Many parents are facing a similar challenge this year: organizing a birthday party at home for their kids. I recently talked to a good friend in Delhi who shared that his daughter was disappointed in the celebration he and his wife put together despite their best efforts. My daughter’s birthday is in June. As I start to think about and research what I think she will enjoy, I’m also preparing myself. Despite my best efforts, I can’t control her reaction. She could be disappointed, and you know what, that’s ok. None of this is easy.
If you are organizing a birthday party at home this year and your options are minimized by the pandemic, check out another recent blog of mine, 7 Tips to Celebrate an Awesome Birthday at Home. While that blog focuses on the basics like choosing a theme, creating the invitations, and decorating your house, this blog will focus on the kinds of activities you can do at home on the big day. After going through the activities, spend some time thinking about all the things your kid loves to do and explore which ones you can potentially include on their birthday.
One of our biggest challenges is that we are home all day together. Usually, a birthday party is over within two or more hours. But when you’re stuck at home, the same place you’ve been for the past three months, and it’s your birthday, there’s a lot of time to think about how it doesn’t measure up to previous birthdays.
If your kid is like mine, she’s been planning her birthday since last fall. So, my first tip, come up with a plan of activities that spread throughout the day. Some of the activities I will let her pick and choose, while a few will be surprises. At the end of the blog, I’ll share a sample schedule based on what I know she loves to help give you an idea of what we will be doing. I hope these activities will help you get your own creative juices flowing. Good luck and remember, the most important gift is to give them our full attention on their special day. Fun, disappointment, or both, they’ll remember you spent the day together.
Fun Activities for Your Kid’s Birthday at Home
Activity 1—Bake the Cake and Cook the Meals Together
One of my big messages in Tips to Celebrating an Awesome Birthday at Home is to include the birthday kid in as much of the planning and doing as possible. With any of these activities, if the birthday kid shows no interest or aptitude for baking a cake or making a homemade pizza, skip it.
My first suggestion is to let the birthday boy or girl choose all the meals on their big day. My daughter and I recently made mom breakfast in bed for Mother’s Day. Our kid loved it. I’m guessing 95% of all kids would too. Perhaps I’ll try to make it a surprise, or that might prove to be too difficult, she likes to get up early with me. Either way, she’ll be picking what she wants for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
For the birthday cake, it’s a “no brainer.” Let them choose the flavor and again, unless they totally hate cooking, bake it together earlier in the week. Decorate it together according to the theme of the birthday. One last tip, I’ve discovered quite a few homemade ice cream recipes online that don’t require an ice cream maker. This might be a fun activity. After the ice cream is ready, most of the recipes lend themselves to adding toppings like gummy bears, sprinkles, and whip cream. Again, the more we give our birthday kid options, the more individualized and fun the day becomes.
Activity 2—Who Doesn’t Love to Camp Out?
I do recognize that some of these activities will require more of you than others! This might be the most time and energy-consuming activity here. At the same time, camping out for most kids has a huge fun upside.
If you have a garden or a terrace, and if the weather is right, then camp outside. Put up a tent, bring out the sleeping bags, and the projector for an evening movie of their choice. So many options.
If you don’t have a back yard, or the weather is too hot and humid, then camp indoors! You can still put up a tent, unroll the sleeping bags, blow up an air mattress, whatever it takes, whatever gets the kid excited.
Homemade smores, a scary movie or story, playing a board game by lantern light, download a track of forest sounds from iTunes, you are only limited by your imagination . . . and what you can find through Google.
Activity 3—We’re Going on a Scavenger Hunt
While the camping tip might not be the best birthday activity surprise, it’s one of those activities that are fun to plan together, the scavenger hunt is a great activity that you can plan in secret.
I’ve written two blogs on the quintessential scavenger-treasure hunt, Best Scavenger Hunt Ideas for Kids and 7 Tips to Help You Plan a Scavenger Hunt for the Kids. Like camping out, depending on the age of the birthday kid, doing a scavenger hunt that a loved one put together can be anything else but fun. And remember, after the kiddo has completed a scavenger hunt or two, they’ll be more than ready to plan a scavenger hunt for you too. Check out the blogs for tips and ideas.
