How to throw your child a birthday party at home
Birthdays are a big deal for kids: the friends, the theme, the cake. Here's how to give them the best celebration, even when you can't leave the house
They're an excuse to eat junk and cake - lots of cake - to hang out with friends, to dress up and to spend an afternoon or evening doing something they love, whether that's trampolining or ice skating, watching the latest film or having a "midnight feast" (at 8pm) at a sleepover.
And that's all before we've even gotten to the other exciting bit: presents.
Kids' birthday parties are at once a source of excitement and stress for parents: we want our children to be happy, we want to give them a party they'll remember, but we're also wary of cost, having to look after 30 kids we don't know that well, and having to manage all sorts of expectations.
Photo: Lorene Farrugia
Stressing about a kids' birthday party seems a long-ago luxury now that we're faced with a new reality: not having any birthday parties for our children - or at least, having to wildly reimagine them without entertainers, friends or a venue that isn't the same one we've been working/eating/sleeping/making a mess/attempting to do schoolwork in for the past month.
Even while we're in semi-quarantine, you can still have all of the best bits of the birthday: family, friends, entertainment, cake and a birthday to remember for your child. Here are the ingredients you need to have a brilliant birthday party at home - and yes, a laptop to take your party virtual is definitely one of them.
Don't forget the invites
While your child's birthday make look very different to what everyone had originally imagined, giving some structure to the occasion is encouraged. If they live near friends and classmates, they can spend a morning making personalised invitations - not only is this an arts and crafts project, it totally counts as "homeschooling" since they'll be writing something.
Virtual children's parties are the solution for any child craving an interactive birthday, so be sure to add a date and time for a Zoom or Houseparty birthday to the invite. Better yet, they can even have multiple "parties," with family, school friends, other friends, etc if you like.
Top tip: if you want the birthday kid to wow all of the others on their Zoom birthday party chat, let them show up as a potato, which can be done easily (just download Snap Camera). A custom background - either birthday-themed, or something more adventurous, like outer space - is a nice finish.
Or try Canva for a customisable virtual Zoom background to match your theme: there are tons of options from zodiac signs to underwater scenes with swimming fish to fruity wallpaper backgrounds.
For invites, you can also go online with Paperless Post, where there's an extensive selection of free virtual cards and flyers for anyone who has a party coming up, whether they're turning one - or one and several decades...
Mini-Epic is a platform where you can create personalised, animated video e-vites for parties, and with unicorn and dinosaur themes, they're a surefire hit with the kids. The invites are £4.99 per party, with 20% of proceeds from each sale going to NHS Charities Together.
Bonus: for once, you don't need to worry about what this party is going to cost per head - invite every child they ever met if you fancy! Plus, all of their friends from out of town or out of the country can come too.
Photo: Images by Kayla
Dressing up for the occasion - and decorating the house - makes the space that you're spending 24/7 in feel different and special. In fact, we'd say this is the year to go overboard on the decor: think balloons, bunting, a piñata, rainbow confetti, an elaborate cake (that you let your baby or toddler do a very messy, but very memorable, cake smash into).
This is the time to invest in a disco light, if you don't have one already - all you need is a disco light and some speakers for an impromptu dance party.
Bonus: if you can achieve the OTT decor while your child's asleep so they wake up and feel it's truly a magical day, even better.
Photo: Igor Starkov
A video birthday message goes a long way
In these times of enforced separation, nothing beats a friendly face - in fact, it's a crucial ingredient in any child's birthday, whether in isolation or not. We've had school class Whatsapp groups that have missed special birthdays coordinating video clips from each child (which you can edit together with iMovie) to help celebrate the birthday kid, so there's a mega birthday greeting for the recipient to cherish before, during and after the occasion, while The Book of Everyone is another resource for anyone looking to create a free video birthday montage with clips from friends and family.
If you have a tonies Toniebox toy - a great idea for anyone with a toddler since it plays a selection of their favourite storybooks like Room on the Broom and The Snowman, as well as music - you can create a special birthday soundtrack for your little one with messages and songs spoken and sung by relatives and friends. A Yoto speaker is another alternative, and parents/grandparents can create their own story cards with a special birthday story for little ones.
You can also create a personalised song for the special birthday boy or girl with Pippa's Poppets, where award-winning musical theatre composer Pippa Cleary and musical director Mark Collins will record, mix and master a one-of-a-kind song that sounds like a West End winner.
Photo: JoJo Fun Kids
Let them entertain you
If your child had their heart set on a magician or a princess for their birthday this year, don't despair. Many companies are still running online virtual birthday parties and sessions for kids.
