I’m sure you’ve noticed that celebrating looks a little bit different these days. With the cancellation of most events in the United States due the current pandemic, we no longer can get together with family and friends to celebrate milestones together in person.
And although there are lots of ways that you can celebrate birthdays at home as a family, you might still want to gather with your friends and extended family. I get it.
Birthdays are really important milestones. They don’t feel as special when we don’t have the people who are important to us together to share them with.
The good news is that we live in amazing times of technology. So if you can’t host a birthday party in person this year, why not host a virtual birthday party instead.
A virtual birthday party is similar to a traditional one. You can still play party games, eat dessert together and open gifts together with your guests. Just all online.
Check out these tips to host an amazing virtual birthday party for your child or someone special in your life.
Choose a Platform
There are lots of free ways to host a virtual birthday party online. You just need to select a platform that you are comfortable with.
If you have a lot of children attending, Zoom is a great way to gather multiple people together at once. My favorite part is that when you have a Zoom gathering, the interface displays different boxes on the screen. This way all of the guests can see everyone at the same time.
You can also have a virtual birthday party via Skype, Facebook Messenger or host a Facebook Live event. If you choose to create a Facebook event, you can also invite guests and manage RSVPs through this platform.
One other new option is Amazon Chime. Although there is a fee, you can host your event using their free trial and give it a try.
Pick a Theme
Although choosing a theme isn’t a requirement for your virtual birthday party, an event is a lot easier to organize when you have a focus. Your theme can be specific colors, an animal, favorite activity or place. Or combine two things your child loves – such as monsters and mini golf (yes, this was a customer’s theme once) – and create your own unique theme.
Having a theme will help you choose an invitation design, decorate for the party and create party treats that match. Party themes also help your child feel extra special. Kids love sharing the things they love with their friends and family.
Send the Invites
Even though you are hosting a virtual birthday party, you still need to let guests know when to attend. Send a digital invitation virtually via email or text. Make sure you have important details about the party on the invitation. Clearly announce that it’s a “Virtual Birthday Party” – you wouldn’t want guests turning up in person at your house.
On the invitation, also let guests know what to expect at the party. Add in text that tells them about the party activities such as singing “Happy Birthday”, blowing out candles and party games you plan to play. Remember, hosting a virtual birthday party is a new idea for most of us. You don’t want guests to be surprised, so give them as much information about the party details on the invitation as possible.
Also, let guests know if you plan to serve cake. Since they can’t have a slice in person, they will need to get their own birthday treat for the party.
Decorate the Space
Now that the invitations have been sent, it’s time to plan how to decorate the space. The good news about a virtual birthday party is that you really only need to decorate the space around where the computer or mobile device will be set up. All the other spaces in your home won’t be seen.
You can create your own decorations using printable party designs and other birthday decor. If you are looking for some generic birthday printables, check out our free birthday printables designs here.
Create a place of honor for the birthday child to sit during the party. Tie balloons from the chair and wrap streamers along the back.
To make a fun backdrop, hang a banner with “Happy Birthday” or the child’s name on the wall behind the chair. You can also add paper flowers, streamers, lanterns and tissue pom poms to make a colorful backdrop. Check out some dessert table backdrops to get inspiration for your virtual birthday party set up.
Choose tableware in your theme, so at home guests have a matching plate, cup and napkin. You can also dress up your serving dishes by using a fancy teacup for a tea party theme or sip a drink from a decorated milk bottle.
Have a party hat for your child to wear during the virtual birthday party. They can also pick out a special birthday outfit and coordinate with the colors of the theme. And get party blowers or kazoos to add some noise to your celebration. Just because everyone can’t be there in person doesn’t mean that you can’t make it feel like a party.
If your child is sad about their friends not being there in person, have them invite their favorite stuffed animals and dolls. They can also wear small party hats for more birthday fun.
Plan Party Activities
Even though you are hosting a virtual birthday party, you can still have entertainment for the kids. One of the delights of going to a birthday party is doing something together.
