How to throw a virtual birthday party to remember

On April 2, my oldest child turned five. He was so excited to finally be such a big age. We had a party planned for all of our friends at our farm – it was Star Wars-themed and his grandfather was planning to surprise him by showing up as Darth Vader. These plans were all BC. You know … before COVID-19.

He tried to be a good sport about the heartbreaking news that we had to cancel his party, but his attempts at finding a solution to the problem really showed us how important the celebration was to him. (“Well, if we can’t go to the farm, can my friends come to our house? If they can’t come to our house, can we play in the yard?”) And to be honest, so much is being taken away from all of us, I couldn’t stand it! I needed to figure out a way to make his birthday as special as possible. 

We ended up pulling together a virtual party. And while we didn’t have a bounce house or pizza with friends, it turned out to be pretty fun! If you’re in the same boat, here are some things to consider:

  1. Pick a host platform:  If you have a small group of older kids or adults, an app like Houseparty with built-in games may be a great solution. Other popular options are Zoom, Google Hangout and Evite. Your choice will depend on how many people you’re inviting, their ages, and whether you’d like to plan your own activities or have activities offered within your platform.

  2. Create a guest list: Once you turn a birthday party from IRL to virtual, attendees come out of the woodwork. If you have too many people on your screen, it’ll be too much to manage at once. Try splitting into two groups to keep things from getting too hectic. And having multiple parties will also give your birthday star a couple chances to feel special on his or her big day.

  3. Set a theme:  Kids (and adults) love a good theme party. Get dressed up and have a costume show-and-tell. The theme can also help you come up with fun activities. Our theme was Star Wars, so we had a little “Jedi training session” for all our friends. Whatever your theme is, use it to your advantage to get everyone in on the fun!

  4. Send out party favors:  Party favors help to create an atmosphere of being together. They can be as simple as themed party hats or hand-written cards that let your family and friends know how much you care about them. Mail favors ahead of time or do a drop-and-dash at your guests’ doors on the day of the party. 

  5. Play games:  No matter what age you’re planning for, throwing a virtual party without activities can lead to some awkward silence. Instead of just sitting around staring at each other, give your guests something fun to focus on. For younger kids, try having a scavenger hunt using items that are easily found at home, like spoons or pillows. The first person to bring the item back wins. For older kids and adults, try your hand at Trivia with games like “After Dinner Winner” or “Trivial Pursuit."

  6. Have your cake and eat it too:  A birthday party isn’t complete without off-key singing, candles and cake.  Close out the celebrations by asking everyone to sing Happy Birthday to the birthday boy or girl. Then just turn some music on and let everyone dance it out until they feel like leaving the “party.”

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