METdance Girls Dance Camps… for Girls Ages 3 to 7!

Introduce your little dancer to the FUN of dance at a one-week METdance DANCE CAMP!

Excite and capture the imagination of your dancer through these one-week camps.  They include themed dance classes, crafts, stories, glow dance party, selfie station, manners and etiquette lessons and a desert decorating “tea” party everyday!

Get all the details HERE.  Enrollment is limited to 12 campers per class, so sign up soon if you have a little dancer!

A comprehensive, searchable and free directory of all the daycares and preschools in Houston on Winnie

Houston parents, your daycare and preschool search just got a lot easier. Winnie’s new daycare and preschool search helps parents in Houston find quality child care in just a few clicks.

When Anne Halsall, mom of 2, started looking at preschool options for her oldest son, she was at a loss for where to begin. She was new to the area and didn’t know other parents who could give personal recommendations.

“I really had no idea where to begin.” said Anne. “I knew there had to be tons of great preschools all around me, but I just couldn’t find them.” Google was no help, as it only brought up the big, popular schools that had long waitlists.

This experience inspired Anne — a software engineer and one of the co-founders of parenting tech startup Winnie — to make the daycare and preschool search process easier for other parents by bringing it online. “At Winnie, we feel strongly that both children’s and parent’s lives are enriched when they have access to quality childcare and early education opportunities,” said Anne. “We want everyone to be able to find this information. That’s why we are making it accessible and free to use.”

Anne, along with the rest of the team at Winnie, recently launched a comprehensive, searchable and free directory of all the daycares and preschools in Houston. Listings include detailed descriptions, photos, tuition information, availability data and more. And in addition to this wealth of information, Winnie also contains reviews from parents whose children have attended the daycare or preschool. This way even if you don’t know someone directly who sent their kids to a specific daycare or preschool, you can still get the inside scoop.

Sophisticated search

One of the reasons we love Winnie’s new daycare and preschool search is that it is more than just a listing of all the providers — it’s a powerful, fully interactive search tool. You can refine your search with keywords like “montessori” or “bilingual” to find the programs that match exactly what you’re looking for. You can even choose to only see daycares and preschools with 8+ hour days, something that is critical for working parents. We also love the interactive map that allows you to zoom to a very specific neighborhood and find providers close to your home or work.

In addition to all the large daycare and preschool facilities, included in the results are small in-home providers that are otherwise extremely hard to find online. In-home providers are a great option many families don’t know about where children receive highly individualized care in a home setting.

Safety first

One of the most useful features of Winnie’s new tool is the link to the licensing database on a daycare’s Winnie page under the “Contact Information” section. Click on the license number to be taken to a full report from the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. All licensed child care providers are inspected regularly and these inspections, along with any complaints filed against the provider, are public information.

What’s next

“We really want to get the word out about Winnie because when you have child care, you have options. Whether you utilize it or not, just knowing what your options are is very powerful,” Anne explained. You can check out the childcare options available to you at

Adventure Kids Playcare Memorial… Guilt Free Childcare when you need it!

At some point, every parent is going to need childcare.

For work, for evenings out, for emergencies or just when the usual care falls through… you need a reliable place for on demand child care, like our sponsor, Adventure Kids Playcare in Memorial.

At Adventure Kids Playcare, they offer guilt free childcare when you need it… daytime, late nights, Saturdays and most holidays.  Kids 6 weeks to 12 years old. can play, explore, and learn while in a safe and secure environment.

Parents have a reliable place for childcare and kids love it.  Here’s what parents say about the Memorial location:

“My son had his first visit last night—he had so much fun and was talking about it all day.”

“My son loves coming to Adventure Kids Playcare. There is a lot to do and it is clear they do lots of singing and playing with the kids because my son always comes home singing new songs and wanting to teach me the new games he played.”

“My 4 year old has declared he wants to live there. So, I guess he loves it. We will be back!”

AND if you want to take your kids, get 1 HOUR FREE at the Adventure Kids Playcare Memorial location with code BKSC1HR!  You can find it at 10403 Katy Fwy, #220, Houston, TX 77024, (713) 838-1414.

Free Summer Camps & Classes for Houston Kids for 2018

Summer camps and activities can be outrageously expensive.  To help you have more fun in Houston, with kids, we have FREE camps and classes listed below.

These camps FILL FAST.  For those not available YET, add them to your “wish list” online and you can see when registration opens for each one.

For more camp recommendations (that are not free), go HERE.

Houston Parks and Recreation Department (H.P.A.R.D.):

  • The city has 60 Community Centers that provide: After-School Enrichment Program, Summer Enrichment Program, After-School Achievement Program (ASAP), Instructional Sports, Nature and Environmental Education and Exploration Programs, Teen Programs, Senior Adult Program, Adult Arts and Specialty Crafts and a host of fitness activities and programs.
  • The Summer Enrichment Program is a ten-week day camp-style program for ages 6 – 13. To apply, go to HERE.

City of Houston Swim Lessons:

  • The City of Houston also offers FREE Swim Lessons.  All of these classes are free and are filled on a “first come, first served” basis during specified registration periods.
  • H2OSAFE LEARN TO SWIM classes are offered at three levels and are designed to teach youth ages 6 – 13 basic swim skills, swim strokes, and water safety skills to help them become proficient at swimming.
  • SwimWise is a series of FREE learn to swim classes offered for all ages and skill levels.

