Posted Mar 27, 2020
Birthdays have always been a big deal for my daughter. The girl is a natural-born party planner. It’s typical for her to come to me with a plan for her party six months in advance. And she doesn't just dream up a creative theme. This girl goes all out, leaving no detail of her soiree unplanned.
Unfortunately, this year her party, like those of many others, has been crashed by the coronavirus. All of the joy and excitement she planned for will have to be put on hold for now as we practice social distancing in an effort to slow the spread. We will celebrate, of course. It’s just going to look really different this year.
I know my family isn’t alone. Many of you are also struggling with how to celebrate birthdays and other major milestones during a time where we find ourselves really limited by everything from the ability to gather together to financial uncertainty and fears about the well-being of our communities.
With inspiration from many amazing families out there, my team and I have pulled together creative ways to ensure the parties go on, birthdays get celebrated, and memories are made.
Celebrating at Home
Virtual Surprise Party
One of my biggest joys in watching my daughter grow has been seeing how much her friends mean to her. No party would be complete without these friends. Since we can’t bring them together in person, the next best thing is to do that online. But, this is a birthday, so no regular Facetime or chat will do. We needed something bigger, a SURPRISE!
Zoom is perfect for this. Usually used for remote meetings, this platform can easily be repurposed for a party. Start with the surprise part by sending your child’s personalized invitation link to all their friends. Plan the join-in time for a few minutes before the party starts. Set up your computer in a space decorated for a party. Blindfold the party kiddo, lead them into the room and have everyone yell, “SURPRISE!” as you pull off the blindfold. Gifts can be things like drawings, poems, and signs. Games can include birthday kid trivia, Heads Up! or even a dance challenge. You can record it all as a keepsake and party favor like none other!
A Celebrity Shout Out
I found this awesome site called Cameo where you can arrange for your child's favorite celeb or sports star to wish them a happy birthday. For as little as $25 all the way up to, well... a whole lot more, you can have a famous person give a shout out to anyone. I went down the rabbit hole here and found people from 80's teen-pop sensation Debbie Gibson to Jojo Siwa (for a whopping $350!) to NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman to skateboard legend Tony Hawk. This is a great gift to keep to yourself or even share on social media. It's sure to be a memorable one!
Put some of those skills you learned sneakily creeping into your kids' rooms to check in on them while they sleep to another use, surprise decorating! Sneak in ever so quietly and fill their room with streamers, balloons, signs, cards and gifts. The morning of their birthday, burst through the doors with cake in hand and sing "HAPPY BIRTHDAY!"
Serve Up Something Special
Make their special day extra memorable with a menu designed just for them. Cook up, order in, or pick up their favorite foods - even if that means three types of mac and cheese. Set the table, print up menus and place cards just like you'd do for a major holiday, and make it all about celebrating all the the things they love. A cupcake decorating activity is a great way to get the whole family involved and having fun together.
Bring Home A New Furry Family Member
Pets have magic abilities. They know when we need some extra attention or when it’s time to play. They even know how to put a smile on our faces when things seem sad. Plus, there is a lot to be said about the joy found in rescuing an animal in need of a home. There is a reason animals are used for therapy, they’re good for us.
My daughter has made her case for adding a furry family member to our household for years. My husband Brian and I know that this isn’t a decision to be made on a whim. We remember what it was like to care for pets as kids . . . or, rather, what it was like for our parents to take care of the pets we begged for when we were kids! Joking aside, we’ve been spending quite a bit of time researching the best places to look for a dog, how much time we’d need to train them, and all the other stuff that comes along with a big decision like this. We found a fantastic resource called Good Dog to help us. While we aren’t making any big announcements at the moment, having the time to add a dog to the family while everyone is home together is certainly a benefit.
Gifts That Keep Giving
Giving the gift of a subscription really is a gift that keeps giving. While there are endless options out there, one of my favorite happens to be one we currently have a money-saving offer for on CertifiKID, KiwiCo’s Kiwi Crate. I love this subscription box because it has creative, engaging activities that not only keep my kids busy, but also keep them learning. There are tons of options for kids as small as crawlers all the way up to teenagers!
