This spring, birthday parties aren’t going to be what they used to be. Everyone knows the situation we’re in, but that’s hard to explain to kids who have been enthusiastically planning parties in their heads for months. The good news is, your child’s day can be every bit as special—just different—with these ideas.
Talking to the Birthday Child
Start by explaining the why behind social distancing. Tell your little one that we’re not hosting events or gathering in groups so that we can work together to make sure people stay healthy. Let the birthday child know that you understand why celebrations are so much fun—because people can get together and enjoy each other’s company—and reiterate that although we’re not doing that right now, we will eventually be able to celebrate with our loved ones again.
So, What About the Party?
If you have to postpone the party to a later date, Elizabeth Restauri, owner of Total Imagination Events, recommends sending a creative notification via email. You can create your own PDF complete with a customized design on the Canva app, an easy-to-use graphic design platform. Ask your child if they’d like to help you make the updated invitation, which can give them a sense of control and excitement for the day the event can finally happen.
Since we’re all a bit unsure about how long we’ll have to continue with social distancing, keep the announcement you send out brief. Write a note that says something like, “While we’re postponing this party right now, a later date will be announced.” If you plan on canceling the party altogether, a simple email notification will do.
Give Your Child Hope
Disappointment around a postponed party is inevitable. Restauri says one of the best ways you can help your child understand that their event is forthcoming, and won’t be forgotten, is by wrapping a framed photo that represents the theme of their soirée. If they’re going to have a tropical party, for example, print out a picture of Hawaii. Or if the event was going to be hosted at a trampoline park, frame a picture of the venue.
Give it to your child as a gift on the morning of their birthday so they have something physical that shows there will be a party for them and their friends later. Suggest they place it on their nightstand or somewhere in their bedroom so they can look at it whenever they need a reminder. If you don’t have time to order a picture frame, create a ticket to the party. Include all of the fun details you have planned, and tell them to hold on to it until the party happens.
Get Festive With Decor
Since so much is uncertain right now, celebrate big on your child’s actual birthday. Use any decorations that you may have already purchased for their party and get creative with other supplies that you have at home.
Restauri suggests busting out the Christmas lights the night before the birthday and stringing balloons from ribbon or making a colorful paper chain to serve as garland. You can do this in your living room, a playroom, or wherever you anticipate spending the most time together on their birthday. When your child wakes up to a completely different environment than they’re used to, it will make them feel special and will be a surprise that they’ll always remember.
If you’re short on decorations, don’t overthink it—just use items from around your house. Grab some couch cushions and blankets and make a fort, or turn bed sheets and a broom into a teepee. This will give your child a unique spot to celebrate throughout the day.
Another way to make the day memorable is to deck out your front yard. Large signs are available in select areas of Colorado from yard sign rental companies, such as Card My Yard or Sign Gypsies. The companies deliver, set up, and take down the signs for you, so it’s a no-contact way to add some cheer to your child’s day. Take the surprise a step further by setting up specific times throughout the day for each of your child’s friends to drive by in their parents’ cars and sing happy birthday from a distance.
Lindsey Morgan, owner of Bello & Blue Events, suggests that parents who are on a tighter budget simply make their own signs. This is the perfect opportunity to get creative, involve siblings, and make something your child will love. Write something like, “Honk! It’s my birthday!” or “Cheer for the birthday boy!” so people driving by can play a role in the celebration.
Don’t Forget Dessert
Can’t pick up or have your child’s birthday cake delivered? No worries. Baking your own dessert is a fun activity that you can do together the day of or the night before. My Make Studio in Denver is offering decorate-your-own cupcake kits for pick-up and delivery. With your order, you’ll receive cake mix, icing, and plenty of decorations to make the treats look complete. All you need to add to the mix is oil and water.
If baking isn’t your forte, set up a decadent ice cream sundae bar instead. Serve up a couple ice cream flavors, and set out a variety of toppings, such as colorful sprinkles, crumbles of candy bars, gummy bears, hot fudge, and whipped cream.
Celebrating the Big Day
To boost excitement on your child’s day, schedule events throughout the day and display those activities in a visual way. Write out a list of everything you plan to do for your child, and hang it on your refrigerator or tack it to your bulletin board. This will help them see that even though they aren’t having their party, they’re still being celebrated all day long.
Kick off the day by hosting a virtual party on Zoom or HouseParty, two platforms that have become very popular these days. Invite your child’s friends to join so they can all interact with each other and feel connected. Designate an hour or so for them to catch up and wish your child a happy birthday. If you’d rather not have a video call, Morgan also suggests asking the parents of your child’s friends to text you videos of them sending a wish or singing happy birthday.
Next, elevate gift time by creating a treasure hunt that leads to their loot. Hide their gifts and leave written clues around your house and backyard that will help them find their prize.
End the day by watching a movie inside the teepee or fort you made, just be sure to face your creation toward the television so you can watch it on the big screen. Take it up a notch: If you have a projector, host an outdoor movie night (weather permitting) and make popcorn and s’mores for your entire family.
When the At-Home Party Ends
When your family celebration comes to an end, gently remind your child one more time that their party with friends will come as soon as social distancing requirements end. Ask your little one what their favorite part of their birthday at home was, and consider incorporating that into their real party.
Morgan also suggests planning what you want to do for their birthday next year. Write your ideas down on paper and set them aside to reference when the time comes. “Looking ahead,” she explains, “can help us focus on the positive and make us realize what we’re grateful for.”