City of Houston Sports Lessons:

  • The city provides year-round programming and recreational sports opportunities for children ages 4 to 18.
  • A variety of free recreational sports are available. Participants receive equipment, uniforms, facility usage and expert coaching free of charge.
  • Learn more HERE.

Houston Public Library Camp STREAM:

  • Camp STREAM is a free week-long summer program that allows students the opportunity to participate in activities relating to each aspect of STREAM (Science, Technology, Reading, Engineering, Arts and Math) each day of the week. K-12.

Vacation Bible Schools:

  • Churches all around Houston have Vacation Bible Schools… often for FREE or for under $50.  Look for a church near your house and check on their programs.
  • Second Baptist has a FREE camp at multiple locations.  Get the details HERE.


Parent Recommended Houston Summer Camps – Where to Send Your Kids to Camp! (2018 Edition)

It’s clear from all the questions I get… Houston parents want to know where to send their kids to camp!  They not only want to know what camps are available, but they want recommendations from other parents.

Below is an updated list of camps recommended by BigKidSmallCity readers and it will get updated frequently.  If you want to suggest a camp, tell us!

BigKidSmallCity is not responsible for bad camp experiences.  This page is a resource to help Houston parents.  Please work directly with the business to coordinate your camp and fix issues.  Thank you!

Listings below with “*” mean they were submitted by the school/camp rather than a Houston parent.  If you are a Houston parent and want to endorse the camp, tell me!

Free Camps:

Find the FREE summer programs HERE.  Swimming lessons, sports camps, VBS and more.


Houston Museum of Natural Science (5555 Hermann Park Drive, Houston,Texas 77030)
Week long camps for kids ages 6-12 years old.  Registration opens in February.
Camps are held Monday-Friday, 10:00 am – 3:00 pm.  Extended day care is also available before and after camp for an additional fee.

Houston Museum of Natural Science Sugar Land (13016 University Blvd., Sugar Land, TX 77479)
Week long camps for kids ages 6-12 years old.  Registration opens in February.
Camps are held Monday-Friday, 10 am -3 pm.  Extended day care is also available before and after camp for an additional fee.

Camp Zoofari (Houston Zoo, 6200 Hermann Park Drive, Houston, Texas 77030)
Week long camps for kids ages 4-16 years old.  Registration opens in February.
All camps are Monday-Friday. Half-day camps for ages 4-5 are from 9:00am – 12:00 pm or 1:00 – 4:00pm. Full-day camps are from 9:00am – 4:00pm. No extended day offered.



City ArtWorks (Memorial Area,Wirt Rd & Westview, North of I-10)*

Full and part-day options availalbe for kids ages 4 through 12.  City ArtWorks focuses”Art for Life: giving children the ability to create, interpret, and explore through art.”

WITS Creative Writing Camp (Multiple Locations)
Kinder – 12th grade.  Very popular camp that opens registration the end of January, and usually fills quickly.

Main Street Theater (Multiple Houston Locations)
Students take charge of all aspects of performance while the teachers (who are arts and educational professionals) provide guidance and know-how support to students (ages 4 – 18).

Students write and stage their original theater pieces, creating their own roles, lines, costumes, and props.

ArtMix (3701 W. Alabama, Suite 250, Houston, Texas 77027)
Ages 3 – 11 years old.
Week long camps with several options.

Glassell Junior School (Museum of Fine Arts, 5100 Montrose Boulevard, Houston, TX 77006)
Ages 3 and older.

CyFair Music and Art (Northwest Houston)
Drama Kids, Piano, Guitar, Drums, Art, Kindermusik, Baby Sign Language



Nature Discovery Center (7112 Newcastle, Bellaire, TX 77401)
Week-long camps with themes ranging from The Nature of Engineering to Bugs & Blooms, campers work together and independently to solve problems, perform experiments, play games, create imaginative crafts, and more. Camps are limited to 20 children each week, with 4 teen counselors assisting the Camp Instructor.

Houston Arboretum (4501 Woodway Drive, Houston, TX 77024)
Get outdoors with the Houston Arboretum & Nature Center this summer! The Arboretum’s Summer Camp is a great place for kids ages 4-12 to learn all about the natural world. Spend a week in the life of a Forest Ranger, have some Fun in the Sun, get to know Houston’s City Critters, become one of Nature’s Inventors, or learn about local endangered species.

SPCA Critter Camp (900 Portway Drive, Houston, TX 77024)
Camp from 9:00am – 3:00pm.  Ages 8 – 12 years old.

Blackwood Nature Camp (27144 Rock Island Road, Hempstead, Texas 77445)
A week-long overnight camp for ages 8-14 located in Hempstead, TX. Build a relationship with nature and safely explore the great outdoors.  Campers enjoy a variety of outdoor activities including classes such as natural dyeing, cane-pole fishing, and cooking. They play forest games, hike, swim, and explore. They learn about wildlife in workshops hosted by local experts, and go on educational field trips to places like St. Francis Wolf Sanctuary and Huntsville State Park. At night, they stargaze, tell stories, and roast s’mores by the campfire…



Camp Invention (Christ Community School The Woodlands)
A unique elementary summer enrichment experience with a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) focus for children, June 18-22, 2018.  Register for $25 off using promo code: facebook25

Club SciKidz Houston (Sugar Land, Katy)*
Registration start February through the start of camp.

