My son turned 10 this month, and I have to admit, it was a bit of a bummer birthday. He had a great attitude and enjoyed some chocolate cake, but with the current quarantine and social distancing guidelines, his party was cancelled and his friends weren’t able to come over.
We know that those disappointments that may seem relatively small to us are a really big deal for kids. Especially older kids like my son, for whom socializing can be super important. It’s essential to acknowledge the realities and to speak to our kids honestly; we can tell them that a traditional birthday celebration may be in the cards right now, and also, that we know how important the day is to them.
We have heard from so many of you who are in the same situation, with a birthday coming up — or will be soon. In fact at this rate, nearly all of us will be trying to figure this out. So we’ve started to put together some of our favorite ideas for birthday parties during quarantines and social distancing — some ideas of our own, and some we’ve seen from creative parents out there doing the best they can under tough circumstances.
Whether you’re in the city or suburbs, celebrating a preschooler or a sweet sixteen, we hope you find a birthday party idea here that inspires you.
And hey, we also suggest you check out our post on 14 fun family birthday traditions you can do with your kids at home. With the whole family on board, we know you’ll be able to make the day special.
-Kate, with Liz
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1. Host a drive-by neighborhood birthday parade
Drive-by birthday via @lindseydoyle_8 via Instagram
One of the most popular ideas I’ve seen around the web is the drive-by birthday parade — provided you live in the suburbs of course, and your city or town is okay with driving around.
Just send a text or note (or hey, an online invitation) to your friends, tell them to load up the car with kids and handmade birthday signs, then they can take turns driving by your house slowly and cheering! Alternatively, you can ask people to come out of their own homes at a designated time while you do the driving around.
It’s a great idea for kids of any age with neighborhood friends — and not just for the birthday boy or girl! With so many people staying safe at home right now, they’ll be extra excited for a reason to get out and do something celebratory. My friend Lindsey executed this birthday idea for her daughter (above) and said it was really special to actually see faces of friends in real life, even if you can’t hug or hang out.
2. Send out goodie bags around a theme, then get together online to enjoy them
Goodie bags from Kristen’s DIY Slime Party
If you’re planning now for a party in a few week, you can put together thoughtful little packages to mail or drop off to each guest’s front door to make the party extra special.
Maybe order pottery and paint so the kids can all paint together. Put together a spa-in-a-box for your tweens or teens, and they can all mask together over FaceTime (which they’re probably doing anyway!) Break up a box of LEGO classic bricks along with 3 LEGO challenges, and you can have timed building competitions together. Send out DIY slime ingredients. If you’re an intrepid baker, send out a couple of plain cupcakes to each guest along with cupcake decorating supplies.
The ideas are endless — just pick a theme and get creative. And you need a birthday party theme idea, we have tons of them, from Minecraft to Hamilton, superheroes to Frozen.
3. Coordinate a virtual scavenger hunt for presents
Parents are sharing this idea, especially for their younger children’s birthdays, and it’s so simple and fun.
Just place your child’s gifts around the house (you can include your backyard if you have one and the weather holds). Then, send out clues to each gift’s location to your friends and family members. Think of them as riddles or rhymes.
Each time your child finds a gift, they have to FaceTime the next surprise “guest” for the next clue. Repeat!
Having all the presents wrapped with special gift wrap around your child’s favorite animal, theme, or color is a nice touch — love this dinosaur gift wrap from Paper Source!
Or if you have the time, here’s a way to make it even more special: Have grandparents or friends who want to send gifts mail them them to you in advance. (You can still wrap them.) Then, you can have each clue correspond to that person’s gift. This way, friends and family get to watch your child find and open their present, which I imagine most grandparents wish they could do every day anyway.
4. Edit together a tag team happy birthday video
Using iMovie or your favorite editing platform, it would be so special for your birthday boy or girl to wake up to a chorus of all their favorite people singing Happy Birthday to them. Ask each friend or family member to record themselves singing, then just edit together the clips to form one song.
Or, take it a step further. Have friends and family of all ages do a dance move or two, and you can edit it together to recreate Pharrell Williams’ Happy video. Ask each person to sing a line from your kid’s favorite song — whether it’s Laurie Berkner or The Schuyler sisters. Get your kid’s summer camp friends or scouting troop to sing a meaningful song. Or, just ask each person to give your child one wish for the upcoming year and put them all together.
Get creative! They’ll love it.