Children's party entertainers JoJo Fun Kids have a range of options available, including character 1:1s with beloved characters and superheroes, online puppet shows, magic shows and bubble shows, as well as clowns, digital sing-alongs, online storytelling and digital caricatures. You can also deliver a balloon cluster to the house as a special treat for the birthday child.
Captain Fantastic has also moved kids' parties online, and cater up to age 11. For toddlers a Little Stars party includes a mix of singing, nursery rhymes, puppets and magic, while the 3-7 crowd can choose from a themed princess, pirate, superhero or science party. Older children have the option of magic, dance competitions, challenges and gaming parties.
Captain Fantastic is also running virtual fitness, entertainment and academic classes online while schools are closed, and offering virtual playdates - essential for parents who need to get on a conference call for an hour and don't have any childcare.
Photo: Maggie & Rose
Get in on the family members' club action with Maggie & Rose's virtual parties, which are hosted virtually from the Maggie & Rose clubhouse, with songs, games and more for 2-5s to enjoy with their families. You can also order arty kits for the birthday kids to do together (but apart), which include paint dabbers, play dough, recipes, masks and more.
Magical Quests provides online drama parties for kids, giving your child an Elsa, Princess Leia, or Spiderman for the occasion, or sending your child a special message from one of their favourite characters.
Sharky and George are bringing their fun and games to your home with a combination of virtual entertainment and activity packs. Kids can also sign up to virtual music video parties, virtual adventure races and more.
Photo: Lucky Voice
Virtual party ideas
OK, so you've committed to a Zoom birthday - now what? There are actually quite a few different ways the kids can stay entertained for 30 mins-plus online. Here are a few:
Karaoke party: Nothing beats an all-singing, all-dancing party, and the good news is, you can absolutely recreate the chaotic vibe that any successful child's party seems to rely on with a few easy ingredients at home.
A karaoke machine is great fun - and might just be the perfect isolation gift for your birthday baby. Lucky Voice has a selection of user-friendly, just-plug-into-a-laptop-and-go karaoke machines, with a selection of secondary mics for any additional sibs or parents to join in - the funky metallic and neon shades will be an instant hit with the kiddos. Choose from 9,000-plus tracks with the Lucky Voice catalogue, including ones that adults will be using for their own karaoke nights.
Cinema party: Kids love a movie night. Gather a group of pals together - apart - and watch a favourite or brand-new film with Netflix Party.
Virtual book club party: For the reading-obsessed, creating a mini book club online is a fun way to celebrate a birthday, where the birthday child can choose a book for everyone to read (Louis Sachar's Holes and Onjali Q. Rauf's The Boy at the Back of the Class are great choices to appeal to boys and girls across the Junior and early secondary years).
Everyone can come to the party dressed for the occasion, or with an artifact or visuals which contribute to the theme of the book, plus snacks and some questions to kick off the conversation. If it's a hit, maybe this becomes a twice-monthly isolation ritual to get the kids excited about reading?
Arts & crafts party: Baking and slime-making and T-shirt decorating, oh my! For the arty kid, a crafts-based party is a dreamy way to spend an hour with pals. There are endless DIY tutorials online, whether your child wants to make a dream catcher or a bead bracelet. Bonus: they'll get to keep their craft, so it almost feels like a party favour. If you need more inspo, check out the virtual live streams from leading illustrators online for some drawing inspo.
Games party: Games parties are suitable for all ages - it's just the nature of the games that changes. Pass the parcel and musical statues are brilliant fun for the toddler crew jumping manically in their living rooms, while a board game session with a few friends or family members on Zoom can be a guaranteed way to spend an afternoon laughing out loud.
Roblox is the current obsession for kids 7 and up - and its usage has gone up 40% since lockdown started. It's a gaming platform meets social experience, so parents like that kids can catch up with their pals instead of just staring at a screen on their own for hours.
Roblox's Play Together sort lets you find games that are easy to play with a group and also gives kids access to something online they can't do in real life at the moment, like heading off on a camping trip or going to a water park. These games also give players access to VIP servers (for 10 Robux) so that the birthday party participants can have their own private virtual space to play in.
Don't stress about presents
If we've learned anything from isolation and having the kids home from school, it's to stress less: the house doesn't need to look perfect, our child doesn't need to have done every single suggested maths sheet if they'd rather be digging in the dirt one afternoon and reaching out to relatives and loved ones and having chats with them is far more valuable than worrying about the latest Lego set arriving in time.
So, for this birthday, let's try to teach them they already have the best gift they could possibly need: unconditional love. Not the easiest concept to translate to a six-year-old, but they're getting pretty good at understanding the surreal, don't you think?
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