- 1.First things first: decide on a theme!
- 2.Choose your Video Conference platform
- 3. Send out invitations
- 4.Time to decorate
- 5.Plan the party and activities
- 6. Decide if you need or want a virtual party entertainer
- 7. Party favors
- 8. Enjoy the party
- 9. Loved ones far away
- 10. Don’t forget to thank your guests with a digital thank you note
We’ve all adapted to lockdown life and some kind of new “normal” over the last few months. Restrictions may start to lift in the upcoming months but there are still many birthdays to be celebrated before we fully return to normal!
Video conference calls have become an integral part of our daily lives, whether it’s working from home, home-schooling or simply catching up with loved ones. Can you imagine surviving a worldwide pandemic without technology? So, let’s take what we know and use on a daily basis, to create a super fun virtual birthday party our little ones won’t forget! (A pandemic party is hopefully not something we will experience again in our lifetime…)
1.First things first: decide on a theme!
Decide on a theme for your virtual party, something that your child loves, or is interested in. OR work backwards, by thinking of a fun activity everyone can do at home and tie it back into your theme. For example, my daughter’s birthday is coming up soon and we are thinking a beading party will be super fun! We are going to send everyone their beads a few days before the party so everyone is ready and prepared for the day. Now that we know what we’re doing, we just need to decide whether it’s a mermaid party with pretty pearlescent “under the sea” beads or a classic craft party. Having a theme is possibly even more important for a virtual party, as you will need to make it feel more exciting than just their usual video catch ups with granny and grandpa! A theme with lots of cute details will make it much more special and everyone can dress up to match the theme too. Dressing up is a great way to get into the party mood. (Personally, I’ve found that my children are more engaged in onscreen activities when they are dressed for the part and can see their friends also dressed up. It breaks the ice too for those that are a bit camera shy.)
2.Choose your Video Conference platform
There are so many options out there and you are probably already familiar with at least one of them! You, the Host, need to set up the meeting event and generate the link, with passwords etc if applicable. Once you’ve got that information, ensure you include it into your e-vite and send it again 15 minutes before the party begins so you don’t have too many late-comers trying to find the original invitation email with links etc! (This is the story of my life!!)
Here are just a few options you can try out, Zoom, Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams. Just remember many free options have a time restriction. You could use this to your advantage and decide on keeping your party to a 40 minute limit or you could have two 40 minute sessions with a brief intermission/wee break! You can also structure your party around this, making the first 40 minutes all about the activity and greetings etc, with the second half being another short activity, singing happy birthday and blowing out candles.
Don’t forget that you as the host can mute everyone while you’re explaining an activity and can engage with each child by name and unmute them one at a time. You can explain to everyone that you have muted them in these moments and if they need to tell you something, they can give you “The signal”. You can decide on a fun action for this!
Also, I’ve found that gallery mode works best with children as they like to see all their friends and can see who is online with them.
3. Send out invitations
Once you’ve got your date and time sorted; have chosen a theme, don’t worry if you’ve decided to skip that idea (your little one might not be that little!). It’s time to get your invitations out just as you would for a normal party. I would recommend digital invitations that you can email out, as you will need to include all the details for the party such as the meeting link, password info etc. If you’re doing activities that need any preparation or include some items you’re posting or dropping off, you can include all of that in your invitation. If you’re using a virtual party printable bundle, it would be good to include those elements with your invitation too. Sending your guests cute little party printables to make at home will not only give them a fun activity to do, but also make the party feel more special. Who wouldn’t want to wear a cute DIY party hat?
Make your instructions as clear as possible. I’m always amazed how people make different assumptions when things aren’t spelt out! I would also keep the numbers down to a small(ish) group otherwise it can be quite overwhelming with lots of kiddies all talking at once! I also find that a smaller group allows all faces to appear at the same time in gallery mode which also helps everyone feel connected.
4.Time to decorate
I know it might seem weird to decorate for a virtual party but I think it’s still very important. Not only will it make your little one feel like they are having a “real party” and get them excited, but it will also make the house feel festive and let’s be honest, we could all do with a bit of extra cheer during lockdown! You can make your background look lovely with balloons tied to your child’s chair etc. and get them a cute birthday crown or party hat.
Send your guests some themed virtual backgrounds! This is not only exciting for the children to have cool exciting backgrounds, but your guests will love you as they won’t have to worry about the washing hanging up in the background. Think for instance, a space background with planets and galaxies if you’re having a space party! If you like the idea of also hiding your washing, remember you only need a small corner cleared, alternatively there is no reason why you can use a virtual background too! On the subject of techy things that add to the decor and theme, another cute touch is to download a free “snap camera” app that works with Zoom and choose a “skin” that is on theme. If you haven’t used this app don’t panic, I am late to the party and only just discovered it recently – it’s really easy to install and will provide hours of fun as your kiddies see their faces morphed into cute and crazy characters.
Don’t forget to get dressed up too!! You might not have any guests arriving in person but they will see you online and it will feel more special if you’re all in your best party dresses or themed outfits!
5.Plan the party and activities
Now it’s time to plan the activities for your online party. Age will make a big difference to what you can do and how many friends you can invite. In my experience, keep the activities simple and fun for all ages. If your child is around 3-5 years old, I would keep your party small and intimate and ensure their parents will be around or included in the activities to help keep their child engaged and sort out any possible IT issues! For older school aged children, bigger groups should be easier to manage, and many of them will be used to this format with class meet-ups and virtual clubs!