Day camps specialize in many different science themes for children ages 4-15. Themes which include experiments and projects in Video Game Creation, Robotics, Veterinary Medicine, Engineering, Space, Biology, Chemistry, LEGO Robotics and much more.

Mad Science (Westpark)*
Science themed camps.  Full day and half day camps with before and after care.

STREAM Program (Houston Public Library)
Free week-long summer program that allows students the opportunity to participate in activities relating to each aspect of STREAM (Science, Technology, Reading, Engineering, Arts and Math) each day of the week. K through 12.

HSS Summer Program (220 E 34th St, Houston, TX 77018)*
Campers will experience the Sudbury model of education first hand. Students spend their days free to pursue their interests, participate in Judicial Committee, plan outings, and enjoy all the benefits of freedom+responsibility in a mixed-age community. The HSS Summer Program is open to all Houston area children. Ages 5 – 17yo. Camp hours 8a-3:30p. Extended hours available. Full program registration discount. Sibling discount.

Study Dorm – Academic Summer Camp (Stafford/Sugar Land)*
Study Dorm’s Academic Summer Camp helps students get ahead in the upcoming school year or simply master concepts they might have missed during the previous school year. They provide math, reading, writing, STAAR and SAT prep classes for students in grade 1 thru 12.


Language/Culture Immersion:

Language Kids (Houston, Sugar Land, West University, Bellaire, Kingwood, Spring, Humble, Cypress)
Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, French and English immersion summer camps. Interactive and fun. Experienced native-speaker teachers. A different thematic unit each week, register for one or several weeks. Locations include the Houston Museum of Natural Science (Museum district & Sugar Land), Pump It Up and Houston Baptist University (Spanish camps for middle and high school students).

Age groups 3-5, 6-11, 12-17, 9:00am to 3:00pm, Before and after camp care provided at some locations.

French immersion summer camp with EFGH, Education Française Greater Houston (The Village School, 13077 Westella Drive, Houston, 77077)*
Full day camp from 9:00am until 4:00pm, for kids ages 5 through 10, native French speakers and non French speakers. A new theme every week.

Every summer, Efgh offers a program which is 100% immersion in the French language and culture. The camp combines fun, adventure and Learning. We offer a great variety of activities : craft, drama, outdoors games, sports, songs, music and stories to awaken the children’s imagination and creativity. And we also offer a French session every day because children have a natural inclination to learn another language.

Conmigo Spanish Immersion (Houston Heights)
Two weeks, 9:00-2:00pm, Ages 4-9 years old

Chinese in Action (Chinese Community Center, 9800 Town Park Dr, Houston, TX 77036)
Mandarin Immersion, 9:00-3:00pm, with extended day options.

Tour-A-Culture (Various Locations)*
Educates and teaches children about the people and places near and far, while fostering a sense of community within each child.
K-5th Grade, Monday to Friday 9 am to 3pm, Week long sessions, June through August


Dance/Gymnastics/Sports/All-Around Camps:

H-Town Elite Gymnastics (Heights)*
At H-Town Elite kids will spend the day utilizing the state of the art gymnastics equipment to work on strength, balance and coordination with certified USAG instructors.  They also incorporate games and arts and crafts to keep kids motivated and interested all day long!  Sign up for a half day, full day or all week!

MET Dance Girls Dance Camp (Downtown)*
Introduce your little dancer to the FUN of dance at a one-week DANCE CAMP! Excite and capture the imagination of your dancer through these one-week camps include a themed dance class, crafts, stories, glow dance party, selfie station, manners and etiquette and a desert decorating “tea” party everyday! Ages 3 and 4 from 9AM-12PM & Ages 5-7 from 12:30-3:30PM.

Adventure Kids Playcare (Memorial City)*
Kids can enjoy learning and laughter at our Pre-school and School-age day camps! Camp runs from 9:00am – 4:00pm each day with before and after care available.  Sign up for a week of camp to receive a special rate or ask about daily rates.

Handwriting & Yoga Camp (Solaris Pediatric Therapy)*
Ideal for kids that are entering kindergarten or first grade, but can also benefit older kids that really never got a grasp on handwriting.

Each day campers will be taken through sensory motor activities designed to develop fine motor and visual motor skills that are necessary for handwriting. The yoga helps kids to be more aware of their bodies, build strength, improve concentration and attention and learn relaxation skills to help with stressful situations.

With the demands of school getting greater at a younger and younger age, this camp can help provide kids the tools they need to feel calmer and more prepared in the classroom setting.

Texas Rock Gym (Memorial)
Kids are introduced to a wide variety of rock climbing skills including basic techniques, gear safety, commonly used knots and other climbing fundamentals. They also participate in daily organized workouts specially designed to help build a stronger, more flexible climber.

Kidventure (12 Houston Locations)
Running camps at multiple locations in Houston, Austin and Dallas for 19 years.  Registration opens in February.  Ages 3 – 15 years old.

Summer Youth Activity Program (Rice)
Four sessions in June and July, for kids aged 6 to 11.

YMCA (Multiple Locations)
Many different camps are offered and many different YMCA locations.  Check the website for details.
Also, know that not all camps or locations are equal.  Parents have recommended the MD Anderson location.  I’ve had good and bad experiences at Stella Link, depending on the camp councilors.  Investigate and report back!

Victory Camp (Living Stone Church, 1407 Victory Lane, Alvin, Texas 77511)
Christian camp in operation since 1992. activities include: quad-zipline, swimming, rock walls, double waterslide, bumperboats, paddleboats, gym sports, field sports, and go-karts.