A T-Shirt Blanket! This is a great gift for an adult or child. I love these and have given a number of them over the years to family members. I even have my own made from old college shirts, vacation souvenirs, camps, sports, and concerts. These sentimental creations are always a hit because they're filled with memories. Being stuck at home actually makes now a great time to gift one of these. Let the birthday kiddo or the whole family get involved in choosing what shirts to use. The bonus is you just might end up with bags of clothes to donate! CertifiKID has a great deal on them, too.
I think one of the things that is making this time especially hard on kids is how much they're missing out on because they can't be with their friends. Sure, we've explained why social distancing is important but that doesn't take all the sting out of it. For my daughter's birthday I really wanted to find ways to bring back the fun kids are missing. That fun is still out there, it just takes some creative thinking and the right resources. Honestly, some of the ideas below are so fun I can see keeping them as part of our party blueprint even after things return to normal.
Scavenger Hunts: They Aren’t Just For Summer Camp Anymore!
Scavenger Hunts are a tried and true staple of the summer camp experience for sure. Honestly, I think my kids would be thrilled if they could have a daily scavenger hunt. So, a birthday scavenger hunt is sure to be a big hit. Here are some hunts we’re excited about.
Send the kids on a hunt to find things in and around the house that are focused on the birthday kid, like photos from family albums and/or baby books, favorite toys, team uniforms, music and movies they love, or even something from the chore they don’t love so much. The possibilities are really endless and putting the focus on the birthday kid will make them feel all the more special.
Searching For Selfies
This is a great way to get friends and family involved from wherever they are! Partygoers are given clues for things that are related to the birthday child, like “Show us what your favorite road trip memory with Lila was.” Then, they go find something that is somehow related to that road trip, snap a selfie and share. You can go one of two ways with this: either let the birthday kiddo try to figure out what the clue is (which road trip the selfie relates to) or share it with the whole party and everyone gets to take a guess.
Riddle Me This
An homage to "The Goonies," this hunt combines fun with mystery, riddles, and rewards. Hide clues around the house that are riddles for the birthday boy or girl to solve. Each riddle they figure out provides a clue to find the next one. The very last clue reveals the big reward, a stash of all their birthday gifts! Up the fun factor by hiding other small gifts or treats along the way.
Here is a fun party idea we found to create your own escape party at home called Lock Paper Scissors. Download and print it out at home and the whole family can enjoy.
Family Photo Booth
What party these days would be complete without a photo booth? Get the whole family involved and turn the booth idea into a fun family photo shoot. You can design your own photo booth and print props out to make it extra special. I found tons of great ideas on this site.
Bring On The Parade
When I first started putting this article together, one of our community members shared a video of a 13-year-old girl's friends driving by her house in a birthday parade. Cars were decorated with banners and balloons. Her friends waved signs and pom-poms and sang songs. It was so cool and really just heart-warming. As I get ready to publish this there are now TONS of videos out there of people parading by the homes of kids from 1 to 91 and it gets better every time I see another one!
This video of parents and kids in Poolesville, Maryland helping Piper celebrate her birthday is just too adorable. How great is it to see this creativity and kindness? I'm sure she'll always remember this birthday!
Invites and Thank You Notes
Typically, my daughter enjoys the whole process of finding unique invitations, writing them out, addressing and mailing them. It's part of her amazing party-planing skills for sure. Right now though, mailing things isn't quite as easy. So, I went online in search for something that was still as fun for her but didn't require sealing envelopes. We both agree that eVites has really stepped up their virtual invitation game. They even have a neat envelope for many of the invitations. In a time where few things feel normal, this was oddly comforting.
Don't forget the gratitude. Even if this year's party is unusual, you don't want to skip a chance to say thanks. FreshCut Crafts offers super-cute cutouts you can use for cards, lessons, crafts and more. My daughter made this card herself using Fresh Cuts pieces. I think dogs may be a theme here, ha ha.
I was a bit worried about my daughter missing out on all the fun of her birthday this year. But I now have a feeling this one will be one of her most memorable. In fact, I'm pretty sure she is going to have a FANTASTIC day... especially if her parents somehow cave on the dog!
Looking for more ways to have fun when you're social distancing? Check out 17 Fun Things To Do With Kids At Home.
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