A birthday party should be joyful, fun, and an awesome experience of togetherness & celebration.   There’s no reason that we can’t accomplish these goals in the next few months…and still be safe.

Here are a few ideas that I’ve come up with:

  1. Remember your celebration goals!
  2. Limit the number of guests for now…don’t invite the whole class.
  3. Plan for easy and obvious social distancing.
  4. Offer fun, colorful masks, or have a mask decorating craft.
  5. Keep the kids busy with socially responsible games.
  6. Hire a magician or other entertainer who can work with a distancing plan.
  7. Continue to invite relatives and friends from a distance to attend via Zoom!
  8. Plan to have a great time!

Remember your celebration goals!

Aren’t birthdays about celebrating the guest of honor, and expressing how happy we are to have that special human in our lives?   So if that’s the idea…then all we have to do is remember that.   Yes, decor and matching plates are good to have…but so are signs hanging around the yard saying “Happy Birthday Alice” (which will show up in every picture).  Also, make up games that are centered around Alice…maybe a quiz about her that everyone has to answer…or a participation game of ring toss with unicorn horns (whatever is her favorite).  Make the whole celebration about Alice.

Limit the number of guests for now…don’t invite the whole class.

Remember that the suggested limit to social gatherings may be as low as 10 guests, and if you only have one child…then with you and your significant other…that’s already 3!  So keep the guest list down.   Take a good look at your house and be realistic.  Also…I’d suggest inviting a family or two that you can spend some special time with…rather than 10 children only.   The group of children will be harder to keep away from each other if they don’t have their parents there with them.   More intimate family events can be very special.

Plan for easy and obvious social distancing.

You don’t have to paint circles around the grass in your yard for each family…but you can throw out blankets in different areas for each family.  You can set up the food and cake so that people can eat with their families, etc…without having to all share the kitchen table.   Just take a minute to plan how to make it easy for your guests.   If you have a plan…then they will be much more likely to comply.   Also, in your invitations, let the guests know that you will be planning on trying to make the social distancing as fun as possible…but that statement will stress that you will be practicing social distancing.   I think everyone is tempted to just say, “Forget it all, and let’s go back to living.”  But you don’t want your event to be the one that keeps the virus alive (in all of your friends!)

Offer fun, colorful masks, or have a mask decorating craft.

Meet your guests at the door with a fun sigh that basically says “Masks please!”   You don’t have to lay down a hard line about it, just be up front about it!  You can even order special, fun, masks for all of your guests. 

Or, you can buy disposable masks and make the first participation activity be that all of the guest families decorate their own masks.     Use  stickers,  especially shiny reflective ones (or jewels), or even monster stickers for boys…either way, have fun with it.   My friend is a medical worker, and he decorates his mask every day…just to make it less intrusive for his patients.

Keep the kids busy with socially responsible games.

You can find multiple lists of circle games by searching online.   Just make your circle bigger, with less children in it.   You can even make a circle rope…and tie a ribbon at each spot where a child should be…that helps everyone know where the correct distance apart is.

Dance parties, or sing-along-songs for smaller children are great.   Dance parties might include the song Y.M.C.A. or The Chicken Dance.  Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes for the little children. Again a quick search for children’s sing-alongs on YouTube will result in a ton of results.

Any form of follow the leader games are perfect.  Just remember to be enthusiastic!

Also, after getting the kids moving…then sit them down and have them color birthday cards for “Alice”.  The idea here is…get them up moving, and then sit them down doing something quiet…then repeat that cycle over and over again!

Try to think of things that take advantage of the distance.  Give everyone a pool noodle, and have them pass a ring around a circle from noodle to noodle.  I can think of a lot of things with pool noodles, as they are colorful, fun, and add distance.  Run a search for “Pool Noodle Games,” you won’t be disappointed.

Hire a magician or other entertainer who can work with a distancing plan.

Whether you hire a magician, or a princess…make sure that their program can be done from a distance.  Face painting traditionally spreads an amazing amount of germs, so I wouldn’t recommend traditional face painting at this time.   Also, if you hire a balloon artist…don’t let then keep the kids in a line (without spacing), and don’t let them make swords for the boys (the boys will not be able to resist attacking each other).

Continue to invite relatives and friends from a distance to attend on via Zoom!

One of the best new ideas to come of this social distancing phenomenon is that relatives (even those that live far away) have been able to attend birthday parties for the first time.  Why not invite them along to a regular party in this new world?   Have someone carry around on a laptop or I-pad, with a bunch of long distance guests. Then you can share the birthday festivities with the whole fam-dambly.   Grand parents will enjoy it more than you would believe.

Plan to have a great time!

No matter what…enjoy yourself.  Stop and enjoy the party…don’t worry if things didn’t go exactly according to plan…have fun anyway!  Have a friend take a lot of pictures for you, and just let yourself feel the joy of the moment.   If you are having fun, your child will be having fun, and so will all the other guests.   Plan for it! Remember, joy is valuable, so make room for it in your life.

Dune Johnson is the foremost family-fun expert.