5. Host a DJ D-Nice-inspired online birthday dance party
Mother-Daughter TikTok Dance! @coolmompicks on Instagram
DJ D-Nice hosted the Instagram event of the year (so far) with his Instagram dance party, and you can find a lot of inspiration there! Instead of Instagram. a better idea might be to use Group FaceTime (if you’re all iOS users) or even better, Zoom. It’s being put to use for work meetings, happy hours, dinner parties, so why not a kids’ dance party?
Put together a great playlist, arrange a birthday party time and get all your kids’ friends and family members together online to dance your hearts out. You can decorate your own place with metallic gold fringe as a backdrop (skip the weird Zoom backgrounds), add an affordable pack of metallic party decor including balloons and streamers, and make sure your kiddo has a brand new birthday dance party outfit.
If you have time, you can even send out matching boas, party hats, or bubbles to your guests beforehand so it feels like a special, coordinated effort. And hey, when you’re done dancing, the kids can all just hang out and catch up. Which is also special.
Bonus: If your guests are all local, like classmates, see if you can pay your local bakery to deliver cupcakes to all the party attendees at their homes and blow out the candles together.
6. Have a virtual “sleep-under” birthday party
Photo C. Z. Shi via Unsplash
Liz shared on an episode of Spawned that kids in her neighborhood are fans of “sleep under”parties in which kids gather in their PJs, eat pizza and snacks, watch a movie or play games — and then the party ends just before bedtime.
In this case, you can put one together virtually with a few of your own kids’ besties.
Have all the kids wear pjs, and start your party via Zoom or FaceTime on the later side. Plan games that the kids can do together virtually like charades, Pictionary, or even Apples to Apples if everyone has a deck. Read a bedtime story if you’ve got younger kids — or tell ghost stories if they’re a little older. Eat pizza at the same time. Bring out a cake and let everyone sing. Maybe even let the kids FaceTime chat quietly in the dark under the covers until they fall asleep, like a real slumber party.
The best part is, picking your child up after the party is as simple as carrying them up to bed.
7. Hire an entertainer or expert to host an activity party via Zoom
Broadway Workshop is currently hosting Zoom-based musical theater master classes for teens at home
Think of a real-life activity you might have considered for an in-person party, and I bet you can find a way to get creative and do it as an online group activity over Zoom or Google Hangouts.
Think: A cooking class, magic trick lessons, a TikTok dance workshop (or hey, teach them all the moves to “Thriller”), an art activity, improv games, an interactive read-along, The instructor can lead the activity online, offering encouragement and feedback, and kids will end up with a fun new skill, maybe a souvenir, and definitely great memories.
It’s a fantastic way to support small business owners, instructors, or entertainers who are probably getting creative themselves these days to stay in business. Even if they’re not offering online lessons right now, suggest the idea and they’ll love it. And of course, so will your kids.
This isn’t just an idea for young kids, by the way — Liz’s daughter has taken kids’ musical theater classes with Broadway Workshop (above), which has now transitioned to online master classes. An organization like that would probably be thrilled to offer up an instructor who can coordinate an online class idea. (Bonus: You don’t even have to live in NYC to have access a Broadway Workshop class!)
8. Throw a movie party using Netflix Party
Miles Morales, anyone?
Our kids always love movie parties, and it’s no different now. I mean, we can’t share homemade microwave popcorn together, but we can still share the experience of laughing and cheering and rooting for the movie hero together.
To host a Netflix watch party of your child’s favorite movie, send out an invitation (you can also deliver a goodie bag of popcorn and candy (we love these recipes for DIY movie theater candy) to guests’ front doors if they’re local. Then, on the big day use the Netflix Party Chrome extension to watch a movie together. It syncs the movie in HD, and they can laugh and chat about the movie through the extension using text, emojis and GIFs.
9. Have a virtual game night party for teens
For those of you who remember the joys of You Don’t Know Jack in the early days of CD-ROMS…you’re going to be excited to learn about the Jackbox Party Pack. We’ve had so much fun as a family playing this digital pack of five party games online together, and it would make a fantastic birthday party idea too during quarantine — just set app a Group FaceTime chat so you can all play together.
Choose a game like You Don’t Know Jack 2015 for trivia, or the hilarious drawing game, Drawful (above). The questions or challenges are displayed on your screen, and all the players submit answers through their phones. It’s even more fun when you can connect through video chat and laugh at each other’s answers (virtually) in person.
Top photo Profevideos via Pixabay