Camp Cho-yeh (2200 S Washington Ave, Livingston, TX 77351)
Christian Camp with activities like archery, paintball, horseback, riflery, blobbing, wakeboarding, tomahawk throwing and more.  Ages 6 – 16 years old.  Sleep-over camp.

Pine Cove (Columbus & Tyler, Texas)
Christian Camp with day camps, overnight camps and even camps for the entire family!

Camp Lantern Creek (Montgomery, Texas)
Girls camp for ages 7 to 17.  Learn to change a tire, sing a song, laugh a lot, love nature, swim, make waves, win gracefully, lose gracefully, tell story, act, paint, make a mess, write a story, right the world, push boundaries, make friends forever, make your art and find your voice.

Character Camp (Palacios, Texas)*
This Leadership Retreat is a week long away camp, hosted at the Port Palacios Summer Camp in Palacios, Texas this year. Tuition covers round trip transportation to camp from Houston, all activities, room and board. Early bird discounts available, accepting ages 6-18.

Character Camp’s Leadership Retreats instill leadership and character with the added bonus of robotics, aviation, physical fitness, music and math! Your kids will enjoy a week of camaraderie, intellectual stimulation and positive peer interactions while on a mini “vacation”.


BakerRipley Providing Free Tax Preparation to Houstonians

BakerRipley – formerly Neighborhood Centers – is providing free tax preparation services by IRS-certified tax preparers for the 10th year in a row. The 110-year-old nonprofit organization, with the support of the United Way and dozens of volunteers, has prepared over 288,000 tax returns, and helped hardworking families and individuals claim $390 million in net refunds.

This year, BakerRipley will once again be providing this free service at 11 convenient locations in the local region for all families and individuals that earn up to $58,000. No appointments are required as walk ins are welcome at all 11 locations through April 17, 2018.


Who is eligible? Families and individuals earning up to $58,000.

Free Services:

  • Tax returns for 2012–2017
  • Amended returns for 2012–2017
  • Free e-filing & direct deposit
  • ITIN applications and renewals (Service will resume January 25th, 2018)
  • Affordable Care Act + Tax Guidance
  • No appointments, walk-ins only

Get the details HERE.

Host Your Next Birthday Party at the Nature Discovery Center

My 3rd child had never had a birthday party. Don’t get me wrong, we’d celebrate the heck out of his birthday, but never with a party.

But then he started school and started to ask how other kids knew to show up for birthday parties.  For a while I just shrugged my shoulders but this year I decided it was time for him to invite his friends to his own birthday celebration.

The Nature Discovery Center invited us out for our 6 year old birthday party and it was so good that I’m afraid we will need to go back every single year!

We had the Scales and Tails party which included a program all about reptiles: snakes, lizards, and turtles.  So not only was there a program where the kids could learn about, and touch, live animals and specimens, but we had a big pavilion, access to a full kitchen and to restrooms.  Plus, this park has nature trails and playground.

The staff was helpful, the program instructor was funny and great with kids, my son loved his day… and it was easy for me.  I just sent out the invite, set up a few tables and the rest was taken care of for us!

If you are thinking of a party at the Nature Discovery Center, here’s what you need to know:

  • There are three program options:  Bunny Buddies, Join the Insect Club and Scales and Tails.  There are also tours of the discovery rooms and nature walks.
  • Target ages are 2 to 9 (and vary by program).
  • Parties are 2 hours and there are 30 minutes to set up and clean up.
  • During our party, the kids played and ate pizza for 30 minutes, then we went into the house for the reptile show for 30 minutes, then we went on a nature walk for 20 minutes… and then we ate cake and played for 40 minutes.
  • You can bring in food and decorations… just no balloons.  There is even a pinata hook on the tree… so they are ready for parties!
  • You have access to a full kitchen, right next to the pavilions.  You can store store your cake and drinks in the refrigerators… or you can even use the stove to make dinner.  Just make sure you have time to clean up!
  • There are 3 pavilions you can use.  One has three big picnic tables.  The other ones have one table.
  • There is a little “lemonade stand” next to the pavilions.  When we saw this, my kids were determined to have lemonade to serve the guests.
  • The sinks and restrooms are right next to the party area.
  • Parking is available right next to the pavilions on the north side of the park… and more is available by the playground on the south side of the park.
  • During the reptile show, the instructor did a great job keeping the kids focused and entertained.  My birthday boy got some special attention and even got to hold the snake (and everyone else got to touch it).
  • The kids also went on a nature walk through the newly renovated park.  Learn about this park HERE!
  • After the party, the kids went to the playground and sandbox to play some more!

We had a really good time and will do it again.  Check out the pictures below and learn all about the Nature Discovery Center parties HERE!  Or find more birthday party venues HERE.







Birthday Party Venues in Houston… Where to Have Your Next Kid’s Party!

One of our most popular pages is this list of parent recommended party venues!  It was first created 4 years ago… and the latest updates are here.

If you want to recommend a spot, just leave a comment.

For help planning a party, check out Crowning Details and see an example of her beautiful (and affordable) party HERE.

Birthday Parties
BigKidSmallCity is not responsible for bad birthday party experiences.  This page is a resource to help Houston parents.  Please work directly with the business to coordinate your party and fix issues.  Thank you!

