All around the world people are practicing what’s now called social distancing – staying a safe distance away from other people outside the household, as well as stricter measures such as full isolation, also often referred to as lockdowns. Here in the UK right now we are being told only to leave our homes for essential purposes. This can include one hour of exercise per day, and a visit to the grocery shop with as few family members as possible. My son’s third birthday has fallen during this isolation and like many children with an upcoming birthday during self isolation, it’s made all plans for days out, parties, friends and even many family members obsolete. Everything cancelled. The disappointment can be crushing and the reason can be very hard to understand for younger children. It’s another stressful point on top of many changes that they may be struggling to deal with.
Birthday celebrations are ultimately about love, joy and excitement – they should be full of positivity and a glimmer of hope even when things are tough. So I set to work trying to think how I could still make a birthday special for my son, even though we can’t actually leave the house for it and hope that it helps some other parents out there planning birthdays for their children during this difficult time.
Videos and cards from Family and Friends
Send a message around to all the family, friends and parents of your children’s friends asking for video messages for them to watch on the morning of their birthday. Lots of cards will also be appreciated if you can gather them, but some people will be unable to get out to buy and post cards or might not want to put strain on the postal system, and you may feel uncomfortable opening a lot of mail in your home.
Live video calls can help celebrate the party and you could even use software like Zoom, Discord or Skype to host large group calls. The birthday boy or call could potentially watch a movie or play video games with all his friends still and this will boost the happiness of all the people involved, as those not able to say happy birthday to loved ones will be feeling sad about it too.
The more people you can involve together – whatever and however that works – the more joy you can spread between everyone involved.
If you can walk past family and friends houses
If you walk past family and friends houses on your daily exercise, your kids might be extremely frustrated that they can’t go in and say hello. Having people wave out of the window and hold up birthday cards, signs, teddies or something else that fits the theme of the birthday party below could really cheer them up.
You should still be able to get some gifts online, and it may be possible for relatives or friends to drop gifts off if they are passing whilst going grocery shopping or if they walk near your house whilst exercising. Having something to unwrap on the day keeps it feeling like a normal birthday with a lot of positive energy. If the weather is nice, how about a treasure hunt in the garden to find some hidden gifts and prizes?
If there’s a special gift you wanted to purchase but can’t get hold of online or as part of your normal shopping, you could print or write something about it on a piece of paper, wrap it, and promise that it will be coming as soon as the isolation is lifted. This isn’t quite as good as the real thing, but it still gives them something to be excited about and look forward to.
Days out and travel plans can also be promised in this way which might help them feel a little better about that cancelled trip to the zoo or maybe an overnight trip to a theme park could be on the cards in the future.
Have a party theme that you can achieve with your own supplies or easily purchased supplies
Although we are in lockdown, here in the UK we can still go to the grocery shop and purchase things and there’s still a wide range of online delivery available from non essential items. I tried to think about the delivery workers too, so if you do purchase party supplies delivered, try to buy all your things from one shop in one shipment so only one burden is added to the postal system. If you can manage to order or buy some party supplies without adding any extra risk to your day, then this is a win win for everyone. It may be possible to pick up some balloons, including a helium canister (I bought mine at ASDA), party plates, banners and gifts quickly whilst doing your essential food shop.
Having a specific theme can really help add to the fun. I’ve collated a list of epic birthday themes before, but for William’s third birthday we are doing the theme of Paw Patrol, his favourite show. Finding dog-themed resources online has been fairly easy! If you have a home printer then there are tons of free resources online so you can print out banners and signs and decorate the house ready to fit any theme. I did buy a few things before the lockdown as well, as I’m a bit of a planner in advance, but most of it is available in grocery shops like Tesco and Asda who have party aisles.
Make your own Cake
You don’t need a fancy shop bought birthday cake. Making a cake is pretty simple and there are loads of options for different types and themes. Ultimately it doesn’t need to look professional (mine always look like the toddler helped more than he did!), it just needs to put a big smile on their face.
If you walk past the houses of friends and family, cut a slice for them and tell the birthday boy or girl you’re going to leave it on their doorstep later or tomorrow, so they know that everyone is sharing their cake too.
