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7 Ways to Throw Your Child a Socially Distanced Birthday Party

A little girl making a silly face at a laptop screen during a virtual birthday party.

Social distancing might prevent you from throwing your child a traditional birthday party this year, but you can still make the day special with these safe activities.

The pandemic has been hard on everyone, but especially kids. They’ve had to forgo spending time with their friends. Having to cancel birthday party plans on top of everything else might be devastating, to say the least.

The key is to focus on the celebration, no matter how limited it might be. Include friends near and far by having a video party. Invite your neighbors to a distanced block party or organize a rambunctious car parade. Even though it’s not the same as a sleepover or a day at the trampoline park, it’s better than nothing.

Above all, remind your child that this isn’t forever. Jot down ideas for next year’s party, such as a special outing with friends or a trip to Disney. Something exciting to look forward to will help ease your child’s disappointment about not being able to have her dream party this year.

Have a Virtual Party

Video chatting is quickly becoming the new norm for social interaction. You can use Zoom, Skype, or Facebook messenger to host your party. Just make sure the platform you choose can accept the number of guests you expect.

You can make the virtual party more interactive by creating a list of activities in advance. This way, the kids will have a focus, and it can help the shyer children break out of their shells.

Here are some ideas:

  • A scavenger hunt: Post a list for all the guests that includes things they need to find in their own homes, like a spoon, something yellow, a ball, and so on.
  • Trivia: Pick a fun category, such as Disney movies or outer space. Instruct the kids to raise their hands if they know the answer, or download the game QuizUp. You can award points for correct answers or offer virtual prizes, such as gift cards to the local toy store. Alternatively, you can create a list of trivia questions about the birthday kid and see who knows your child the best.
  • A craft project: Lead the kids in a fun and easy craft or art project. Try to pick an activity that utilizes basics they can find at home, or nature crafts they can make with things like sticks or shells. If you’re super-organized, you can even mail all the guests a “craft box” in advance.
  • Have a freeze dance: For this one, we recommend using Zoom, since it’s easy to share your screen. Once you’ve downloaded and installed it, click “Advanced” at the top, and then select “Music or Computer Sound Only.” This will allow your guests to hear the music you play loud and clear. To play the freeze dance game, just keep hitting pause, and then scrutinize the screens in Zoom to see who’s still moving.
  • Tell a story: One kid starts with a word or sentence, another child adds on, and then the next, as they all try to create a cohesive (but wild) story. You can also record it, so you can have some laughs later and an awesome keepsake of the party.

Plan a Birthday Parade

Organize a time for local friends and family to drive by your house, shouting, honking their horns, or blowing bubbles from their cars. You can even make your child a special “throne” to sit on in the yard, and wear a crown, a cape, or whatever else he or she wants.

You can take it a step further by decorating your front lawn or street with balloons, banners, and streamers

Throw a Chalk Party

If you have a long driveway, a stretch of sidewalk out front, or live at the end of a cul-de-sac, a “chalk party” is a great way to honor your birthday boy or girl.

Invite friends and family to stop by throughout the day to draw, doodle, or write some delightful birthday messages or haiku. If it doesn’t rain, your child will be able to cherish these messages for a few days (be sure to take pictures of them, too). Plus, it’s also bound to cheer up your neighbors during the quarantine madness.

You can help everyone maintain social distance by drawing squares six feet apart with a box of chalk inside for each guest. This will help prevent the spread of germs from sharing a box of chalk.

If you have enough space for everyone to come at the same time and draw, go for it! Blast some music, too—even if it’s only 20 minutes of fun and dancing, it’ll brighten your child’s day.

Play Online Games

There are tons of awesome games you can play virtually. We suggest combining them with a video chat, so it feels more like a real party.

