With the pandemic in full swing, it’s hard to imagine a life without it. Every time I look through my photo albums (on my phone — because millennial mom, duh) I say “wow, that was last year?” It feels like we’ve been in our own little “twilight zone” world for years now! YEARS!
But now that our kids are finally back to school and the world seems to be getting closer to becoming normal again, it’s time to talk about the one thing we’ve missed the most. Birthday parties!
Yet, as excited as I am to think about how my daughter will finally have more friends around this year to throw a “proper” party for her 10th birthday, one question lingers. How the hell do you even throw a safe birthday party during a pandemic, while making sure our kids still have fun?
I have a few ideas of my own. But I also talked to a few moms who threw birthday parties over the last few months to see what everyone else is doing. Because while the easiest answer is to “just not have one,” our kids have been through enough, and they need this win! They deserve a cool ass birthday party to celebrate surviving this year at home, with us … yes us, and their siblings, whether you think they’ve behaved well, or not.
The last few months haven’t been easy on any of us, so our kids should at least be happy on their birthdays, right?
Here’s how you can throw a safe birthday party for your kids during the pandemic.
Tip #1: Keep your guest list as small as possible!
Now is probably not the time to invite the entire class.
(Which, thanks to attending school virtually last year, shouldn’t even be a problem, since a lot of kids didn’t really connect with anyone long enough to make what they’d consider “friends.”)
However, keeping your guest list as small as possible, should decrease the risk of your kid, or party guests, contracting covid. Hell, it may also even keep your anxiety levels to a minimum.
I’ve never thrown a BIG party for my daughter (who’s now nine) and it makes things so much more intimate.
(It still costs a fortune though, since we go all out for her and 3-4 friends.)
But, your kids will actually get to hang out with their friends — which they’ll love — as opposed to being pulled, pushed, and tugged in every which direction, as their friends fight for attention from the birthday child.
So keep the guest list small, and invite 3-5 friends they absolutely love! Cousins count too.
Tip #2: Check in with other parents to see how they’ve been handling the pandemic.
Yup! I’m asking you to pry! Pry, pry, PRY!
However, if you’re following Tip #1, then you probably already know how things have been going.
But if you don’t talk to the parents of your kids’ best friends regularly, it doesn’t hurt to check in to see how they’ve been handling the pandemic.
I mean, sure you’d LOVE to invite them to hang, but if they haven’t been wearing their masks religiously on their own, will they do so at the party? More importantly, what have they potentially been exposed to?
At this point, we have to do what’s best for our kids, and our families, so asking a few questions to find out how they’ve been masking up, and staying safe, shouldn’t be a problem.
If it becomes a problem, then maybe they just aren’t ready to hang right now, and that’s okay. You can totally set up a zoom call for those that wanna say Happy Birthday, but can’t do so in person.
However, have a convo with parents BEFORE inviting kids to see how they’re feeling and if they’re even okay for in person meet ups yet.
Something as simple as: “Hey, we’re thinking about throwing a very small party for Jack in a few weeks, and we know he loves hanging with Mark. We’re doing all that we can to make it a fun and safe time for the kids. Can I ask you a few questions about how you guys have been coping lately?”
Then just ask how they’ve adjusted to wearing masks outdoors, if they’ve been traveling, and how they’ve generally been doing. You want the conversation to be friendly, feel like a check in, but still get an idea of where they’re at.
Don’t just interrogate the hell out of them, for the sake of.
And for the love of (which ever god you serve, the universe, etc), please don’t just assume that kids can hang out. No matter what you’ve seen on social media!
It’s 2021, and there’s a whole-ass pandemic going on. Make things easier for everyone, including yourself, and just ask! And don’t take anything personal.
Tip #3: Individual everything — but especially food items!
Even if you’re only have a few kids over, you wanna make sure they’re sharing as few germs as possible.
Which means, no buffets! Individualize everything! Which could also double as a cool party favor later on, if everyone has their own cup, bowl, and plate with their name on it, right?
Now, I’m not saying go out and spend a fortune on these items.
Don’t think wedding personalization here. Think stickers, metallic sharpies, name tags, and other cheap ways kids can personalize their items so everyone knows whose stuff is whose! Hell, you can even go to the nearest 99 cent store, or Target, and pick up those cheap colored cups, bowls, and plates, so everyone has their own color coded items to use.
And then, instead of letting the kids self serve and take whatever they want, you can serve them individually.
One person serving food is a whole lot better than 4 or 5 kids touching, scooping, and reaching over all the things on the table.
Tip #4: Don’t blow out the candles!
According to this Thrillist article, researchers have been testing whether or not blowing out candles during a birthday party could spew bacteria onto the cake, even before the pandemic. “[And] a Clemson University study published in the Journal of Food Research found that blowing out candles led to 1,400 percent more bacteria on the icing of a birthday cake, compared to not blowing out the candles.”
Now normally, this isn’t something to worry about … as disgusting as this sounds right about now.
“However, if someone is infected with Covid — say, an asymptomatic kid — and he blows out candles as people are huddled around, this could expel virus particles. This isn’t a risk you want to take,” says Dr. William Li, MD, president and medical director of the Angiogenesis Foundation. So it’s a good idea to come up with an alternative to blowing out candles.”
