COVID 19 and lockdown have brought with them far reaching complications, crisis, heartbreak and legitimate issues. One of these minor or major (depending on who you are and from which view you are looking) is celebrating your birthday.
Ella started counting down to turning 5 from the day after she turned 4. On the morning of her birthday (yesterday) she said to me “I have waited my whole life to turn 5” – a bit dramatic but not wrong J So basically cancelling her party was not an option.
Instead of a conventional birthday party we planned a party over Zoom. Zoom is an amazing platform because it is free (limited time and number of participants) but if you want bigger numbers or more time you pay to upgrade… this is a great deal, in South Africa it is roughly R300 per month and you can pay month to month. So you could really pay R300 for the party (cheaper than a party venue). If you have a wonderfully generous friend like I do (who already pays for a Zoom subscription) then you can piggy back off her and she can make you the host and then viola you have your platform.
I searched many websites to find party games. There were loads of great ideas for older children and adults but not a lot for children in this age group. The following is what I did. For us it worked really well (Ella acted and felt like she had had a traditional party)… hopefully some of what worked for us could help your child feel loved on their special day.
Firstly we spoke openly about what would happen… i.e. we would be at home and friends would be on the computer; we would have a cake that we couldn’t share; we would be at home. Etc
Secondly, I made a big deal out of the cake (being sugar free for 4 years and the fact that this was only the second birthday that Ella had a traditional cake –also she doesn’t get many sugary treats, so this was not difficult). We baked it together and iced it together and it was all about what she chose and planned (autonomy).
We made a designated party area, where I hung a white (flat) sheet and decorated it with the bunting she made earlier this week. We tied a balloon to her chair and blew up some balloons. As an aside, I am very anti balloons but Ella recently discovered a half opened bag of balloons in my drawer. As you can imagine, since she has been somewhat deprived, she latched on to them and wanted them to be at her party- since we already had them I thought it would not hurt).
Anyway, to the actual party… I had (a few weeks ago) sent an invite via whatsapp. I then made a Whatsapp group for the people who had RSVP’d. I sent the meeting ID and password out the day before as well as a rough agenda. I saw this tip on a website, it is helpful for those parents who need to leave their child to interact at the party alone… that way a child can be prepared with everything they need and not need their parent to be present.
Our agenda looked something like this (so you can understand how rough looks in my world):
Hi All, thank you for joining. We will start at 10am and play a game, after that we will play a game where your child will need lots (or all) of their t-shirts. Then we will sing and cut the cake. After this you can choose to log off if that suits you or we will play another game before saying goodbye.
We started the morning by having music playing in the background and chatting. I wanted to wait for everyone to join the meeting. Then we had a scavenger hunt… I cannot express to you in words how exciting a scavenger hunt is for kids. I have done them with my Grade 3 class online and I have seen Ella do them with her teacher. Despite age, there is something that makes this the number one online game. Here is what I asked them to look for (as they came back to show the screen what they had found I was cheering them on… e.g. wow, well done Lia, look at that book you have, etc). Here is a list of what we found in our scavenger hunt:
- 1 shoe
- Your favourite soft toy
- Something that starts with a c
- A ball
- A hat
- Something small and red
- Something you eat that is salty
- Something that starts with an s
- A piece of fruit
- A book
- A tube of toothpaste
- A mug or cup
Next we played a game where you put on as many t-shirts as you can in 3 minutes – so much fun to watch… seriously, some kids just watched this and others played until they looked like the Michelin Man.
Then we sang and cut the cake. Some parents had cake and cupcakes at their house for their own kids and others didn’t, but no one seemed to notice or mind.
Then I said everyone who wants to log off can and those who want to stay for one last game can… we had a few minute of saying goodbye.
The remaining children had a drawing game, which went something like this:
- Draw a circle, make that circle into a flower, put a smiley face at the centre of it
- Draw a balloon
- Draw a car
Then the birthday girl dictated a drawing of her choosing. Each time the children were asked to hold their drawings up to a screen.
Then we all said goodbye and our little birthday girl ate cake… happy as she had ever been.
It was a great success.