Any venue with a “*” was recommended by the business and not by a parent.  If you are a Houston parent and want to endorse the “*” venue, tell us!


Crowning Details
Party concepts and ideas, DIY party projects, party printables, unique gift ideas, party favor ideas and more.

Traveling Tea Party
They bring the party to you in the Houston and Katy Area.  Includes afternoon tea catering, themed decoration and ‘take home’ craft activity.


Edwards Cinema – Wesleyan



Hermann Park – Museum District
Private party room with patio with dedicated party host. Includes gift pack of train tickets or a private train ride.

Discovery Green – Downtown

Houston ArboretumMemorial Park
Two hour parties every day of the week.

Nature Discovery Center – Bellaire
Parties on Tuesday through Sunday.  Includes options of guided tour of Russ Pitman Park, live animal or puppet program or a picnic.

Local Houston Park 

Oil RanchHockley
Admission includes all activities. Bring your own cake, decorations, and party favors.

Dewberry FarmBrookshire
Reserve a spot in the pavilion or rent a tent.

Blessington FarmSimonton
Parties include all regular Farm Funland activities.  Reserve picnic tables for 2 hours.

Old MacDonald’s Farm Humble
Includes train rides, pony rides, petting zoo and pool.

Edith L. Moore Nature Sanctuary –  Houston Audubon, 440 Wilchester Blvd, 77079
2 hour program with a guided walk in the woods, pond dip-netting, nature games, live animal encounter, and a nature craft. Weekdays & weekends, 10:00am-5:00pm.  16-child maximum, ages 4-10 years old.  Parents furnish all food, supplies.

Crocodile Encounter – Angelton, or Comes to You
See the crocodiles, feed tortoises and meet lots of other animals.


The Vault Houston Heights
Circus arts and Aerial skills and Trapeze. The children should be at least 7 years old. The party was $13 per participant.

Discovery Gymnastics – Heights
Parties on Saturday and Sunday.

Westwood Gymnastics – Katy

Connolly Dance Arts – Katy

The Little Gym – Multiple Locations
Parties get the entire space.  Parties for ages 1 -12.  Readers recommend this for the younger kids… maybe 1-5 years old.

The Little Gym Pearland would love to host your child’s next birthday party! The Little Gym was recently named Best Gym Party by Parents Magazine! Your group will have the whole place to yourselves with games, music and fun LEGO® Juniors or LEGO® DUPLO® building activities created especially for your birthday kid.*

JC SportsHumble
Rental of entire facility, 2 hour party for up to 20 kids, 60 minutes of coach led activities.

Iron Sports – Spring 
Ninja Warrior Course!

Wake Nation – Rosharon
Min age is 7 years, learn wakeboarding, there is a ropes course, paintball, and an aqua glide park etc.

Pengu Swim (Close to 610 & Ella Blvd)
Indoor heated pool with large foam toys for the kids. Two hour party. AC controlled party area with play corner, party tables and chairs with decoration. Lifeguards included!

Conroe Aquatic Center – Conroe
Contact Conroe Aquatic Center for rental of the pools. One pool has a beach entry, play structure, mini slides, water curtain and more.

Salle Mauro Fencing Academy – West University
Two hour fencing party.

Sam Houston Equestrian Center Pony Party – Almeda Genoa and 288
Parties for all ages.  Two hour party with access to party room, tours of the barn and pony rides.  Bring carrots to feed the horses!

BowlMor (Formerly 300 Lanes) – Bunker Hill
Bowling Party

Ice at the Galleria – Galleria Mall
Party room for 45 minutes and ice skating for each guest.


Play Places:

Adventure Kids Playcare -Memorial City*
Many AKPC locations do host birthday parties on Sundays! They do all the work and the set up, and even better the clean up! To schedule a party contact your local Adventure Kids for specific pricing and availability.

Wonderwild/Wonderwild(er) – Heights/Woodlands
Parties for kids up to 8 years old at Wonderwild and kids 5-11 at Wonderwilder on Friday, Saturday or Sunday.
The new Wonderwilder has a ropes playscape that is great for the bigger kids.

Crossing Midline Kids Gym – Tomball
Parties for all ages at this sensory gym for kids of all abilities.

Jumpalooza – Humble
Jumpy Houses.  Parties on Saturday and Sunday.

Pump It Up – Central Houston
Jumpy Houses.  Parties all week.

Putt-Putt Fun House – Webster
Party with 1.25 hours of games, balloon art in the party room and then 1.5 hours of attractions (putt-putt golf, laser tag, bumper boats, bumper cars, rock climbing, 3D Motion Theater, Ballocity).

Dave and Busters – Fountain View, Katy Freeway
Video games, bowling, billiards and more.  Family style menu or buffet, drinks and power card for each guest.

Itz – Willowbrook, Pasadena
Choose between a hosted party with a reserved seating area or a bowling party.  Buy party packages, per guest that include food and games.

Chuck E Cheese – Several Houston Locations
Celebrate with Chuck E. and eat pizza and play games.

Houston’s First Baptist Church Fitness & Recreation Center – Memorial Area
Renting their venue includes a 6 lane bowling alley, game room area, indoor playground, and banquet room – all for a reasonable price!


Water Parks:

Schlitterbahn Galveston
Parties year road.  Winter is cheaper and less crowded in the heated indoor water park.

Noah’s Ark/Quillian Center Pool Parties – Westchase
Two hour pool parties.  Discount for parties on Monday through Thursday.
Noah’s Ark is a shallow pool with a slide and equipment and is great for young kids.  There is also a full size pool for the bigger kids.