If setting up a birthday activity isn’t something you enjoy, check with local birthday party places about their virtual hosting capabilities. Many local businesses are offering virtual birthday party activities for minimal fees. Our trampoline park is providing free birthday movement activities for virtual birthday parties. And our Lego building place is offering virtual birthday parties where the kids do a guided build together.
When choosing an activity, think about how the guests can interact virtually during it. They might need some materials in advance, so you can send them in the mail or drop off ahead of the party.
This is a sweet activity that is used to celebrate birthdays at my kids’ school. The guests each write a note of appreciation to the birthday child. They include a reason they appreciate their friendship and birthday wishes for the year to come.
Invite guests to create their own appreciation notes. Then, they can be shared at the party. These appreciation notes always put a smile on a child’s face and make them feel special.
We love making crafts at birthday parties. It’s nice when the kids can go home with something that they created.
Even at a virtual birthday party, you can still craft together. Choose a simple craft that you can make together. Send the instructions to guests in advance to make sure they have all of the materials.
During the party, have guests create the craft together. It’s fun to work on making something as a group.
Looking for ideas? Check out this collection of easy to make crafts for birthday parties.
Virtual Dance Party
We had one of these the other night without hosting a birthday party. Kids love to dance and they enjoy music.
A virtual dance party is when the host (the DJ) plays music selections and all of the guests dance. It’s actually really fun and a great way to get kids moving at a party.
To organize your own virtual dance party, choose the music play list ahead of time. Gather the different songs and make a play list on your phone (or other music device that you plan to use). If your child has a particular taste in music – like all Disney songs – or your party has a theme – such as under the sea – try to pick music with this in mind. Depending on the age of your child, make sure that all of your selections are kid friendly. You’d hate to be blaring a song and inappropriate lyrics come on.
Birthday Scavenger Hunt
A scavenger hunt is a great activity that guests can do in their own homes or backyards. Before your event, send a list of scavenger hunt items or a birthday scavenger hunt card to print out. Then, have the kids go on a scavenger hunt during the birthday party. When finished, guests can showcase all of the items that they found.
When we hosted an ice princess tea party for Little Bug, the guest of honor was Queen Elsa. She came all the way from Arendelle to visit and it was wonderful meeting her.
Although Queen Elsa and most other characters can’t actually attend your child’s birthday party right now, they can visit virtually. Check with your local character companies to see if they are providing virtual visits with their characters. The character can join the party via your online platform (Zoom works great for this). During their visit, they can read guests a story, do an activity or lead a sing along. This is a really sweet way to make your child’s day extra special.
Play a Board Game
Most older kids love board games. Set up a board game at the birthday host’s home and have the guests play together. Choose a game that is appropriate for the number of guests attending the party. You wouldn’t want to select a game that only has 4 players when 10 people are attending.
If the game involves dice rolling, have guests each roll their own dice at their home. Then, you can move the game pieces for them.
Another game idea is Bingo. For kids, you can play ABC, number or word Bingo. Before the party, send guests the game cards so everyone has a different one. You can print free Bingo cards for kids here.
You can also play the childhood favorite Name, Place, Animal and Thing. Name a letter and each guest needs to think of a name, place, animal and thing. The first guest to share them wins.
Acting or Drawing?
Two of my favorite games to play at family celebrations growing up were Charades and Pictionary. Although really fun in person, these games can now easily be played virtually.
Charades is a fun game where someone acts out a word and the other guests guess what it is. This Charades generator for kids will give guests things to act out without everyone seeing it in advance. Guests can even choose a different word if they are unfamiliar with the one that is generated for them.
Before the party, send the website out to guests so they know how to access the words. When it is the guest’s turn, the generator will come up with a word for them to act out. If hosting your party on Zoom, the guest whose acting out the charade can use the “Spotlight” feature during their turn. Other guests have a set amount of time to guess what they are acting out.
