Celebrating another year of your child’s birthday during the pandemic can be stressful and disappointing. As much as we all want to return to normal as quickly as possible, it’s still better to be safe than risk COVID being spread in your community. Though kids see each other at school, having a big group of friends and adults come over to celebrate may still feel uncomfortable, especially if your children under 12 cannot receive the COVID vaccine yet.
However, there are several ways you can throw a fun, in-person birthday party safely. Following the CDC guidelines for social gatherings, here are a few tips to keep in mind as you get to planning.
The CDC recommends holding gatherings outdoors as it is safer than meeting indoors. It allows for more ventilation and space for people to practice social distancing. Guests should wear masks at all times except while eating. Create a sanitizer station with extra masks in case kids forget them or lose them during the party. Some venue ideas are picnics by bodies of water, at the park, near a playground, or just in the backyard!
Keep it a small guest list of around 5 or 6 other children, depending on the size of your party venue. You may only be able to invite 2 or 3 guests if your space is smaller. Ensure the party doesn’t go on for more than 2 hours to minimize risk. With small children, aim to have at the most four or five other adults present to help supervise. If the kids are old enough to go without supervision, limit it to 2 families outside of your household.
Ask your child what is important to them. Do they want particular friends to be there and are willing to change plans to make other families feel more comfortable? Is there a particular food or theme they want for their party? You may need to find alternatives to your child’s wants. For example, if they want a bounce house, you may need to settle for having their party at the playground instead. If they want to watch a movie, set up a projector outside to display it against a screen or blank wall.
Here are a few creative party ideas and activities to make it a fun and safe time:
- Kite Flying Party: Everyone gets a kite to fly together.
- Kickball Game: Kickball is a great way to get kids active and socially distanced especially if you invite a larger group.
- Drive-In Movie Night: Project the movie on a screen or wall outdoors. Kids have personalized cardboard “cars” to sit in and their own snack boxes to enjoy.
- Bubble Soccer: Bubble Soccer Oregon provides rentals that include bubble suits kids can wear and bump into each other. It’s a fun activity that keeps them physically safe by literally encasing their upper body in a plastic bubble!
- Squirt Gun Battle: You can also use nerf guns instead for a cooler day. You can purchase super soakers or have kids bring their own. Kids will naturally socially distance themselves as they avoid getting hit with water!
- Crafts or Science Kit: Many kids have done art or DIY crafts together in the past couple of years to celebrate birthdays. You can also have kids do a science kit together and create fun concoctions. Depending on your child’s interest, there are tons of ideas out there for various age groups.
- Scavenger Hunts: Who doesn’t love a good scavenger hunt? Kids of all ages can explore the area looking for different objects. You can have kids draw an object they found that matches each letter of the alphabet or list of colors. For older kids, you can do a photo scavenger hunt where they need to take pictures of objects that match a list.
When preparing food for guests, purchase prepackaged food and drinks instead of going for a buffet-style meal or shared snacks. You can have juice boxes, labeled water bottles for each guest, and individually wrapped snacks. You can also create personal snack boxes or prepare separate bags with candies and other fun snacks like wrapped cake pops, bagged cookies, or fruit snacks.
Instead of having a cake to share, you can also serve cupcakes instead. Your child can blow out their candles away from the other desserts on their cupcake or a small individual-size cake. Despite the changes, you want to make sure it still feels like a birthday party.
Though you may need to get creative with your child’s birthday party, keeping them feel safe and making them feel loved and celebrated are the most important things.
Emily currently lives in Orange County, California after spending four years in Illinois and half a year teaching in Florence, Italy. She holds a B.A. in English Literature from Knox College and an M.A. in Counseling from the University of San Diego and has taught English to native speakers and ESL students for over three years. When she’s not working as a School Counselor or writing, she enjoys traveling the world, playing instruments, and blogging about Millennial experiences at Long Live the Twenties.