Science Centers:

Mad Science – Westpark
Parties for kids 3-12 years old.  Hour long interactive demonstration

Little Beakers – Cypress 
Hands on experiments followed by a party in a private room.

 Idea Lab – Multiple Locations
2 hour party for 14 kids.  Includes 2 activity guides, themed props and decor.  All ages.



Sweet and Sassy – Woodlands, Cypress, Sugar Land, Pearland
Parties designed for girls 4-13.

Snip Its – The Woodlands, Sugar Land, Katy, Pearland, Spring, Voss, Memorial, Rice, Kirkwood

Glamour Avenue Parties – Comes to You
Stylish spa and beauty themed parties for girls ages 6- 14

Princess and Tiaras – Spa Truck Comes to You
Spa Themed Parties on wheels that can be held at home or any venue of your choice.

Traveling Tea Party
They bring the party to you in the Houston and Katy Area.  Includes afternoon tea catering, themed decoration and ‘take home’ craft activity.



McCheek’s Academy – Heights
Parties for ages 6-12.  Limited to 8-12 kids.

Mud Pie Paint Your Own Pottery – Kingwood
Parties for all ages.  $12-20 per child, depending on project.

Make a craft at Michael’s



Menchies – West University, Heights

Keggs Candy – Westpark Drive
Ages 5 and older.  Private party room, tour, candy crafts, cupcakes, ice cream, drinks and name on the marquee.

Kona Ice – Any metro Houston location
Let the Kona Ice truck come to you!  One hour party that serves up to 75 small servings at any metro Houston location.  Also includes a souvenir cup for the birthday/graduate person. Limited Saturday availability due to contracts.

Snowie Snow Balls & Ice Cream – Vendor comes to you

Space Cadets – The Woodlands
Comic Book Collection Store will organize a 2 hour party with a selection of themes, including Lego, Pokeman, Rainbow Loom, Princess… or you can use the space and organize your own party.



Houston Fire Museum – Midtown
Parties on Tuesday through Saturday last 1.5 hours.  Held in Junior Firehouse area with fire helmets, coats and overalls, truck cab, fireman pole and more.

Houston Museum of Natural Science – Museum District & Sugar Land
Party Smarty is for 11 years and younger. Pick one of 4 themes. Parties last 2 hours (30 minutes crafts, 45 minute tour, 45 minute celebration). A staff member organizes the party and several readers have reported that they were very friendly and professional.

Health Museum – Museum District
Two hour parties on Saturdays and Sundays.  Tour the museum, visit the 4D theater return to private party room.

Children’s Museum of Houston – Museum District
Kids go on a tour of the exhibits and then return to a private room. Food can be ordered from the Fresh Cafe.

Children’s Museum – The Woodlands
Parties on Saturday and Sunday. Suitable for children between 1 and 6 years old.

Houston Zoo – Museum District
Parties for toddlers to 12 years old. Private rental of 1 of 3 zoo pavilions with tables. Food can be purchases. Includes 30 admission tickets.

Orange Show – Telephone and Gulf Freeway
Call to set up party in this unique space.

Rosenberg Train Museum – Rosenberg
Historic rail cars and museum are the place for train lover’s party.  Several packages available.

The Antique Firehouse – Humble
Dress up as firemen, climb around on trucks and play in the fire-themed moonwalk!

The Escape Game – CityCentre
The Escape Game is a live 60-minute adventure. You and your team will select a challenge and will have one hour to complete your mission and escape. They offer several unique experiences, all happening in a completely immersive environment. You may be ​on the hunt for gold, in prison planning an escape, or in a museum stealing back a piece of art.​Call at (713) 999-1496 or inquire on the website​. Chat support is available Monday – Friday 9:00am-5:00pm. 32 guests can play The Escape Game at once and we have a party room for food & beverage!

Check out these reviews from “hero” parent planers!

– “#DadWin!” – Duncan, TripAdvisor
– “My daughter and 10 friends the The Escape Game as a birthday party. They couldn’t stop raving! They want to do these games over and over again.” – Rhonda, TripAdvisor
– “There were 7 kids off their phones/video games having a great time! They talked about it ALL day and are dying to go back!” – Giovanna, TripAdvisor


Looking for more? Get weekly emails with things to do HERE!

More than amazing baby pictures at ABBA Color Photography

When I go to ABBA Color Photography, I get to capture a moment in time… with absolutely no stress.

I just hand over my baby, give as much or as little guidance as I want, and the photos get done (and done well).  Maricela comforts fussy babies, poses them, gets them to smile and is quick with the camera and captures great photos.  And when my baby gets hungry or needs a new diaper, she just takes a break and lets me take my time.

And a year after our first session, I found out just what ABBA Color Photography can do with big kids.  She invited my older kids out and just look!

For babies, she has lots of outfits and costumes.  For girls, she has several options as well.  My daughter thought she was a princess in this gown found in the studio.

Maricela had my 8 year old twirl and pose and took the most magical pictures.  And just look at how she got the 10 year old boy to give us a natural smile…

The rest of my photos are on the way… and I’ll post them when they are ready.  You can be sure that my 6 year old boy has a mischievous photo in the editing room now.

If you are looking for amazing baby or kid photos, I recommend ABBA Color Photography.  Do it now so you are ready for holiday cards!

