How to throw a great zoom party for your kid’s birthday party during a pandemic is…not a sentence I ever thought I would write. Dealing with the disappointing reality of birthdays during COVID-19 is totally a drag. However, it also builds the grit, the resilience, and flexible thinking that can actually fortify our kids with amazing life-skills long after the pandemic is a distant memory. I can’t wait for that! But in the meantime—you have to make a party.

Here’s a little checklist of stuff to master before the party:

1. Let friends in the waiting room.

2. Share their screen—and make sure that the host is the only one who can do this!

3. Mute and unmute participants.

This tech mastery can go a long way toward empowering the birthday kid. Then it really feels like they are the host of their own party.

Pick a Party Theme That Makes Your Kid Happy

While, of course, you can certainly just simply gather kids and play some fun games, I do suggest that there is a unifying theme. Figuring out what this should be can be a fun way to bond with your soon-to-be-birthday kid. Get out a pen and paper (or crayon, or that ever-present whiteboard) and make a list of beloved stuff.

Designate a Leader for the Party

Just like in “real life” it is helpful to designate a person in charge of the party games.

It could be: You or your partner on a different device than the birthday kid, a fun aunt or uncle, a great babysitter, a beloved music teacher, a company that your kid loves like soccer, music, theater or tech that can bring teachers to your party.

Characters Can Get Invited Too!

The coolest thing about Zoom is the ability to teleport in a character for a really brief time to lead a game! From a different device, a parent, friend or teacher can log on and pretend to be a character. Kids get captivated and transported and the new adult adds a freshness. Kids want to suspend disbelief, to imagine, make-believe and play. This gives them the opportunity! I suggest having some good improv at the ready, a fun accent and a simple costume! The character can lead a game or two and disappear. That shift of perspective is an awesome way to add variety and keep the kids engaged. You really don’t need to hire a fancy company to do the make-believe. Just enlist a family friend, relative or babysitter.

Create the Invitation

Granted, it may seem like overkill to make an invitation for the party. However, I would argue that these days it is more important than ever to indulge in the celebration however we can. So, go for it!  Paperless Post has lots of cool options with varying price-points, and you can add the link there. I also like that platform since you can track the RSVPs and send a reminder. You can also make a sweet and simple invite with a picture of your birthday kid and send it out over email.

Best of all, with making an invitation, you are welcoming your child into the planning process. Make it an occasion, dress up (either costume or fancy—an excuse to get out of PJs either way!), and have a photoshoot for the invite. Building up the expectation and the joyous anticipation is a boon of the birthday!

Zoom Party Game Tips

1. Make a list so you have a game plan at the ready!

2. Balance out any moving games with any stationary guessing games.

3. Find something really simple for the start so kids joining in at staggered times and feel included and not confused.

4. End with a bang and the cake so that kids don’t sign off before that happens.

5. Have some games as a back-burner in case some go quicker than you expected.

Great Games to Play Over Zoom

1. Jokes or Riddles (this is great as kids are entering the room)

2. Freeze dance

3. Mirror

4. Who started the motion?

5. Sneaky Tag

Be flexible as you play, taking into account kids’ attention spans. Also, if something is really fun and working well, you can play a second round or return to it at the end. In general, keep the games fast-paced and keep ‘em rolling too!

 

Celebrate Your Child with a Spotlight Shout-Out or a Video

If you are feeling ambitious, you can ask family and friends to send in a little “Happy Birthday” message and edit this all together. At the end of the party, you can screen share the video and end on a totally celebratory and personal note. Short of that, kids can go around the “room” and share something that they love about the birthday kid. This is a really special way to spotlight everyone while still making it all about your kids’ special day.

Ending the Party 

Singing is not great over zoom, but who cares…Your options are to either hear everyone at slightly different times, or mute everyone, have them sing, but spotlight only one singer. Kids may want to stick around and chat with each other in an unstructured way but when your kid is ready to end the party, do it.

Don’t Forget to Thank the Guests

They may not have brought presents, they may have come in their PJs, but showing up for stuff—on any level these days—is a big ask! Thank your guests after the party with a follow-up note through the invitation platform or an email to the guests. The birthday kid gets a little gratitude practice and it makes the friends feel great too!

If you want any support in making your party please feel free to reach out!

 

This post originally appeared on Child’s Play In Action.