At the beginning of the Coronavirus outbreak, I felt sad seeing on Facebook and Instagram so many of my friend’s and family’s kids’ birthdays being celebrated at home. Especially here in India, where parents rise to unprecedented levels in putting together elaborate parties with friends, family, and classmates, often with fifty or more people in attendance.
In March, I thought for sure things would be back to normal by our daughter’s birthday in June. It’s not going to happen. And while we’ve been preparing our daughter for the inevitable, I’ve also been preparing myself. I’ve been taking note of the pictures, videos, and messages online of parents making the most of celebrating birthdays at home. I’ve also been doing my own online research. Here are 7 tips to help you celebrate your child’s birthday at home. Just because we aren’t going to Tumble House or the mall, doesn’t mean we can’t have an awesome and memorable birthday this year.
How to Celebrate Birthday at Home?
Tip #1 It’s Up to the Parents to Make the Birthday Memorable
No pressure, but let’s be honest, this tip is a lot easier to talk about than to actually pull off. Many of the usual activities we depend on for a memorable birthday party are likely not available this year. Chances are, compared to previous years, there will not be as many presents, few friends if any that can come over, no place to go, and nothing really to see or do outside your home.
So, what will you have to work with? As far as people, at best there is the birthday boy or girls’ parents, maybe siblings and other family members living with you, or close friends you are “quaranteaming” with at home. And what will you decorate with? Well, whatever you happen to have at home. (Deep Sigh)
The pressure is on us this year to make this birthday celebration memorable. So, we need to plan in a way that we haven’t had before. No problem. Our internet still works. There are blogs, parenting websites, Instagram, and Pinterest pages for ideas. While I have no doubt you can do this, I also know we’re going to need to put our phones away on the day of the party and give our kids our full attention. That my friends, and a few tips here, are all you need to make this the best pandemic birthday experience your kid has ever had!
Tip #2 Start Planning Early
Understand that for many of us, tip 2 is essential because there’s no last-minute running to the store, taking the kids out for pizza, going out to a movie, or buying a birthday present. You must start early. My daughter’s birthday is June 5, today is May 15, and I’m already feeling the pressure.
Tip #3 Include Your Kid in the Planning
This tip reminds me of one of our nephews. When he was five or six, this nephew would spend 45 minutes explaining the rules to a game, and then only 15 minutes actually playing the game. I’m not exaggerating.
This also reminds me of when I was a boy, my family would often take a family trip to Galveston, a beach in Texas, almost every summer. My brother and I would spend hours daydreaming about these trips, trying to decide if we’d swim or fish first.
My daughter and I recently planned a home-based, surprise Mother’s Day at the spa. From the day I proposed the activity till Mother’s Day, my daughter and I spent days whispering, exchanging ideas, making food and spa menus, while secretly collecting all we could find of the trial size bottles of lotion, shampoos, and conditioners we collect when traveling.
Kids love to plan an event, often more than the event itself.
While every kid is different, if your kid tends to enjoy the planning more than the event, consider planning their birthday party together. When it comes to most of the following tips, consider if this is an opportunity to plan and execute the birthday party together.
Tip #4 Choose a Theme Together
The tip might be obvious to some, but I want to stress how much more important this tip will be this year, when celebrations will have to be at home.
When it comes to choosing a theme for really young kids, 3 to 5 years old, they might need your help selecting a theme. But who knows, those five-year-old kids can have strong opinions too. For these kids, I would present them with a few options related to their interests and let them choose.
Children 6 and older will more than likely know precisely what kind of birthday they want to have. Last year for our daughter’s fifth birthday, we talked her into a pirates-and-princesses theme, but this year, her mind is set on Wonder Woman. Done.
While I’m not worried about my daughter changing her mind this year, that could have been a possibility in previous years. Keep this in mind as you collaborate with your kid on their theme of choice.
Tip #5 Your Most Unique Birthday Invite Yet
The first tip really should be to consider whether you even need an invitation this year? Wow, that just sounds sad, but it’s also realistic considering the situation we are all in.