HISD Magnet & Vanguard Programs for 2018-2019 School Year: Overview of the Programs, What You Need to Know & How and When to Apply!

It’s time to apply for NEXT school year!

I’ve applied for HoustonISD Magnet Schools (and Vanguard Magnet Schools), 3 times in the last 7 years.  The first time around, I found it very confusing and overwhelming… but over the years, I’ve (mostly) figured it out (and decided to worry a lot less!).

In case you are also overwhelmed and confused by the HoustonISD application process, here is a summary of the process, key dates and changes for this year.

For the official information on applying to HoustonISD Magnet Schools, go HERE.  (And be sure to look at this FAQ page.  it is very very informative!)

Key dates for the 2018-2019 School Year:

  • School Choice Fairs (Optional, but very informative)
    • September 30, 2017: 9:00am-12:00pm at Milby High School
    • October 14, 2017: 9:00am-12:00pm at Westbury High School
    • November 4, 2017: 9:00am-12:00pm at Sterling High School
    • December 2, 2017: 9:00am-12:00pm. at Key Middle School
  • School Choice Thursdays (Optional, but very informative)
    • Thursdays from October 5 through December 7.
    • October 5, 12, 19, 26, November 2, 9, 16, 30 and December 7, 2017
    • All Magnet Campuses will offer tours to interested parents.
    • These tours are intended to help parents learn more about Magnet programs to make more informed decisions.
  • September 22, 2017 – Applications are open
  • December 8, 2017 – Deadline for Phase I (first round) Magnet applications.
  • December 9, 2017 –  Start of Phase II application window. (Note that the most popular Magnet Schools will fill in Phase 1.  If you are trying to get into one of these schools, you really need to apply for Phase 1 by December 8.  For an idea of the most popular schools, look at this HISD list.)
  • For Kindergarten Vanguard Magnet Programs (Askew, Carrillo, De Zavala, Herod, Oak Forest, River Oaks, Roosevelt, T.H. Rogers, Travis, Windsor Village), you will need to select a test date when you submit your application:
    • (Dates to be added)
  • March 22, 2018 – Notification Date
    • The official Phase I notification of a students’ lottery outcome will be viewable within the online application dashboard.
  • April 5, 2018 – Deadline for accepting your seat.
    • Documentation (recent proof of residency and a signed Magnet entrance agreement) must be turned in.
    • Students will remain on the waitlist of all programs which parents ranked higher than the highest program to which a seat is offered.


RECENT Changes in the Magnet Application Process & Answers to FAQs:

In case you have not applied in a few years, some things have changed.  We had to start ranking our school choices (and not just apply to 10 schools and pick a favorite after we were accepted).  Also the number of total applications is 5 instead of 10.

  • You can apply online or with paper… but with just one method.  You use the same application for all 5 school choices.
  • It only takes 10 minutes to complete… but deciding on which schools to apply to can take longer.  There are a lot of open houses and school tours that help you decide.
  • Your favorite school is likely the favorite school of hundreds of other families.  To see the popularity of the HISD programs, go HERE.  (This is a very cool resource from last year… and lets you know what to expect.)
  • Parents can ONLY apply to 5 magnet programs.  This is for magnet programs and Vanguard magnet programs.  The G/T test dates are in January and February, so I would not make these all Vanguard schools because if the child does not qualify, they will not be entered into any lotteries.
  • Parents need to rank applications in priority order.  Parents will be able to adjust the order of their choices through the December deadline.
  • In March, when HISD contacts parents of the outcome of the applications, all applications ranked below the top choice will be dropped automatically. Any programs you are wait listed that rank above the highest accepted choice, remain active.
  • Applications for students who live outside the HISD boundaries may be submitted any time after September 22, 2017 but they will not be considered until June 1, 2018.  (See the FAQ for details.)
  • Students must be in attendance on day one of school. Magnet seats are not saved if there are zoned students to fill the spaces.

So, for entering school in August 2018, you will apply to schools from September 22, 2017-December 8, 2017.  It will look something like this:

  • You apply to up to 5 schools for the 2018-2019 school year by December 8.  These include both Vanguard and Magnet Programs.
  • You will rank you favorite schools… for example: #1 River Oaks Vanguard, #2 Wharton Dual Language, #3 Poe Fine Arts, #4 Wilson Montessori…
  • In January/February, IF you applied to Vanguard schools, your child will take the G/T test.
  • In March, you will learn which schools have accepted our application (through the lottery).
  • If you got a spot at #2 Wharton, you would stay on the waitlist for #1 River Oaks, but be dropped from the waitlists from #3 Poe and #4 Wilson…
  • In April, you must accept your spot at Wharton or you will lose it.  If a spot opened up at River Oaks, you could still accept it.


What you need to know about HoustonISD:


The school that you are zoned to is your neighborhood school and the one that your child will be automatically accepted into (as long as it is not too full). If you don’t already know which school you are zoned to, go to THIS website, type in your address, and choose the grade level your child will be in for the school year.

If you are happy with your neighborhood school and want your child to go there, you don’t need to worry about the magnet application process*.  (One note is that a few HoustonISD neighborhood schools are over full.  Call your zoned school to see if there is any issue at all with attending your local neighborhood school.)  Contact the school to find out what you need to do to enroll your child and when to do it.

