My son’s birthday is coming up. It also happens to be the heart of a horrific pandemic sweeping across our planet. Honestly, I wasn’t planning to do anything big for my son’s birthday this year, but even the small celebration we had planned won’t be possible. We’d planned to decorate the house a bit (party stores are closed), have a few friends over for a playdate (social distancing), or go out for dinner some place where they will sing and bring out a free dessert (stay home, stay safe). All these simple ideas are no longer an option.
One thing is clear, celebrating our kids’ milestones during the coronavirus crisis is going to take some creativity. Here are nine ideas to make the day special.
Camp out. Sure, state campgrounds are closed, but that doesn’t mean you can’t camp out! You call still set up a tent in your backyard or even your living room and roast marshmallows at your fire pit (or even in the oven). Don’t have a tent? Blow up some air-mattresses or lay out the sleeping bags, then gather all your blankets and pillows and snuggle up as a family for the night in the living room together.
Bake together. I went to the grocery store to pick up my son’s custom Mickey Mouse birthday cupcakes, and lo and behold there was a sign telling me all custom orders have been canceled until further notice. I should have known, but it was still disappointing. Since we all have a little extra family time on our hands right about now, why not spend it baking your own cake together? Can’t find flour? Try making homemade ice cream. (You don't even need an ice cream machine.) It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Kids will love participating and getting the chance to put on as many sprinkles as their little hearts desire.
Make your own decorations. Birthday supplies are hard to come by right now, and going out to get them isn’t what I’d consider an “essential” errand. But that doesn’t mean you’re out of luck. You can make lots of decorations with items you already have at home or find free, easy printables online. Get your kids involved so they feel included in the fun. DIY tissue paper garlands are one of my favorites and homemade party hats make even a quarantined party festive.
Steal from other holidays. Not much of a DIY-er? No worries. Dig out some other holiday décor and make your kiddo feel extra special on his or her big day. String Christmas lights around the interior of your home. Do a post-Easter egg hunt. Put every Valentine’s Day decoration that you have in your child’s room so that they feel the love. If your kid is into spooky things, grab all your Halloween spiders and bats and hang them from the ceiling. Just adding a bit of extra glam to the house on their behalf will make any kid feel special.
Scavenger hunt. Whether you are trapped in your house or are still able to venture outside for walks, spend a little time creating a unique scavenger hunt for your birthday kiddo. Make a list of items they need to locate around the neighborhood. When they find them all it can be cupcake time! If you are at home, hide clues around the house that lead your child to their gifts. Print out or draw pictures of the items if your little is too young to read. You can even involve neighbors or local loved ones by asking them to leave special items in their windows or yards for a drive-by scavenger adventure.
Obstacle course. Use items around your home to create a long and intricate obstacle course for your kiddo. Place pillows across the floor for kids to jump over. String yarn or streamers along hallways for the birthday kid to maneuver through without touching (think “Entrapment” or “Ocean’s Eleven”), make them run up and down the stairs a thousand times to get all that birthday energy out. Winner gets the first piece of cake.
DIY bounce house. Remember those air mattresses from your campout? Keep those out and let your kid break the rules just this once and jump until they just can’t jump anymore on their special day. The novelty of being able to do something that is normally a no-no will make their day extra special.
Write a song. My kids are always humming and singing to themselves. Why not write down their lyrics and add some of your own about how special your kiddo is? If you are musically inclined, put your new song to music and jam out as a family. Just be sure to keep it focused on the birthday boy or girl so they feel important on their big day.
Splurge on a fun family activity. Unfortunately, it looks like we’re going to be in this for the long haul. So, if you’re financially able to indulge in a little splurge, consider buying a gift that keeps on giving. Splurge on some fun soccer bubbles and play a family game as a birthday celebration (and all throughout the stay-at-home order). Consider this your excuse to invest in that summer slip n’ slide a little early this year. Or for older kids, consider a slackline, then challenge the fam to make it across the line before stay-home order ends.
Whatever you end up doing for your kiddo on their birthday during this bizarre and uncertain time in our lives, don’t forget to make the day all about them. Really pay attention to your kiddo and what they need. It might not be what we all originally had in mind, but with a little creativity, you can still make it memorable for them.