if possible, even if you have fewer kids.
  4. You can bring your own drinks, cake, cookies, fruit, other snacks. They have an option for them providing pizza – but seeing all the uneaten pizza at the other parties I’ve been to, we decided to save that money and just bring our own stuff.
  5. Parents can play too. Yes, watching the 20-something-year-old moms climbing the obstacle course and then discovering that his 40-something-year-old mom couldn’t make the last ladder on it was disappointing, (If I’d had one more hand-hold I could have made it!) but I was more than capable of doing the other slides, bounce houses, and games with my kid. That’s a really fun memory to have.
  6. It’s not outrageously expensive. Comparing two hours of time at Pump It Up to a birthday party at Chuck E Cheese where the kids spend most of that time playing annoying, loud games for tickets, the price is not that bad. Plus, again, my kid doesn’t like pizza. So the idea of having to buy awful pizza for a kid who doesn’t pumpitup2want it is annoying.
  7. The party time. The employees get everything ready. They provide the cups, forks, plates. They clean up. The kids get to watch pictures the employees have taken and feel like stars because they’re on the TV. The employees even give a handy list of what child gave which gift so those of us who still do Thank You notes have something to go by.

What could be better:

Their directions and how to find the building. This place is awful to try to find. The first time I went there, I followed my GPS, which tried to send me a 1/2 mile further down the road. Coming into the building, it looks rather sketchy and there is not a good sign to really tell you that you’ve arrived. It actually appears like you’re going into the back door of the business, rather than a front door. They need a bigger and better sign to let folks know they have arrived. Trying to explain how to get there to my son’s grandparents from Nashville was an adventure, and their GPS also sent them the wrong way.

But that’s really it for what could be better. Just remember, the place is so popular that you have to book about a month in advance – minimum.

I wouldn’t do it every year, partly because I feel like a child shouldn’t have an all-out mega birthday party ever year, but also because it is a pretty big chunk to spend. But, we also didn’t get him a big birthday gift either like we had in the past. And that’s something to think about. Does a kid really need a big gift they will not play with much, or do the experience and the memories matter more?




Easy Toy Story Little Green Alien Cupcakes


I admit it. I look at Pinterest and feel like I should be able to throw together this awesomely amazing birthday party for The Boy in my spare time. Then, I remember I work and don’t have spare time. I do try to do something cute for his birthdays though. We don’t go all out. We only have family over to celebrate. He’ll have a big party with friends in a few years, but right now, we are keeping it small.

And it all starts with Halloween.

Tip: Think about Halloween

Coordinate decorations between holidays to save time and money.

Wait – you say. Why are we mixing Halloween and birthdays? Here’s why. Our church does a Trunk or Treat every year where you decorate your car for the kids to come along and get candy. What I did this past year was use the decorations that I planned on using for The Boy’s birthday in February for the Trunk or Treat car in October. Meaning, I got to re-use this stuff and I only had to make one trip to the party store. Score! How does this work with a toddler’s attention span? By using the same decorations and allowing him to continue playing with them in between Halloween and his birthday, we’ve been lucky enough that he continued to like the idea of having his birthday be the same thing he was for Halloween.  We didn’t do this the first two years and it might not be possible this next year, but it’s something to consider if you have an obsessed kid.

This past year, we also had our first trip to Walt Disney World with The Boy planned. We knew we’d be there during Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, so we decided to coordinate Toy Story inspired costumes for the Party, the Trunk or Treat at church, and his birthday. Getting to use some of this stuff three times made my frugal self happy and it made decorating and planning a LOT easier.

Now for the Cupcakes

This is not so much a recipe as an assembly guide. I don’t have time to bake things from scratch. If you’re honest, you probably don’t either.

Tip: Invest in two cupcake pans

Why? They’re cheap and that means you can fit the entire batch of batter in two pans and not have to bake for twice as long.

What you need:

  • 1 box cake mix (plus all the ingredients to mix it up)
  • 2 cans of butter cream frosting
  • 1 tube neon green gel coloring dye
  • green gummies
  • black jelly beans
  • 1 package candy eyes (make sure the package contains at least 72 eyes)
  • green toothpicks

Preparing the cupcakes

  • Bake the cupcakes.

Tip: Measure

24 cupcakes takes just slightly under a 1/4 cup batter each for a typical boxed cake.

  • Refrigerate or freeze the cupcakes while you mix the frosting to make them easier to frost.
  • In a mixer, mix the green dye with your butter cream frosting until you get the color desired. This took about 1/2 tube of the neon green gel for two cans of frosting.
  • Frost the cupcakes.
  • Cut the green gummies into triangular pieces. My gummies were Easter gummies, so they were not very easy to make triangles. I eventually was able to make rectangles and then cut those for the triangle.
  • Cut the black jelly beans into quarters to get as close to a “smile” as possible.


  • Put a bit of gummy on top of the green toothpick. Bonus: this helps keep the top of your container from getting frosting on it.


I bought one of those Toy Story cup cake stands, but I think these would have been just as cute lined up in rows. I will say that I was pleasantly surprised with how sturdy this stand was for being only a few dollars. I think it might be worth it, though, to invest in a real cupcake stand for the future.


Now that your army is complete, you can take over the world.