How to Throw a Kid’s Virtual Birthday Party While Social Distancing
For your kid’s birthday bash last year, you threw a DIY pizza party followed by an epic ice cream sundae buffet. And the year before that you organized a Frozen-themed event that even managed to cater to her vegan, gluten-free and refined sugar-free classmates. In other words, you’re a party planning pro.
But social distancing poses an entirely new challenge (keeping six feet apart from friends and family doesn’t exactly say festive). So, how do you safely celebrate your child’s special day—and get some relief from the grim—during a global pandemic? Here are 12 creative ideas for how to throw a virtual birthday party that’s guaranteed to bring plenty of joy to the guest of honor and all who attend (from a safe distance, of course).
1. Gather family and friends on a video-call
The first step to hosting a virtual birthday bash is familiarizing yourself with the technology. Using a video conferencing service like Zoom or Google Hangouts, your kid can connect with all his favorite friends and enjoy some shared fun—without sharing any germs. These platforms are easy to navigate and have built-in features like a chatroom function as well as the ability to mute other mics—a handy tool for party games (more on that below).
2. Prepare some games
Before you dial into your Zoom party, plan some activities so that the virtual fete doesn’t take a turn toward chaos (or end up a total snooze-fest). Come up with a few games and let the other parents know beforehand so they can get organized on their end.
Here are a few ideas to get started:
- Pin the tail on the donkey. It’s the classic party game except in this version, there are a dozen different donkeys. Ask parents to get set up on their end by hanging a drawing or print out of a donkey on the wall and giving their kid a paper “tail” with a push pin or thumbtack poked through it. Children can still take turns like in the original game: While one person pins the tail, the rest of the group gets to watch their friend get dizzy and look silly while eagerly awaiting their chance to do the same. Will it be slightly chaotic? Probably. But it’s guaranteed to get the under-10 set giggling.
- Mad Libs. Create and share a long Mad Libs story with parents in advance (ask them to print it out before the party starts) so each kid can be equipped with the same page of potential laughs. Everyone can fill it out separately in real-time and take turns reading their version at the end for multiple rounds of ridiculousness.
- Pictionary. Ask parents to set up a poster board within view of the camera (a big sheet of paper taped up to the wall will suffice). Then kids can take turns creating pictures based on a secret suggestion provided by their parent while the other children try to guess what they’re drawing. (A chicken wearing a hat? A fish reading a book?) Definitely take advantage of the chatroom so the artist’s teammate (i.e., the parent) can read the goofy guesswork aloud without players talking over one another.
3. Make it a dance party
Here’s another way to crank up the fun on your kid’s virtual birthday bash: Make an upbeat playlist and tell everyone to mute their mics. Then when it’s time to boogie down, the party-goers can bust a move to the same music at the same time.
4. Host a Netflix partyIf your kid is older, download the Netflix Chrome extension that allows viewers to chat and watch the streaming service together at the same time. You can even add screenshots, gifs and emojis to the conversation. And the best part? The extension is completely free and quick to install. So let your teen grab her friends, make some popcorn and get this To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before streaming party started.
5. Visit the museum
Your kid is obsessed with dinosaurs/whales/penguins. Which is why you were planning a special birthday trip to the natural history museum (or the zoo) this year. While your outing may be postponed, your daughter can still marvel at his favorite things—in this digital era many museums have put their collections online or created virtual tours. From Boston's Children Museum and the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre to the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, there are plenty of options to keep young minds entertained. Here are 12 of our favorite virtual museum tours for kids.
6. Go all out on the decorations
Things are weird right now and your kid might not be feeling too excited about celebrating this milestone without her friends. One way to liven the mood? Style out the venue—be it your car or your home—with a birthday banner, flags, streamers, eco-friendly confetti and more. And don’t forget to snap lots of pictures—this birthday will definitely be one for the scrapbook.
3 Must-Have Party Items
7. Ask friends and family to make video cardsGive the traditional birthday card a modern upgrade by making it interactive. Ask friends and family to record their birthday wishes and then use a service like Tribute or the Marco Polo app to create a personalized video montage. Your kid will be surprised, delighted and feel all the love.
8. Make it themed
There’s no need to go crazy here or make a special trip to the store. Instead, pick an easy theme that you know your child will enjoy and let virtual party guests know beforehand. Think: Superhero theme (aka a great excuse to bring out last year’s Halloween costume) or pajama party (great for the under-5 set).
9. Ask guests to bring something
Coming over with a wrapped present is a social distancing no-no, but attendees can still gift the birthday kid something special. Children who are musically inclined can regale the guest of honor with their own rendition of “happy birthday” or other ditty. Those who have been busy crafting can show off their art work. Or for the ultimate heartwarming gift, ask guests to share their favorite thing or memory about your kid. Aww...
10. Or plan a drive-by surprise partyLooking for a birthday party idea that doesn’t involve a screen? Hop in the car and go for a ride. Seeing friends in the flesh—even from afar—is something to celebrate in and of itself right now, so if you’ve got wheels, use ‘em. Reach out to the parents of nearby friends with a date and time to take to the porch (stoops, windows and front lawns all work, too) for a drive-by pop-up party. To really ramp up the fun factor, encourage families to string up some decorations outside their homes or make banners (hey, craft activities are all the rage right now). Other suggestions to include on the invite? Whoops, cheers, air hugs, confetti and noisemakers are a few extras that will help start the party off with a bang.
Once the drive-by is planned and everyone is on board, all you have to do is get your kid in the car with you. Roll down the windows and take off on a tour of the ‘hood, stopping by each pal’s pad to listen to a happy birthday serenade. Best of all, you can disguise this joyride as a toilet paper run—now that’s a big surprise that will bring even bigger smiles.
11. Throw a birthday parade
If you need to stay home, consider asking friends and loved ones to put on a birthday parade for your kid. The idea is similar to the drive-by celebration except for this time, the guest of honor stays put while friends and loved ones roll up in their cars, pausing to shout birthday wishes from a safe distance. Who says no-contact means no fun?
12. Don’t forget the cake
Whether your kid is into cookies-and-cream, rainbow sprinkles or chocolate chips, having a delicious birthday treat to celebrate the occasion is a must. And sure, it’s sad that your child’s friends can’t come over to watch him blow out the candles, but look on the bright side…that just means there’s more cake for the birthday boy.