Here we are: April. Round two of Covid birthday celebrations for our spring birthday kids. In Part 1, I shared ideas for Covid-safe birthday celebrations. Below are some more ideas to consider to ensure everyone stays safe at the party.
Explain Safety Rules in Advance
Do not come if sick or anyone in your household has been feeling ill or has been exposed.
We love you and wish you would be here, but not at the expense of Covid. We can catch up later – no worries at all!
Keep It Small
A great party does not need to be 20 people. Consider splitting it into multiple parties if it a big or milestone birthday. Could you see immediate family today and a couple of friends tomorrow? We are still in a pandemic; gathering 30 people together, spaced out or not, is risky. Consider a smaller, more manageable number. Your wallet will thank you!
Type of Food
Before the TYPE of food – consider first, what is actually necessary? This Christmas, we gathered outside by a large fire and had no food whatsoever. Same with Thanksgiving. Being together was enough and both holidays remain my favorite celebrations ever. There was zero stress in prepping anything and the focus was where it should be: the purpose of the celebration.
What food is absolutely necessary for your celebration? Must you serve pizza and chips? Is a cake where someone has physically blown over the cake necessary (post learning about Covid, I am not sure I am ever going to be okay with droplets blown over the cake we are going to eat). What about beverages that are poured from and shared?
There are ways to go about this that are both environmentally responsible and covid-friendly.
Why must we have the typical cake? Could we instead do cupcakes with one having a candle? What about a small take-home cake with a candle and cake pops for the guests? I promise parents will thank you for not overloading their kid with sugar and keeping it to one small pop. Perhaps you skip the cake and wrap up cookies in a decorated paper bag ahead of time, so passing out is a breeze (no contact)?
You can easily purchase juice boxes and water bottles. You can also purchase individual (and different) take-home glasses and an individual bottle per family to share. Pre-determine how you will tell apart the juice boxes, bottles, or cups. For example: do you want to use nametags or stickers to decorate the beverage? At a party for a friend’s 40th, we used red solo cups, and each person decorated their cup to look like the birthday boy. This made identifying your cup easier.
Consider the notion you may not need to serve snacks. If you plan the time right, the party could fall right after lunch and no snacks are necessary. Also, you could tell parents “this is a cake/ice cream only party,” so the expectation from the start is no snacks will be served.
If you still decide busy mouths equate to less trouble, consider what type of snacks require no
breathing upon each other help. Maybe you purchase individual snack packs or twist-off applesauce pouches and lay them out on the blankets ahead of time.
Serving Food and Seating Arrangements
It is your party and yours to decide if food is a must. If you decide to go for it, determine how to serve it to minimize contact. With individual packets, you can pre-divide up food and put it in goodie bags. If you are serving pizza or a serveable item, dedicate one person to serve the food. Ensure this person is doing their best to not breathe over the food, has washed their hands, and is double-masking. Instead of people waiting in a line for food, serve one at a time.
Spacing everyone out can be as simple as laying down blankets or setting chairs up. You can put X’s on the ground with painter’s tape. Six feet is the rule of thumb if masks cannot be worn outside, and since you would be taking them off to eat, lean on the side of 6+ feet to be safe.
If you are using picnic tables, space kids out by table. Depending on the length of the table, each kiddo can have an end. While it is true young children tend to be less likely to catch or spread the virus, it is not impossible, so as the host, it is important to take the steps to space everyone out.
Hand Sanitizer Stations
Depending on your venue, you may not be able to easily access handwashing stations, so prepare with hand sanitizer stations. You could lean to buying a small hand sanitizer for each guest, such as these from Bath & Body Works, or set up a table with hand sanitizer and cleaning wipes. Insist people sanitizing when they get there and before/after eating.
Bathrooms and Air Purifiers
We are writing this article as if you are hosting your party outside. So unless you are planning on bringing in a port-a-let or you are at a venue that supplies bathrooms, you need to plan on people using the restroom at some time. Set down the groundwork that the house is off-limits unless someone needs to use the bathroom.
Now, I am a bit extreme so when we hosted my husband’s milestone birthday, we popped open all the windows and sliding glass doors in the house and put air purifiers in the rooms people would walkthrough. Then we left the bathroom fan on the entire time. Every 30 minutes or so, I would wipe down door handles, light switches, and other high-touch areas.
When everyone left, we moved one of the air purifiers into the “used bathroom” and shut the door overnight. The windows were left open for a few more hours to air out the house. Was this overkill? Yeah, likely, but if you know me, you also know it was necessary for me to sleep that night.
Take Into Account Weather
I have a friend who went to every measure to plan out his child’s birthday party only to have it rain. This was unforeseen and unfortunately, when they moved the party inside, someone was asymptomatic. The party ended up spreading the virus to several family members.
It is easy for rain to damper the best-laid plans, so take into consideration what you will do if the rains come. Luckily, with small gatherings, rearranging is not terribly difficult if we are not renting out a venue. Look into options for bad weather: can we move it to the next day or earlier/later in the day? What about the next weekend? Can you rent a large tent and create a yard canopy? We are all used to making a date and sticking with it, but by relaxing some of the expectations of a birthday party, the flexibility of moving becomes much easier.
Focus on Details for the Extra
This is what has made the few milestone birthdays we have encountered stand out. We focused on the extra factor. For my mom’s 70th, my brother and I did not want to gather people together. Instead, we set up recorded Zoom calls from people all over the country. One by one, they shared memories and special moments of my mom. My brother compiled these into a video and the gift left her speechless. This was better than any single party we could have given her, as she listened to people from California to Georgia tell her of the impact she made on their life.
For my husband, his 40th would have been a gigantic bash, but in the height of rising cases, this was not an option. Instead, we zeroed in on one of his favorite characters, Venom, and planned his birthday around that. People for almost every walk of our lives blew up his phone with a gif or meme referencing Venom. We made a Venom pinata and pin the tongue on Venom. A friend of mine fashioned a Venom cake topper of Venom laying over top of his name, complete with a couple of dozen Venom-colored cake pops. We set up socially-distanced games and had a fire with chairs spaced out. With 10 people total in our yard, he was given a better memory than had we have put on a large bash.
It was those extras that made the difference; not the number of people present. In the end, the milestones passed with exactly what we intended: our loved ones feeling their importance.
Make an End Time
This is where I went wrong. I did not establish a definitive end time. By having one, you set up a boundary of when everyone needs to go, limiting exposure and stress. As was, so many other boundaries were set up that we were totally fine, but in the end, it is helpful to have this so you can also relax and enjoy the celebration.
Remember, it is a celebration. Although there are reasons to be concerned, if you take the steps to plan out a fun, safe, socially distanced, and masked-up party, you can still make an unforgettable memory. Allow your guests an “out” if they are not comfortable with no hurt feelings. This is not a personal reflection of their care for you or your child. Not everyone is ready to open up yet. Also, it is okay to say, “These are the guidelines and we understand if you don’t feel okay with them and can’t make it.”
We are in a weird moment in life. Grace and forgiveness will go far. After that, party on.