5 Tips for Planning a Shelter-in-Place Birthday Party
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In 2019, my kids all had their birthdays celebrated abroad. In 2020, I knew we didn’t have travel lined up with their birthdays but I still planned on doing a special outing for each one. Then, COVID-19 struck and, suddenly, I found myself housebound with a birthday party to plan. My oldest daughter is turning 7 and, originally, we were going to do bowling but, as March crept along, I knew I would have to get more creative. Here are some tips for planning a child’s birthday party during shelter in place.
1. Let Them Plan the Day
I made a really simple one pager about a week before my daughter’s birthday and put sections for breakfast, lunch, dinner and something she wanted to do with each family member. Instantly, she was thrilled to have full control of the meal planning! We looked the other way as we indulged in donuts, Chick-fil-A and tacos but, hey, you only turn 7 once! Usually, we would go out for at least one of the birthday meals so we made sure to clarify that it was an option to get takeout.
For activities, I asked her to pick one thing she wanted to do with each family member. She chose doing science with her dad, “cheerleading” with me (just doing basic stunts) and making a pillow fort with her younger brother and sister. I love that such simple things are what she wanted to do and it was very easy to fulfill.
For younger kids, you might need to provide more clarity and doing a visual selection may be better. If we’re still home in July when my son turns 2, I will likely cut out a few pictures in each category and use that as our method.
2. A Drive Thru Party!
After cancelling the party, I was a little sad about her not having her friends around for the big day. In a last minute frenzy, I thought we could take the parade idea that many have been doing and make ours a “drive thru donut bar”. Before I planned this, I called the shop to see if they could individually wrap the donuts and they were able to accommodate this. I donned my gloves and mask to pick them up, brought them home, set-up a table on our driveway and then I was the designated food server using a clean pair of gloves.
If you wanted to replicate this, I would recommend having designated jobs for each person. I was the food service person wearing gloves and wanted to avoid any contamination so I couldn’t really help with anything else. We brought out a wireless speaker (shout out to my Ultimate Ears Wonderboom that I highlighted in my last blog post) and did get a few calls from people on their way so delegate other jobs or be prepared to go through a few pairs of gloves.
If you would prefer an afternoon soiree, consider doing individually wrapped ice cream treats. Grab a few boxes at the store for some variety and make a fun poster showing everyone the options (older kids can help draw a picture of each item). Consider having one dairy-free option, too, or keep it super simple with something like Otter Pops.
I also did some posters to help people find our house and to help direct traffic since we live on a hill with a single driveway up and down.
3. Video Party!
Another fun way to keep the celebration going is to have a video chat session with your child’s friends. Depending on their personality, one on one calls may be better but, a group call can work if you put in a little bit of structure to prevent it from being a bunch of kids talking over each other. Consider using an app like House Party or coming up with a fun, easy game like Pictionary to provide some content. The last thing you want is a bunch of kids just staring at each other in silence on video chat!
4. Special Visitors
Many police and fire departments have been making special house calls to wish kids happy birthday during this pandemic. Usually, you can contact the agency directly or, if you have a contact, they can often put in the request on your behalf.
We did put in a request for our local Sheriff but, unfortunately, they did not show. This may be a good thing to keep as a surprise so you don’t get your child’s hopes up too much.
5. Freezing Time
This is truly an interesting time in the world and you can use this as an opportunity for create something that you and your child can look back on in the future. Consider making a time capsule (digital or an actual, tangible one) or even just have your child write a letter to themselves and date it for 10 or 20 years in the future. Imagine looking back as a 20-something and having my daughter read about that birthday she celebrated at home.
All in all, the day went as planned and my daughter really enjoyed it. Instead of just a single event, I think she enjoyed making the whole day all about her. We were also much more lenient with her on eating, watching TV, iPad time and bedtime – basically, a kid’s dream come true!
What other ideas do you have for celebrating during this unusual time?