If the answer is yes, when considering the invitation, remember this tip: the invitation will likely need to reflect the different kinds of birthday activities you’ll be doing this year. Here are a few considerations:
- Consider a scheduled Zoom or Skype call with friends and family to sing Happy Birthday, to participate in the party, or in a specific activity. In the invitation, be sure to provide the Zoom link, the time they should login, and any instructions of what will be taking place and what you need from them.
- When considering utilizing technology like Zoom or Skype, remember you can have different people logon at different times. You can schedule a call with a best friend in the morning, then after lunch a call with the grandparents, and in the evening a call with everyone to sing Happy Birthday to your kid.
- Use the invitation to invite friends and family to send you a short clip wishing the kid Happy Birthday. Another option would be to have friends and family send a photo of them holding a sign wishing the kid Happy Birthday. You can then put these clips and pictures together in a slide show to watch on the day of the celebration.
- Whatever you choose, however your birthday activities are coming together, I would again suggest collaborating with the birthday kid in creating the invitations. Let them design the invitation based on the theme. They can either draw or choose the graphics they want to use. Let them help with the birthday message, the list of who to invite, and anything else they want to add to the invite.
- If attending in person, Zooming, or Skyping, ask the birthday invitees to also dress up according to the birthday theme.
Tip #6 Decorate with What You Have
For this tip, I have two suggestions. First, use what you have at home, and trust me, it will be enough. And two, if possible, let the birthday kid help. Here are a few tips.
- Include the birthday kid when you are looking for ideas and decorating the house.
- With the theme in mind, look around the house and consider everything. Are you doing a pirate theme, and the birthday kid has a few boats he likes to play with in the tub, you have a tabletop decoration. Because my daughter will almost surely go with a Wonder Woman theme, I have a few Amazon boxes downstairs I will be repurposing into a shield. Go through their toys, your closets, the trinkets and novelties on display and in storage. Everything is usable.
- Consider decorating the front of the house. Even if it’s just a sign that wishes the kiddo happy birthday, it’ll be special. And be sure to incorporate the theme somehow!
- Look through your holiday decorations. We can use a string of lights for most any theme. They’re just cool. Valentine Day hearts, Easter’s eggs, spooky Halloween items, consider it all. And what did you use for last year’s birthday? Any left-over balloons, streamers, silly string?
- School supplies, art supplies, old cardboard boxes, poster board, anything artsy and crafty available should be considered.
This year I think I’m going to collect everything, and one evening, a week before my daughter’s birthday, put it all out on the dining room table. That next morning, I will surprise her and tell her we have a week to decorate the house for her birthday party. Here is what we have to work with. What do you want to do first?
Is an hour or so a day, a week before the birthday, too much work together on decorating the house? Putting together a homemade Wonder Woman outfit? Randomly crisscrossing the living room with streamers? Baking a cake? I think not!
Tip #7 What to Do When We’re Stuck
If you feel stuck, you’re not alone. My last tip, check out Pinterest or Instagram. Google, “ideas to celebrate your kid’s birthday at home.” Or check out my blog, 7 Fun Activities to Help You Celebrate Your Kid’s Birthday at Home. There are ideas, print outs, recipes, all kinds of craft craziness at your fingertips. But you have to be clear on Tip 1, it’s up to you, and Tip 2, start early. A half-hour to an hour a day, you’ll be there in no time. And if you can do any of the planning and doing with the birthday kid, both of you will have a memorable experience.
None of This is Easy
None of this is easy. We are out of our element. What we’ve depended on for years—go out to dinner, see a movie, invite friends over, buy a cake, hire a clown, few if any of these options are available. We’re sad, our kid is sad, this birthday business can be a potential mess. Here’s the thing, and you know it’s true: whatever you’ve got planned and can pull off on their birthday, if you’re giving them your full attention and making the day about them, you can’t go wrong. Does that mean they’re bummed about their friends not coming over, probably. But you can’t control that. But what you can control is giving your kid the attention they need on their special day. Focus on that. So, if you’re having doubts, let me reassure you, so you can reassure them, whatever is missing on their special day can be made up once we figure out this pandemic mess. Maybe make a list of what they want to do for Birthday Part 2 when it’s safe to go back out into the world.