Pictionary is also lots of fun to play as a group. Instead of acting, guests are drawing the words and phrases for other guests to guess. Guests can use this random word generator to create words for the game. Make sure that the level is set to Easy or the words might be too difficult for kids.
When playing Pictionary, divide guests into teams or have all of them guess individually (which might be easier for kids). Each person will need a notepad, paper or dry erase board for when it’s their turn to draw. One guest is the designated drawer and draws the word. The other guests (or team) have a set amount of time to guess the word.
Another thing to consider when playing games at your party is having prizes for the guests. Gift cards work well since you can send or email them after the party. Some other ideas include giving a free ice cream certificate or mini golf game. You could also give a credit for a book from your local bookstore. Prizes will keep guests motivated and enjoying the birthday fun.
Give Everyone Time to Share
Although technology is a wonderful way to gather together during social distancing times, having all of your friends on one computer screen at once can sometimes be overwhelming for kids.
When hosting a virtual birthday party, make sure that you give everyone time to share. In the beginning of the party, let guests mingle together. But as the party progresses, use the mute button on the hosting platform effectively. This will give each guest time to share and no one will feel overwhelmed by too much talking.
Traditionally, birthday parties have gifts that are brought to the guest of honor. If the birthday child receives gifts from the party guests, they can open them during the party. If everyone hasn’t given a gift, though, you might want to skip this tradition. Some kids might not think to or be able to send a gift at this time. You wouldn’t want a guest to feel bad for not being able to give something.
Another idea is to skip the traditional gift giving altogether and have guests contribute to your favorite charity instead. They can make a donation to a cause your child is passionate about. Collect funds to adopt an animal, support a local non-profit or even give to your school.
You could also collect contributions for your local homeless shelter, food bank or pet rescue league. Ask guests to place the contributions at the foot of their driveways or bottom of front steps for easy pick up. During the party, you can share the different items that guests contributed. You could also weigh the items and showcase how many pounds of food or pet treats you collected.
Don’t Forget the Cake
Even a virtual birthday party needs cake. At least for the birthday girl or boy. On the invitation, though, remind your guests to have their own birthday treats on hand so you can share a treat together.
At the party, light candles and sing “Happy Birthday”. These two traditions are important at any birthday party. Then, everyone can enjoy their desserts as a group.
Send a Thank You
After the party is over be sure to send a thank you note to your guests. Let them know that you’re grateful they could attend and thank them for any gift they might have sent (even a donation).
Another sweet gesture is to include a flat, easy to mail favor with your thank you note. Some ideas include stickers, trading card or a bookmark. You can choose something that matches your party theme or colors. Receiving something special in the mail is a nice surprise and will make guests feel extra appreciated.
A virtual birthday party not really your thing? I completely understand. It’s taken some time for me to warm up to the concept too.
Although I do think they are a solution to being able to still host birthday parties during this crisis, there are lots of other ways you can celebrate your child’s birthday while social distancing.
One idea is to organize a drive by birthday parade. For this special birthday celebration, guests drive by in their decorated cars. They can honk their horns, play music, hold up signs from the car windows and make lots of noise.
Another idea is to put together a birthday chalk walk in your neighborhood. Ask neighbors and friends to decorate their driveways with messages for the birthday child. Have your child dress up in their birthday best and walk around reading the messages and enjoying the chalk drawings.
If you prefer celebrating as a family at home, check out these simple birthday ideas for celebrating at home. They are sure to make your birthday child feel special and are easy to put together.
And rest assured. Just because you are celebrating from afar doesn’t mean that your child can’t pick a theme. Adriane from Raising Kids with Purpose hosted an epic Minecraft birthday party for her son – all from a distance. So, no matter what theme your child has in mind – remember – it can be done.
The most important thing about celebrating a birthday during this extraordinary time is making the birthday child feel special. Celebrating a birthday is a big deal – especially during childhood. And kids want to spend the day with the people who are important to them doing something different than their every day. Make that happen and their birthday will be a success no matter what the circumstances.