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Party Canceled? Fun Ways to Celebrate Birthdays at Home during Social Distancing

Birthdays are supposed to be some of the most fun and special times for children and adults alike, but what happens when the unexpected happens and in-person parties have to be canceled, or family and friends can’t travel to make it a special occasion?

Little girl and her teddy bears wear party hats for her birthday celebration during social isolation.

I’ve got some great ideas on how to turn disappointing circumstances into birthday magic with fun ways to celebrate at home!

We are truly in an unprecedented time right now. To keep our communities safe in light of the current state of things, we are experiencing extreme, but necessary, situations like quarantine and social distancing. And not being able to see family and friends means a big thing for littles: the canceling of birthday parties all over!

So how can we celebrate birthdays when it is not safe to hold parties with anyone other than our immediate family? In a time where the things we can do and enjoy might seem limited, birthdays do not have to be one of them.

In fact, we should celebrate even more, because having a birthday boy or girl is such a shining light in what can be a difficult time for families!

Here are some great ideas for celebrating a birthday at home during social distancing. These ideas also work well for when you live far away from family or travel plans get messed up, a child gets sick on their birthday or someone is undergoing medical treatment preventing in-person contact, or if inclement weather and unforeseen circumstances lead to parties having to be canceled at the last minute.

Awesome Ideas to Celebrate a Birthday at Home

1. Host a Virtual Birthday Party

While it may not have the same cozy feeling, family and friends can still join in for presents, cake, and even some fun games in a virtual birthday party.

Zoom is a great program where you can invite people to join your “meeting” and they can all enjoy the party from your phone/computer’s viewpoint, or everyone can have a little window so it is a virtual hangout! It is free to sign up and can host up to 100 participants for each call on the free plan.

Woman and child use computer for a virtual birthday celebration at home.

For a kids party, just set up the computer or phone somewhere that they can be seen while still able to play, then put some music on and let them play freeze dance, strike a pose, or do an activity together.

While it may be different than what they are used to, at least they will get to see their friends for a short time and have some laughs together!

Skype would also work for this, and I believe you can have multiple screens open at once if using Skype for Business.

Skype is a major part of our connection to long-distance family, its how we announced we were pregnant with our first and how we did gender reveals for our out of state family!

A virtual party would be fun for anyone, even if it is just a short duration. You can even have a cake delivered to the birthday girl or boy’s house!

2. Do a Drive-By Birthday Parade

Sometimes just seeing a person on their birthday is all both parties need to feel connected. If located in the same town, consider driving by the birthday girl or boy (or man or woman’s) house and waving/cheering for them. You could even bring balloons, signs, or other fun party items like crazy hats.

Want to go all out? Take an idea from small-town holiday parades and decorate your car beforehand. You could even invite friends to join in on the fun and decorate theirs too for a little parade! Just stay in your car, of course, to ensure proper social distancing if multiple families are taking part.

Or do as one mom did and ask neighbors to stand outside while she drove her son around on his birthday, the entire neighborhood came together to decorate porches, dress up and celebrate the 7-year-old safely!

3. Create a Fun Front Yard Surprise

Like the idea of seeing someone on their birthday but looking for another idea in person? Plan a sweet surprise right outside their door!

This could be done by parents for their own children, or by family/friends for someone they care about.

Children use chalk to draw on concrete for a fun birthday activity at home.
Toddler girl holds sidewalk chalk while celebrating birthday at home.

A few ideas to make someone’s day outside their home include:

  • Hang party streamers in trees and/or bushes
  • Make homemade yard signs wishing them a Happy Birthday (just tape construction paper or poster board to any type of garden stake, yardstick, etc.
  • Create a mural with sidewalk chalk. Invite neighbors and friends to stop by when they can (and when no one else is around) to draw pictures, sign their name, or add their own artistic design to the mural.
  • Hold up signs and balloons and ask the individual to open the front door, sing Happy Birthday and enjoy a quick chat from a safe distance. Try putting on a costume for an extra element of fun!