Some of our favorites include:

  • Psych!: Take turns reading real trivia questions from a variety of fun topics. Each player types in a fake answer and tons of laughter will follow. You can download it for free from the App Store or Google Play.
  • QuizUp: Answer trivia questions in real time with your family and friends. There are thousands of topics, so there’s definitely something for everyone. Plus, it’s free to download!
  • Draw Something: One person picks a word and starts drawing, while the opponent tries to guess what it is. No drawing skills are required—stick figures are totally acceptable! You can also download this one for free!
  • Uno!: You can now play the classic card game virtually! Choose the classic version or try “house rules” for a fun twist. You can also send messages to friends and shout “UNO!” directly into your phone. What fun! You can download it for free from the App Store or Google Play.
  • Minecraft: This intricate world-building video game is a popular way for kids to connect. There’s also a free trial for those who don’t own it. Our sister-site, How-To Geek, has detailed instructions on how to set up Minecraft for remote play. Like the idea but overwhelmed by the logistics? Consider hiring a virtual Minecraft party planner to run things for you, like the teams at Digital Dragon or DigiCraft.

A Netflix Party

If your birthday kid is into movies, a virtual movie night will be a total success!

Setting up a Netflix Party is super-easy. Just make sure everyone has a Netflix account, a computer, and the Chrome extension.

Then, you just select your child’s movie of choice, click “NP” on the Chrome extension, copy the link, and then share it with your child’s friends! You can all watch the movie in real-time, with the ability to pause for snacks and bathroom breaks.

Plus, there’s a chat feature, so everyone can comment along the way. You can also disable the chat, and set up a video call on another computer, tablet, or phone for a more in-person experience.

Outdoor Adventures and Games

A young girl riding a scooter and a boy riding a bike with masks on.
Elizaveta Galitckaia/Shutterstock

If everyone’s going stir-crazy from being stuck at home, you can make your child’s birthday extra-special by getting out of the house!

Plan an outdoor adventure for your family or include a few of your kid’s best friends if you’re confident everyone will follow social-distancing rules. If you need some help on that front, see if you can get the kids excited about wearing a mask.

Here are some ideas for outdoor activities:

  • Go for a Walk: Take a stroll around the neighborhood or go for an easy hike. It’s fine to include friends, as long as everyone wears masks and stays six feet apart.
  • Swimming: If you have a pool, consider having a few friends pop by for a quick swim. Being outside and submersed in chlorine should minimize the overall risk of exposure to COVID-19. If anyone has to use the bathroom, have them sanitize their hands and wear a mask before going inside.
  • Build a campfire: Roast some marshmallows at sunset. You can even have a few friends pitch separate tents in the backyard for an overnight adventure, as long as you enforce a strict protocol for indoor bathroom use.
  • Host a dance party: A block party is a great way to connect with others on this special day. Have your neighbors gather in their front yards and dance to a few songs.
  • A scavenger hunt: The whole family can explore nature and look for a list of items, like a rock, a leaf, a flower, and so on. Offer a prize to anyone who collects all the items.
  • Rollerblading: An awesome way to burn energy, while maintaining distance from others. You can rollerblade, roller-skate, skateboard, or pull your kids around in a wagon.
  • Create an adventure park: Set everything up in the backyard, and then invite a few of your kid’s friends. They can play at a distance while wearing masks.

Make Your Kid’s Favorite Meals

Have your child pick all the meals on his special day. His wish is your command, even if he wants take-out for breakfast and pancakes for dinner.

Since dining out isn’t an option, consider creating a restaurant experience at home, such as selecting a theme, creating a menu, adding some ambiance, and dressing up. These little steps will go a long way in making the day feel extra-special.

You can also have the traditional birthday cake and ice cream. Add in some homemade cookies, hot fudge sundaes, or whatever else your child craves. Heck, if you want to eat dessert all day, we won’t judge! Cake for breakfast? Why not?

Life is so strange right now, it’s okay to bend the healthy-eating rules for just one day.

Celebrating your child’s birthday during a pandemic is tough. Many kids look forward to these special parties all year. Even though these replacement activities aren’t exactly the same, they’ll still be fun as long as you include plenty of love, laughter, and sweet treats!

Jill A. Chafin Jill A. Chafin
Jill A. Chafin is a freelance writer, aerialist, dancer, food enthusiast, outdoor adventurer, and mama, based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Read Full Bio »
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