‘COVID-friendly’ has become a standard descriptor in this new normal we are all adjusting to, so it’s only fitting that we bring it into the world of celebrations and birthdays. I’m sure the March through June birthdays of 2020 had birthdays like no other. I am hoping everyone got creative and found ways to connect, have fun, and make great memories! If not, fear not! Pop these ideas into your back pocket for your wee one’s next birthday celebration!
Party on, safely!
I’m assuming most birthdays since March have relied on Zoom calls with friends and/or relatives or the oh- so-festive drive-by parades, which I love! Who doesn’t want to have a parade dedicated to them? However, I’m guessing parades will get old quickly once you have had one, unless you take it to the next level and book the Calgary Fire Department’s fire truck birthday drive-by! A super flashy and exciting moment for little (and big kids) but again, once may be amazing, but the second time may not feel as special.
My first suggestion is for those who are still not comfortable with hosting children in their home or backyard and prefer digital options for celebrating. Zoom, Skype, Whatsapp, and Facetime have all been wonderful platforms to stay connected with friends and family during this pandemic, but I am sure we all have experienced those calls where there are too many people trying to talk at once or not talking at all. Getting a group of children on a call must be structured in a way that keeps them engaged yet manageable, so everyone feels involved and has fun.
A learning opportunity, like knot-tying, painting, cookie decorating, LEGO-building, magic tricks, or science experiments could be the party theme. Preparing kits ahead of time and dropping them off to each child invited to the party the day before the event is something you and your child can do together. It’s also exciting for the invitees to receive and prep before the party starts. Depending on the chosen activity, you can teach the class yourself or call on another parent, friend, or even a neighbor who may have a fun skill to teach. Whoever is teaching the class, make sure they know to constantly check in with the kids to see how they are doing, keeping them engaged and also keeping the party lively!
Another safe option for wee ones to celebrate their birthday online would be Show & Tell. Send out electronic invitations and request that each invitee has an item ready for the party that they want to Show & Tell. This is a great way to give each child an opportunity to speak and have the floor, but it is also entertainment for the rest of the party-goers. You could even make it a contest and have the birthday person choose the best Show & Tell’er and they get a prize that will be delivered to their house after the party.
Pictionary and charades are two games that can also work in an online format. A little prep work ahead of time is required. Hand-delivered invitations to the birthday party could include little slips of paper with the items they could either act out or draw for the other participants to guess.
COVID may even bring back the art of invitations for birthdays because you can add a goodie bag, instructions for games, or even game pieces. A special delivery for any child will be met with excitement and anticipation. The kids will love it! The tough part will be to get the kids to keep the special delivery intact until birthday celebration day, so maybe invitations first and then deliver the party packs the day before the birthday party is the better option.
An option that has a little more human interaction would be to do a birthday car rally. Prepare clues ahead of time and have all party-goers, along with their parents, meet in a large open parking lot, parking a safe distance away from each other. Sporting a mask if you can’t properly distance and with clean hands, hand out the car rally instructions and clues. For example, you could do a car rally based on the birthday child’s most favorite things: hockey arena, restaurant, store, park, playground, etc.
Or what about a scavenger hunt through your neighborhood? Each invitee can head out with their parents, individually hunting for clues or items placed around your neighborhood, like ‘find the house with the turquoise door. How many stairs are in front of the door?’ Once complete, kids can culminate at a park or a big backyard where you can have pre-packaged individual snacks or lunch boxes that kids can enjoy while they tell tales of their hunt. Prizes can be given for first place or most items/clues collected.
The next idea also falls into the ‘more human contact’ category, but with a few tricks it can be a safe experience for everyone and can be a craft to keep kids busy prior to the event. Host your own drive-in movie! Each kid will need to design their own homemade car and bring it to the birthday party. Include an instruction sheet with your invitation. The cars would be made out of cardboard boxes the children can decorate. The kids must be able to sit inside of their chosen ‘car.’ Once they arrive at the party, they will see x’s on the lawn where they are to park their cars for the drive-in. These markers will, of course, be six feet apart from each other. Using a projector and a white sheet or wall, play the chosen movie; you could even do this inside a garage with the door open if the weather isn’t cooperative. To keep the kids in place, there is a little work for you because you are the hostess handing out popcorn, licorice, pop, and other movie treats throughout the movie (again, sporting a mask if you can’t properly distance and handing out the party treats with clean hands). Just for the photo op alone, this birthday party theme is a winner! Kids in their homemade cars, watching a drive-in movie? Adorable!
Unfortunately, we have had to get used to this new way of life and we don’t know how long it will last, so in my opinion, please don’t delay celebrations. They are more critical now than ever before. Be creative. No matter what you come up with, it will give your child lasting positive memories that will help them and your family get through this.
Stay safe and healthy and celebrate every opportunity you can!
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