Following Tip #3, you can opt for a cupcake cake, and let the birthday kid just blow out one candle on their own cupcake. Or scrap birthday candles altogether, and make a wish another day? I’ll leave the genius ideas up to you.
Tip #5: Wear masks!
If you’re not doing a small gathering inside, or even if you are, it doesn’t hurt to keep everyone masked up.
Of course, they’ll need breaks to get fresh air, so make sure you plan something that kids don’t mind stepping away from. Back to back events filled with excitement, and no breaks, in hopes we can tire out the kids and pack as much fun into one party, isn’t going to fly this time around.
And if you’re crafty, or have money to spare, you can even get the kids cute masks to fit the party theme. That way they’ll think of how awesome that one pandemic birthday party was, months later, as they continue to wear their special party mask where ever they go.
Just remember – vaccinated doesn’t mean immune! So vaccinated guests should still wear a mask, if everyone else is required to.
Bonus Tip: Don’t be these parents!
One of the joys of pandemic parenting:
Being invited to a kid’s birthday party, being told it’s outdoors, should be corona-safe, and you show up and it’s inside in a poorly ventilated restaurant full of unmasked people. pic.twitter.com/OIu7ATiGq9
— Amy Barr Mlinar, PhD (@amy_mlinar) September 18, 2021
Don’t lie to parents about what your party will be like! Please! Just don’t.
10 Cool-Ass Birthday Party Ideas From Actual Moms Who Celebrated With Their Kids During The Pandemic
Rent an ice cream truck for a drive by parade or go “glamping”.
“Last year, when my son turned 4 I had a drive by parade and rented our local ice cream truck and bought ice cream for everyone who drove by. This year [my daughter] wants to go to a glamping (a tent with electricity) camp site for the weekend [for her 10th birthday].” – Monica Blair Stevenson, Atlanta, Ga
Serve “babymosas”, a tot-cuterie board, and let your one-year-old indulge in some self-care.
“This weekend we had a birthday party for my 1 year old. I wanted to do something cute but small because of the pandemic. We had a 1 year old’s self care day with babymosas (fruit infused water in personalized champagne sippy cups), a totcuterie board, and I had a masseuse come [in] and do a baby massage demonstration with the babies and their moms.
The babies all had satin bonnets (because towels aren’t good for the curls). It was intimate and perfect. The details are my favorite. There were 4 mommy/baby pairs and the masseuse.” – Nicole McCrimmon, Bowie, MD
Have a virtual paint party, play laser tag with friends, or try a DIY “drive in” movie.
“When my oldest turned 10, we did a virtual paint party. I bought all the supplies and dropped them off to her friends and then did a zoom call with everyone last year. There were 5 girls and I found a virtual prerecorded class on YouTube. The girls loved it and the pictures came out so cute!
This year, my son turned 10 (which has always been a big sleepover birthday). We have one family of friends that do things with so we invited their crew over. Laser tag in my backyard, bonfire with hotdogs and s’mores. [Plus], a night full of Nintendo switch, and they played with some neighbor friends.
Before Covid we had a drive in party and I made cardboard box cars for 10 of one of my kids best friends and we watched a “drive in” movie. My big kids ran the concession stand and all the kids sat in their cars watching a movie. It was awesome and all the parents were impressed.” – Stacey Hammond, Cumming, GA
Rent a movie theater for a private show — it may be cheaper than you think.
“We just rented a movie theater to host a private showing of Shang-Chi this weekend for my boys (11 & 14). They each invited a few friends and had a blast. AMC still requests guests wear masks, so everyone had one on when not eating and drinking.” – Karen Heffren, Tucson, AZ
Have a “normal” backyard party, with an *ahem* health twist — vaccines only please.
“My son turned 2 in June and we did an outdoor party with a few close friends and their kids. All of the adults were fully vaccinated, and the kids had a great time playing in our backyard with swings, the sprinklers, and water balloons. There were 5 other households, [so] 10 adults [and] 6 kids.” – Kendra Loven Darr, Seattle, WA
Celebrate at a theme park, if you’re okay with traveling.
“In January we went to Six Flags Great Escape Lodge & Indoor Waterpark, booked 3 rooms and had a small party in one of the rooms to celebrate my daughter’s 8th birthday. After the party, we took the kids to the indoor water park which was perfectly empty because of the season.” – Shirley Eliza Martinez, New York, New York
Bonus Idea: Host a hotel sleepover, because housekeeping makes cleaning up a breeze.
A few years ago, before covid, I threw my daughter her first sleepover, in a hotel. She got to invite 3 friends, and they had a room for themselves, in our two bedroom hotel suite. The girls got matching pajamas to sleep in, and princess dresses to wear to their “Princess Breakfast” the morning after. It was so much fun, and I even gave them a manicure and facial before reading them a bed time story and sending them off to bed.
But no matter what you do, remember the most important thing is keeping your family safe. So do what fits your family best! And if that means just hanging with the family and ordering takeout, then that’s okay too!