I would begin the party with some quick “house rules” (after everyone has said their hello’s of course) – letting the children know they need to put up their hand or do a funny action to let you know they want to say something, explaining to them that if everyone talks at the same time you won’t be able to hear them. Once everyone has familiarized themselves with virtual party etiquette, then get started on the first activity as quick as possible to get everyone warmed up! If you don’t have shy children like mine, they might like to welcome all their friends and help you explain all the party rules! A cute icebreaker would be to ask each child to say their favourite thing about the birthday boy/girl!
Have a clear plan and time allocation so that the party doesn’t drag on. You want to end on a high note before children start getting restless and bored as online/screen engagement only lasts for so long.
Here are some quick and easy ideas for games you can play at a virtual party:
Musical statues – works just the same as in person. If you’re planning on including some dancing at your party, make sure you’ve warned your guests to make sure they’ve cleared an area if need be. Also, make sure you have your playlist ready and check it’s working just before the party!
Charades – let each child have a turn to act out and time how long it takes to choose a winner.
Simon says – you can make this more personalized and change “Simon” to your child’s name and make them king of this game!
Treasure hunt – send little ones on a hunt for items around the house – such as something red – something fluffy – their favourite toy (this one is always a hit). Another sweet idea would be to send a party pack in advance and get the parents to hide it!
Craft activity – as I mentioned before, we’re planning a beading party as we’ve had a successful beading virtual playdate. There are many other activities you could do such as playdough, colouring-in or even cupcake decorating. All the items needed for these activities will need to be discussed with your guests. If you’re having 3-4 friends you could easily drop off some cupcakes along with icing and sprinkles to decorate together which can be enjoyed after singing happy birthday.
I spy – you could place some funny silly items in your background for a fun game of I spy.
Show and tell – get your guests to draw a picture on theme before the party, or find a toy and let everyone share their creation or toy and what they love about it.
Story time – a nice way to start or finish a party is with a story. You could get dad dressed up as a pirate and read a pirate story!
Board game – if your party is small enough and you all have the same board game you could play together with a little help from parents moving all participants’ spaces on the board.
Quiz – for older children you could create a quiz, even better if it’s one that’s on theme. I know dinosaur fans would love to show off all their dino facts! Depending on which platform you host your party on, there are some that have a quiz feature allowing people to answer multiple quiz questions and announce the winners on screen.
Singing – choose a selection of nursery rhymes or songs to sing together or simply finish the party with a singalong to the birthday boy or girl. You could suggest everyone grab an instrument or pot and wooden spoon to give it some extra pizazz!
Dancing – keep it simple and get everyone up and dancing to some fun tunes. You could teach a dance to go along with a song using some Youtube videos!
6. Decide if you need or want a virtual party entertainer
Who would have thought that this would ever be a thing?! What a funny time we’re living in. If you’re camera shy and would like to leave this to the professionals then you can relax and breathe a sigh of relief as there are plenty of virtual entertainers out there! I won’t share any links here as I have not used any personally and would hate to give you a bad recommendation! I would choose carefully though, perhaps try meet them online in the same way you would see them at the party. Make sure they are charismatic and speak loudly and clearly and can hold the attention of kiddies! I’ve stumbled across party entertainers in the flesh that were so quiet or lacking in personality they couldn’t even get the children’s attention! I don’t think you would need one for very long as you will need to leave time for singing and general hello’s and goodbyes.
7. Party favors
I know many people will say the best bit about a virtual party is that you don’t have to do party bags! So yes, this is certainly a silver lining! BUT I would say that a party isn’t a party without some kind of goodie at the end of the party… but this is just me! (I drive my husband nuts so just ignore this next bit if you’re a low fuss person) If your group is relatively small you could send a little goodie bag in the post or drop them off on the doorstep if they’re in your area (don’t get the police on me for instructing you to drive out of your restricted zones!).
How much more special will the virtual party be if there is a delicious treat to enjoy with the birthday girl or boy? Another way of giving something would be to send them all a digital printable goodie bag along with some printable activities they can enjoy after the party. Just think how much time and money you’re saving by not having to feed loads of people or hire a venue etc! So a little money towards some party bags is not going to break the bank… also with Amazon Prime you could even send items next day with no delivery cost, perfect for a baking party that needs supplies!
8. Enjoy the party
I can’t order you to relax and enjoy the moment as parties aren’t parties without an element of stress or last minute panics… but I would say that a virtual party is possibly the easiest way to throw a party for your little one. So my advice is to embrace it, go big and make it super special… after all, it’s a moment you will share with your grandchildren one day, telling them all about the party you threw in the middle of a worldwide pandemic.
9. Loved ones far away
I thought I would include this last point as we have always lived far away from our family since immigrating to the UK from South Africa. My son who is now 11 had both sets of grandparents on skype on two different computers (before you could have multiple people one call for free) at his first birthday! We’ve been rocking a primitive version of virtual parties for years, trying to include our family on important events! So when Covid is out of our lives and we’re living a normal life… don’t forget you can always have a virtual element to your party if you have loved ones that can’t join the party! It makes a world of difference and I still remember to this day having my mom with me on my laptop while lighting my son’s first candle in the kitchen before taking her with me and the cake towards my son. We have to make the most of our situation and enjoy those special moments as much as we can.
10. Don’t forget to thank your guests with a digital thank you note
Just because it’s a virtual party doesn’t mean that you can’t say a special thank you to those who made the party special or managed to deliver gifts. There are a number of ways you can do this with little video recordings or using digital thank you cards. It will be nice to add a personal touch at the end of your virtual party and guests will probably be quite surprised to receive a personal thank you note!
I hope this helps you create the perfect pandemic party!
Over to you lovely people! x