Activity 4—Who’s Up for a Board Game or Card Game Tournament
Does the birthday boy or girl have any favorite board games or card games? There’s no better way to spend an hour or two than playing their favorite games with family. While I think it’s crucial to follow the rules concerning social distancing, wearing masks, and staying close to home, for this and other activities, you can also possibly reach out to neighbors to borrow other board games your family might enjoy. Again, take all the necessary precautions.
One last suggestion, some board games can be played at two different locations. For example, if you have the game Battleship at home and the birthday kid’s best friend has Battleship at their house too, schedule a Zoom-FaceTime call. They can hang out and play against each other. A few other examples of games you can play over Zoom-FaceTime include:
- Dungeons and Dragons
Activity 5—Spend Some Time at the Spa
I don’t think any of these options should be based on your kid’s gender, including spa time! If your boy likes to be pampered or needs a bath, consider it! Check out another blog to help you get started where I describe the home spa day my daughter and I put together for my wife at How to Celebrate Mother’s Day at Home. The three of us had a blast, and so I know already this will be a winning activity for our daughter’s birthday.
Activity 6—Birthday Movie Marathon
Again, here’s the thing with any of these tips. It’s the little things you can add to make the experience more memorable. Here are a few ideas to help you get started:
- First, check out Netflix’s Party option. We haven’t done this yet, but I can’t wait to try it out. Basically, Netflix subscribers can watch a movie together at different locations. Netflix can synchronize the playback, anyone can pause the movie, there’s even a group chat so you can chat about the film while you watch it.
- Take the movie marathon outside. There’s nothing better than a backyard movie night if you have space, a projector, and a sheet.
- Create a menu of food options for the birthday kid. Include their favorite junk food. Come on, mom and dad, it’s their birthday, and they can’t go anywhere! Or have a surprise snack box of all their favorite treats ready to be consumed.
- Bring out the pillows, blankets, and turn off the lights for a birthday-movie-cuddle evening.
Activity 7— Play Games Online with Friends
If your kid is a gamer, this is a no-brainer. For this tip, you will definitely want to get the birthday kid’s input on what to play and who to play it with. Three of the games that lend themselves well to playing online with friends include Roblox, Fortnite, and Minecraft. Across all the major platforms like Xbox, Nintendo Switch and 3DS, and PlayStation, for example, being able to play with friends or other players is a standard feature.
Our Sample Schedule
While I haven’t begun to collaborate with my daughter yet about her birthday party, other than telling me what she’s wanted since September, and based on what I know she loves to do, here’s where I will start. And this might be a good exercise for you. Think through and list what your kid loves to do, then see what you might be able to do at home for their birthday.
- 8:00 AM : Breakfast in bed. More than likely, pancakes and bacon, her favorites.
- 9:00 AM : Walk our dog Taco. A daily activity she loves.
- 9:30 AM : Surprise her with Spa Day and a spa-inspired snack.
- 11:00 AM: Secretly order McDonald’s delivery. So, it’s here before noon, and I can make sure everything is sanitized. We haven’t ordered food delivery since the lockdown began, so this will be a first. Oh yeah, a Happy Meal with chicken nuggets, french fries, and Sprite. It’s her special day, right?!
- 1:00 PM Nap . . . for parents too!
- 2:00 PM Surprise Scavenger Hunt. Walk Taco again.
- 3:00 PM UNO card game and a snack.
- 4:00 PM Set up our campsite—put up the tent together, spread out the sleeping bags together, and arrange chairs or places to sit on the floor in a circle.
- 5:00 PM Cook dinner together. We do this often as a family. Making homemade pizza is a family standard.
- 6:00 PM Zoom-FaceTime family and friends to sing happy birthday and blow out the candles.
- 7:00 PM Movie Night + Cake + Treats
- 9:00 PM Head out to the campsite, which will more than likely be the living room. I’m not sure what we will exactly do, but telling stories and singing songs and watching Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, and Pearl Jam music videos come to mind. Oh yeah, and one more walk together with Taco as a family. We have a great neighborhood for evening walks.
It always helps me to layout activities like this so that I’m not overwhelmed or unsure of what
I am doing next. Again, I think one of the benefits of laying out your day like this is the birthday
kid doesn’t have a chance to be too sad when they’ve got another activity coming up. What is vital in setting up a day like this is you must be ready to “be on” all day.
Good luck. Again, this isn’t an easy event to plan when most of your regular options are limited. So be kind to yourself. Please share in the comments any ideas or activities you’ve organized at home for your child’s birthday.