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7 Ways to make your child’s socially distant birthday special

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It might be different than last year, but that doesn’t mean this can’t be the best birthday yet!

Now that stay-at-home orders have lifted in many places, families are starting to socialize again, but most will stick to a few trusted friends in quarantine pods or just family members. That means that the typical children’s birthday party—with invitations to classmates and neighbors, party games, opening gifts in front of friends—isn’t possible right now, and perhaps you’d rather forego the “car parades” that have become the standard replacement (your neighbors will be glad to be spared all the honking!).

But what other options are there? It turns out there are lots of ways you can celebrate with just your family. Here are 7 ways to make your child’s birthday wonderful without leaving home.

1
Let your child plan the day.

The first step is to solicit the input of the birthday boy or girl in mapping out the perfect day. A younger child might be happy planning one or two out-of-the-ordinary activities (like playing on the Slip-n-Slide or doing finger paints), while an older child might want to draw up a full schedule.

You might be surprised what they come up with, but you can feel calm and confident knowing that they’ll be happy with the plan, since they made it! Besides activities and games, don’t forget to include birthday meals and treats in the plan.

2
Make a scavenger hunt with a treasure map.

If you take just one idea from this list, make it this one. My oldest turned 6 in May and he’s still talking about the scavenger hunt I planned for his birthday. He hunted all over the house and yard for his presents, and each little gift had a clue to the hiding place of the next one; the last clue was a treasure map leading to his “big gift” out in the garage. The clues and maps were very (very!) simple, but he absolutely loved the whole thing.

3
Camp out in the backyard.

If you’ve got some yard space and a tent (or can borrow one), pitching camp in the backyard is guaranteed to be a special night for your kids! You might make a bonfire and roast marshmallows, sing camp songs, stargaze, or just snuggle in sleeping bags (and maybe an air mattress). My husband volunteered as the sacrificial lamb great dad who did this with our kids, and they enjoyed it so much.

4
Play party games with just your family.

You can still play the traditional party games, even if it’s just your family! Plan on easy classics like Pin the Tail on the Donkey, Duck Duck Goose, Charades, Simon Says, and Tug-of-war, or check out these creative Minute to Win It games.

5
Follow your child's lead throughout the day.

Your child might have had grandiose visions of a day jam-packed with activities, but on the actual day, might need an unforeseen nap or some down time from all the fun. That’s perfectly fine! Just follow his or her lead throughout the day and be responsive to anything that might come up.

In a way, this might be the best part of a birthday at home. You can really focus on your child all day, playing with him and soaking in his darling little personality, which is a really relaxed and enjoyable way to spend the day for both of you.

6
Video call friends and family.

If you can’t get together in person, plan on calling loved ones. Older kids might enjoy a virtual game night with their friends, while little ones will be happy just to hear “Happy birthday!” sung over the phone. Some families are even doing virtual birthday parties online.

7
Get together with a close friend or family members.

If you’ve got a “quarantine pod” or you’re starting to get together with friends and family, and it’s safe to do so, meeting up with a beloved best friend or grandparents might be the best gift of all.

Even if it’s not the event you would have planned, or anything like the birthday party they had last year, a socially distant birthday can be a wonderful and memorable day. In fact, many children may prefer a day being showered with Mom and Dad’s affection and full attention over a loud, possibly overstimulating party with the whole class. It might look a little different than any of us are used to, but that doesn’t mean this can’t be the best birthday yet!