How to make it special when you can’t have a party
Lockdown may be in place, but one thing’s for sure: birthdays still happen once a year, regardless of the rules and restrictions around us.
And if you’ve got a little one at home, you’ll certainly want to ignite their excitement and make the day as special as you can, particularly during these tough times.
Despite physical gatherings with friends and family being out, there are plenty of things you can do to make sure the day stands out as being a little different from the norm.
A few well-chosen gifts, some gorgeous decorations, cake (of course!) and maybe some online activities are simple but effective ways to make sure it’s an exceptional day.
If your child’s birthday falls on a weekday and you’re working, you need to decide if you can have the celebrations on that day or whether you should hold off on anything special until the weekend.
Though we think you should have the presents and decorations ready for the day itself, as kids tend to know exactly when their birthday falls!
We’ve got ideas here for both younger and older children. We hope they inspire you if you want to give them a brilliant birthday, albeit a rather unusual one.
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Nothing says it’s a birthday better than balloons, and if you want a celebratory vibe, we’d suggest dressing one part of the house as the “party” room. You might want to do it the night before your child’s birthday, once they’ve gone to bed, so they wake up to an exciting scene.
These stunning leopard balloons (£20 for six, Bubblegum Balloons) will add a serious wow factor to any space.
There are lots more to choose from, including rainbow stars and age-specific blow-ups, as well as smaller options too.
Testing them for our round-up of the best kids’ decorations, our reviewer said: “We just popped the end of the stick into the wand head on the balloon and we were all set. We really liked that these could be used as decorations – they work well as a centrepiece on a table filled with party food.
“These balloons come in bunches of six and are attached to wands rather than string. We found these lasted and lasted – five days and counting.”
No birthday is complete without cake, and if you’d rather buy one than make your own, we recommend something colourful and fun like this rainbow layers cake (£30, M&S).
It’s designed to feed 30 people (gulp!) so you could enjoy it over a good few days. But there’s also a smaller one that serves just eight, if you think that might suit you better.
Our reviewer of the best birthday cakes that can be delivered to your door described this as “a beautiful centrepiece, with plenty of room for candles”.
Nothing says it’s a celebration like a party horn (£2.99 for four, Pretty Little Party Shop): just try not to annoy the neighbours too much!
Our tester of the best kids’ party decorations noted “these horns measure eight inches and are really lovely to look at – with pastel shades with gold accents. We found these to be effortlessly loud – which did the job!”
We know that chatting remotely isn’t quite the same as doing things in real life, but it’s still a lovely way to connect with people you have no other way of seeing.
If you want to try something other than Zoom, one option is House Party, which featured in our rundown of the best video call app alternatives.
It’s free and simple to use and offers a huge selection of interactive games that are great to play in pairs or groups, ranging from trivia to charades.
Whichever platform you use, you’ll need to make sure everyone you want to involve can access it. Set a date and time in advance, and give everyone a reminder the day before.
If you have a really young child, you might want to think about limiting the call to a couple of family members or best friends, or do a number of separate calls over a few hours (or days), as the experience can get a little overwhelming with too many people on the screen.
Virtual escape rooms
If you have an older child, you might like to try a virtual adventure.
There are lots around: for Harry Potter fans, consider the Hogwarts Digital Escape Room, created by an American librarian in Pennsylvaniaâ.
There are team-building exercises, trivia questions to answer and puzzles to solve that you can do as an individual player, or in a team with your friends.
Another child-friendly online escape room (for age 10 and above, though under 16s must be accompanied by an adult) is Escape Live (from £20). One of its rooms is called The Raid and is based on the TV series Peaky Blinders, and there’s another based on Sherlock Holmes too.
Of course, your kids will also be excited about presents – you might even already have some ideas for gifts they’ll be delighted with.
For really young ones (age two and above), we love this sweet cocoon shapes and colours dog (£27.60, Amazon).
Our reviewer of the best toys for two-year-olds said: “This four-legged friend is sure to be the best of chums with your little one in no time, as they spin his tummy to match up the shapes or colours. At 28-months-old, our tester was more occupied with wobbling the dog’s spring-mounted head and tail or stroking and wiggling the soft felt ears, but this is a great educational toy for those precious pre-school years.”
“Not only did our toddler love it, but it also looks great on the shelf too – made from a mix of beech wood and Chinese cherry wood, and using water-based paint, play has never looked so good!”
For an older child (aged eight and over) we think this magic set (£34.99, Bright Minds) could be just what they need to keep them seriously happy on their birthday and for weeks to come.
It featured in our round-up of the best gifts for eight-year-olds, with our tester describing it as “solidly made and pleasingly old fashioned”.
“It features 10 tricks to be performed ad nauseam on delighted family and friends, including a vanishing coin box and the enjoyably naff ‘Egyptian prediction’ trick, with most of the props made out of wood rather than cheaper-feeling plastic alternatives. Roll up, roll up, you won’t believe your eyes, etc.” Prepare for the fun to begin!
For more birthday ideas, check out round-up of brilliant kids’ party decorations
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