Have a finger buffet or their favourite food
A finger buffet is food that everyone can enjoy. Make sure you include all their favourites and you can print out different labels and make it fun and fit your theme. I’m going to be using Canva to create labels for the table such as Pupberries for Strawberries and Blueberries, Puptreats for sweets, Pupperoni Pizza, Doggy Donuts, Fruit Kibble, Cheese Ruffs, Fetch Sticks (Twiglets!) and Hot Dogs, with a doggy bag of goodies at the end!
In my experience the supermarkets have plenty of food suitable for a finger buffet, since it’s not pasta or toilet roll! *rolls eyes*
Popular and easy foods for a finger buffet could include
- Hot Dogs
- Vegetable sticks and dips
- Simple sandwiches
- Chocolate Brownies
Nope, it’s not particularly healthy but we’re talking about a birthday during lockdown here so it doesn’t hurt to cheer them up with all their favourite things, whatever those are.
If they’re older or would prefer a specific meal or takeout then go for that. Takeout is still available in some places, so if they prefer a pizza from Domino’s then that’s what they should have! Many small independent cafes and restaurants who didn’t offer delivery are now offering it here and you get to support a struggling business as well. How about afternoon tea delivered?
Make your own party games or activities they enjoy
There’s a lot of party games that the whole family can play that don’t require you to own anything specific. If you have a printer you can print off a home made twister board for example, but even without a printer you could do things like pin the tail on the donkey (home made object for a donkey, or a stuffed toy, scarf as a blindfold!), make your own pinata from a painted cardboard box or some paper mache and newspaper, treasure hunt with a clue sheet to find a prize, or a fun family quiz. You could even do fun stuff that are associated with halloween or fayres like fishing something out of the bathtub with a home made fishing rod, blindfold identify the gloopy ingredients, making slime or apple bobbing. A dinosaur mad child could be entertained with a dinosaur themed party and digging in the garden for fossils (prizes). If they enjoy music, you could get out the fairy lights and host a disco dance off!
For the budding chef, how about you make something new together? Or their favourite thing? For example making and decorating pancakes, making fudge (very easy!) or even baking a cake together.
Think of all the fun things the birthday boy or girl has enjoyed at the past, whether it’s at fayres or days out, at parties, at special events like Halloween and Christmas, and you should have some ideas for what you could replicate at home to make the day fun. Just because it’s only your household celebrate doesn’t mean you can’t do loads of fun activities together.
Use your daily exercise well
In most places daily exercise is still an option. You might have been going for brief walks around the block. Is there anywhere nearby that doesn’t require much travel, that will be quiet, but somewhere different and interesting? If your child would be interested, print out a scavenger hunting guide for the trip. For example, find something that begins with B, something that is red, point out a car that has a number plate with a certain letter or number combination, spot and identify three different birds, find a round rock for painting, etc.
Going somewhere that’s different, whilst still obeying your countries laws and adhering to safety, could be good for them. But in any rate, a bit of fresh air will be a great start to the day.
Have a camp out in the living room or garden
If you have a tent and the weather is amenable, having a camp out in the garden could be really fun! You could sleep outside or just stay outside and watch the stars and then head up to bed. You could make a tiny campfire or barbecue (safely) and roast marshmallows or popping corn.
If you don’t have a garden or the weather isn’t co-operating, how about making a den in the living room, bringing blankets down and setting up overnight in your own home-made den! You can always carry the little ones up to their beds when they fall asleep as well. This just helps make the day a memorable experience.
How about a Spa Night?
If camping isn’t their thing, what about pampering instead? You could host a luxury themed spa party if that’s something they would enjoy, complete with a range of bath treats and pampering essentials, or even a makeover night for older children with light make-up and a new hairdo. Rope daddy in and let him be the test subject for the makeover session for some laughs and memorable photos (that he probably won’t want you to share online!).
This is a good opportunity to add a crafting activity such as making bath bombs or candles as well.
Well, that’s all my ideas for how to celebrate a kids birthday during social distancing or lockdown, but if you have a few more, please let me know in the comments! I hope this guide has sparked your imagination and given you some ways that you can make the day really special for your little one even in these challenging times.