(*One more note on zoned schools and Vanguard Programs:  If you are going to your zoned school and it’s not a Vanguard Magnet School (like Roberts, Poe, etc), your kids will be tested at school for the Vanguard Neighborhood Program. If you are going to your zoned school and it’s a Vanguard Magnet (like ROE, Travis, etc), the official word from HISD is: “In October, when the online application system opens, go ahead and apply to ROE, even if you are zoned. You will be provided details about testing.” You can also contact your zoned school to get all the details.)



If you would like the opportunity for your child to attend a school you are not zoned to, you will have apply for a magnet transfer. THIS  is the part of HISD’s website about the magnet programs.

Each magnet school has a specialized theme that is incorporated into their classes and curriculum. For example, a fine arts magnet school may offer more exposure to music, dance, art and drama than other schools would.



You can submit up to 5 magnet school applications, of which 5 can be for Vanguard schools.  Know that magnet schools can be very hard to get in to, so apply to several!  Also, children must quality for Vanguard programs.  In case they do not do well on the test, make sure you have selected some non-Vanguard magnet programs when you apply.

Apply online or print an application HERE.



The Vanguard Magnet schools are different than the other Magnet programs. Vanguard is HISD’s term for G/T or gifted and talented. Students must pass a test in order to be accepted as a transfer student at these schools.

You can apply to up to 5 Vanguard schools and must rank your top choices.  When you apply, you will select a test date for your child:

  • Dates to be added.

We did the Vanguard test several years ago and this is what we found… tell me if you have a more recent experience!  On test day, parents and children signed in then were directed to a large waiting area. Then students were called out on their own or in small groups while parents waited for them.

Your child probably won’t be called out immediately, so you may want to bring snacks and something quiet for them to do.

Once the students left the waiting area they met individually in a room with the person administering the test. When they finished they were brought back to the room then the parents and students could leave.

If a student passes the test, then he or she is entered into the lottery at the Vanguard schools already chosen on the application. If the student does not pass the test, he or she will not be considered for transfer to a Vanguard school. Children who pass the test but aren’t accepted into one of the Vanguard schools can still be in the Vanguard program at the school they end up attending (if that school has a program).

I always get asked for resources to help prepare kids and parents for testing.  Here is what has been recommended by other parents over the years… but review each to see what is best for you.  And do NOT feel like you MUST prepare.

Lollipop Logic
Wiz Kidz
Kindergarten Test Prep Bundle for ITBS

{One more note on zoned schools and Vanguard Programs:  If you are going to your zoned school and it’s not a Vanguard Magnet School (like Roberts, Poe, etc), your kids will be tested at school for the Vanguard Neighborhood Program. If you are going to your zoned school and it’s a Vanguard Magnet (like ROE, Travis, etc), the official word from HISD is: “In October, when the online application system opens, go ahead and apply to ROE, even if you are zoned. You will be provided details about testing.” You can also contact your zoned school to get all the details.}



Once the deadline for turning in applications has passed, the schools hold a lottery where they draw the names of the students they’ll accept. Any students who applied but were not chosen are placed on a waiting list in the order their names were drawn.

Many of the schools that you’ll be applying to will probably have long wait lists and you are not guaranteed to be accepted as a transfer student into any of the schools that you’ve applied to. I was waitlisted at around number 320 for one of them, in the 200s for another and actually got in to 1.

So, if you really don’t want your child to attend your zoned school you should to turn in applications to more schools to increase your chance of acceptance.

Status notifications (whether you’ve been accepted or your number on the waitlist) are online and sent through the mail in late March.

If you are on a waitlist you can monitor the changes online through the parent dashboard.

If you are accepted you have until early April to inform the school of your “intent to attend.”

Your place on any higher ranked waitlists will remain the same though, so if you receive a spot at your second choice school, but are waitlisted at your first, accepting the second choice will not affect your chances of getting into your first choice.



Those of you who have, or who plan to have, additional children may be wondering if you’ll have to go through this whole process again. The answer is yes, but special consideration is currently given to siblings in the lottery.

As of now, up to the 25% of the incoming Kinder (or PreK, if it is a magnet PreK) class is guaranteed to siblings of currently enrolled students. (Same for 6th and 9th entry grades.)  If the number of siblings applying is more than 25% of the entering class, all sibling names are placed in a lottery and those spaces are awarded according to the order the names are drawn.

Any remaining siblings are placed in the general lottery, and if their names still aren’t drawn, they are placed at the beginning of the wait list. So, chances are that if your older child gets a spot at the school you want, your younger one(s) should too… but no guarantee… especially at very popular schools!

For Vanguard schools the younger child(ren) will have to pass the Vanguard test, but as long as they do the above will hold true for them as well.

If two siblings apply for an entry grade‐level program (and do not have another sibling in the program already) they are treated the same as any other applicant. However, if one is offered a place, the other is moved up the wait list, and placed among the other siblings. (Each sibling must have a separate application on file.)

For twins (and all multiples), you can have them treated like all other siblings or opt to have all the children receive one lottery spot.  All will be offered a seat or all placed on
the wait list. If they are on a wait list, they will not be offered seats until there is room for all of them. (Each sibling must have a separate application on file.)



For elementary magnet programs, the “entry” grade is usually Kindergarten.  For Magnet dual language, Magnet language immersion, and Montessori Magnet programs, the “entry” grade is Pre‐K.

In the application, you can see which schools have PreK magnet programs.

Note that some schools have PreK programs that are NOT magnet programs.  Contact the school for details on applying.