4. Do a Combination Virtual/Live Scavenger Hunt

To help the birthday boy or girl find their presents while getting a chance to connect with everyone who means the most to them, set up a Virtual/Live Scavenger Hunt. Here’s a simple way to make this happen:

  1. Recruit a big group of (or even just a few) people who would love to help celebrate the big day.
  2. Determine how you will contact each person (Phone call, FaceTime, Skype, Marco Polo app, FB video chat, etc). You can do one method for all or whatever works best/makes sense for each person.
  3. Create a list of people, and assign each person a “spot” somewhere in the house.
  4. Build two sets of clues: one for different places around the house, and the second list that provides clues about who they need to call to hear the next destination clue.
  5. Send one clue (going in order from the list of the places) to each person ahead of time. When it is their turn, they will read or tell their clue, which in turn tells the child where to go next.
  6. The night/morning before the big hunt, hide or put out the cards with the clues about the next person to contact.
  7. Just before it is time to start the hunt, send everyone a quick text message to let them know you are ready so they, in turn, can also be ready to go!
  8. Give the first clue to the birthday child, having them either call the first person or sending them to the hiding spot of the first person clue (your choice!).
  9. As they reach each place, they will read each clue and figure out who the next person they need to contact is. When that person answers the call/chat/Facetime, not only will they get to wish the child a Happy Birthday, but they will deliver the next clue to keep moving them through the scavenger hunt.
  10. At the end of the hunt, their surprise awaits! It could be presents, cake, or anything else that will make their day bright.

This is such a fun way to involve others in the joy and anticipation of a birthday surprise and lets those far away feel like they have a real role in the celebration.

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Family shares birthday celebration using a cellphone.

Ideas for Making Birthdays a Big Deal at Home

5. Create Family Birthday Traditions

Birthdays don’t have to include people outside your immediate family to be fun! Some of the things that make birthdays so special are the unique family traditions that come out only once a year, or more if there are siblings around.

Growing up, I always knew what I could expect on my birthday. My parents made each of us feel special by decorating the house with streamers and signs (including a special birthday chair at the table), the coveted birthday plate for the day, a personalized birthday song playing (anyone else a ZOOM- It’s your Birthday child?) and we always got to pick where or what was for dinner that night!

Maybe your family decides to write letters every year to the birthday child, or they get to pick the day’s adventure. Or perhaps the day is based on their favorites: and everything from foods, movies, activities revolves around them.

Whatever you decide, a family tradition is something that brings joy, no matter how big or small.

6. Have a Themed Day

Just like a birthday party often has a theme, if life’s events have led to no such party, you can still bring the idea of a theme into the daily mix.

Pick something your child loves or is interested in, and prepare/plan for different activities that have to do with the topic.

Does your son or daughter love trains? Meet them in the morning as a conductor and lead them through different stations or train cars during the day. You can have a craft, movie, even go all out and make a cute little train out of their lunch! You could do literally any theme and just make a day out of it.

7. Blow Up (Lots of) Balloons

If there is one thing that makes kids smile like clockwork, it’s a balloon. They are instantly drawn to them! Take advantage of that fact and go full out with balloons as decorations.

You can fill their doorway with balloons by taping streamers on the outside and tucking balloons in, which will create a fun avalanche of balloons when the door is opened.

If they are too young to open their own door (or if you are having to go in multiple times night or they share a room, you can fill their floor with balloons for when they wake up, just don’t put balloons in their bed or crib until they are awake and you are there to monitor them.

Child plays with balloons on bedroom floor to celebrate her at home birthday.

Balloon arches make for a dramatic statement and are actually fairly easy (though a bit time consuming) to make. You can get kits easily on Amazon or just tie some fishing string to a needle and string the balloons together that way.

Or just blow up as many balloons as you can and just let them play during the day! There are so many fun games that can be played using just a balloon, and kids just love to try to throw and catch them or chase them around the house.

8. Give them a “YES” Day

Birthday Queen or King has a whole new meaning when you let them dictate the day. You can make it as official (let them know anything goes) or unofficial (tell yourself you will say yes to any non-extreme request without them knowing so you can change your mind later) as you want.

9. Bring the Activities Inside

Maybe a birthday camping trip was canceled, or a pool party postponed. Why not try to recreate it as much as possible with the family at home?

A campout in the living room or backyard may not be the same, but it brings an entirely new set of memories along with it.

Little girl celebrates birthday at home in tent.

Even if you can’t bring the pool inside, a water gun fight inside is a blast, and cheap mini water guns or just regular spray bottles are perfect for indoor battles.

When thinking about how to celebrate a birthday at home when not able to be with other people, all you really need to think about is how you can bring an extra element of fun to the day. While it may not replace having a room full of people, there are still so many ways to bring birthday cheer no matter the circumstances.

Pinnable image of ways to celebrate birthdays at home.

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