Growing up, birthdays were a family-oriented affair for my brother and me. We were allowed to have a friend over, we got to pick the restaurant we wanted to eat at, and we were allowed to pick an activity for the entire family, which usually meant a trip to the movie theater. My little brother famously chose Chuck E Cheese as his birthday spot for about six years in a row, nearly causing our father to weep tears of joy the year he finally chose something different.
When I was pregnant with my first child, I thought about all the fun birthday parties I would plan. She will be turning six this year, and this is only the second party we have hosted and will certainly be the largest. We plan to do smaller gatherings most years, with a larger birthday bash every three to five years.
As you might have guessed, Covid numbers, shutdowns, etc., have affected our plans over the last few years. We snuck in a cautious outdoor get-together with under 10 guests last year; however, our daughter is in school now, and so, in a few weeks, we will be inviting her whole kindergarten classroom, gymnastics team members, church friends, and really anyone else she wants to see.
Of course, we have to consider the safety of everyone as we make our plans. So what are the best ways to have a party that will keep everyone safe and comfortable whilst still having a memorable celebration?
The obvious decision would be to host a virtual party, but I feel like my ability to technically wrangle anymore than two or three people is just not up to par. So, I’ve been researching and finding ways to make in-person parties a bit safer all around, and this is what I’ve come up with.
The Outdoor Extravaganza!
Obviously, an outdoor event is definitely the safest option when one eliminates virtual avenues. However, some suggestions I have run across to increase the safety for attendees includes the following:
Party favors: When putting together party favors, consider adding a small hand sanitizer bottle to the baggie as well as a disposable mask, which could be used if and when visiting the indoor restrooms and for games that involve closer proximity.
I have considered expanding the bags to include items the children and parents might need throughout the party: craft items for any crafts we are doing, juice boxes for children and water bottles for adults, napkins, serving utensils, etc.
Foods: The best part about parties is always the snack table. One of the biggest health suggestions I’ve unearthed encourages party hosts to pre-portion the foods, so guests can minimize contact with food and serving utensils one might encounter at a buffet-style setting. Though this gives the host a bit more work to do, it may prove more efficient overall. Anything that gets everyone their cake faster, can only be positive, right?
Setting up individual plates, perhaps bento-box style seems like an interesting twist. Pre-pouring drinks is an obvious choice, but you could also include some juice boxes and/or water bottles in the party-favor baggie to avoid everyone having to reach into the same cooler to retrieve drinks. Or perhaps, sacrifice a family member during the food portion of the party to stand at the cooler wearing gloves to hand out cold beverages.
Games/Activities: As much as I would love to have a huge blow-up obstacle course for kids to tumble through until they are laying in an exhausted heap on the grass, I don’t feel quite ready for that yet. Fortunately, there are plenty of games that allow for minimal contact to choose from! Some of my favorites include noodle tag, Simon Says, scavenger hunts, and of course various art projects that can be set up for individual children or small groups to work on like pumpkin painting, Fairy House construction competitions, chalk art exhibitions, etc.
One game I’ve run across and fallen in love with is from a popular YouTube video that shows kids playing Hula Hoop Showdown. The children form two teams and line up at either end of a long line of hula hoops. The opposing team members hop toward each other and, when they meet, play a rapid-fire game of Rock, Paper, Scissors. The one who loses the game goes back to their team and the winner continues hopping through the hoops. It is rather like a non-contact tug of war and the goal is to reach the other side! This seems to me like the perfect way to wear out a group of little ones.
Just be Sensible: I suppose the final safety tip is to just be sensible and do what you are comfortable with. At this point, most guests realize going anywhere whilst sick is a bad idea, but if you feel nervous it is ok to reach out to your guests to make sure everyone is on the same page. Send out an email, a text, or include on the invitation that you encourage everyone to use common Covid-safety protocols to determine if they are well enough to attend.