There’s a birthday coming up and a pandemic, what to do? Have no fear, Yo! Mama is here (inserts laugh & cape). Prior to Covid-19, many of us were used to attending or throwing birthday parties at the park, in the backyard, at a bowling alley, or even scheduled parties at places like Sky Zone, BounceU, Chuck E. Cheese, or Urban Air, just to name a few. Hugs and high-fives were given, food was distributed, and all the running and bouncing the kids could stand, wearing them out & leaving them sleep on the ride home. And then, the pandemic happened. Most celebrations have been canceled, postponed, or made into drive-by and wave parades. Well, as for me & my house, it’s time to celebrate Yo! Mama style. Here’s how we had a blast hosting a virtual Hollywood-themed birthday party.
Choose a virtual software application: Deciding your virtual app is key in the success of hosting your party. There are a variety of platforms to choose from. Go with the one you are most familiar with and the least amount of connectivity issues with. For this party, we chose Zoom as it has a recording feature that you can save a video recording of the party, chat area, great screen resolution, cool backgrounds, can maintain a suitable amount of participants, share screen feature, and whiteboard for your writing or drawing needs.
Invitations: About 3 weeks from the party, I used Avery.com and their postcard paper to design & print out some cool invitations. I had Mariah choose approximately 7 of her closest friends to invite. On the invitation, I included little details of what would occur during the party such as Games, singing Happy Birthday, and opening presents. I provided the date, time & time zone, and rsvp phone number that I would later text the Zoom link from.
Aside from these mailed invitations, I also edited the time and activities on the invitation and texted an image of it to other family and friends to join the party approx. 30 min after the party with her close friends. This way, she could play games and the girls could feel relaxed with the small group but allow other relatives to still join in on the celebration by singing Happy Birthday and watch her open the gifts that they mailed.
Games: There are so many fun games you can think to play during the party. You can mail game pieces, game board, scratch ‘n play cards, and the list goes on. Bingo - I created our own “Red Carpet BINGO” board cards and used the non-thermal self-laminating paper to cover the board so that the kids can easily use dry erase marker, coins, or other to mark their boards and they can re-use them at a later date.
Pictionary – I used Avery.com again to setup postcard size game pieces for our “Hollywood Pictionary” game. On each card, I typed up a different word for each girl to draw. For example, one word was “Rainbow”. The person who has that card uses the whiteboard feature on Zoom to draw the rainbow and have the friends guess what the cardholder is sketching. Now in case technology fails you, the kids can grab a piece of paper and draw on that then show on their screen.
Walk of Fame Scratch ‘N Match – Using my Avery template to plug in different celebrity names on, I created little tickets and applied a scratchable sticker over the celebrity name. This was a great icebreaker at the party as the girls scratched their card and whoever had the scratch card that matched Mariah’s was the winner.
Party Goody bags: Historically, most party favors or goody bags are distributed AFTER the party is over. For the virtual party, you will want to mail it prior to the party. Inside our bags, I enclosed 3 party game boards (mentioned above) and some pretty blinged-out pink sunglasses (courtesy of Walmart). These were stuffed inside a pink paper bag, folded and stapled with the invite on top and a message on the outside of the bag reading “Please Do Not Open until 8/30”, which was the date of the party. I mailed these in a small bubble envelope. Though postage has gone up from when I used to mail packages frequently back in the day, this is still a huge savings compared to how much money we would spend on an in-person party with food, entertainment, etc. Let’s just say mailing 6 of the 7 packages was less than $50. If I would’ve used a diff envelope, it may have been even less.
Prizes & Food: Usually at a birthday party, kids look forward to pizza, cake, and tons of fun. And when you play games, kids look forward to prizes. So we combined the two. Hubby Mike had the cool idea to order a pizza and cookie and have it delivered to each of the friends’ homes. That way, everyone wins! And how amazing as a kid would it feel to have your own pizza, just like having your own personal party.
At the start of the party, I had the girls open their goody bags, put their glamour sunglasses on, and welcomed them to "Hollywood". Each friend stated their name but also gave their "Hollywood name". At the end of the party, I held up the "Walk Of Fame" with their names on each star. (Made with Party city stars and cut plastic tablecloth)
Pros of Virtual party: The biggest pro of having a virtual party is the lack of effort needed to cleanup afterwards! Can I get an Amen? The second pro is the amount of time for the party. Our party was no longer than 45 minutes and every minute was so fun, interactive, and worth every second. And third, tons of cost savings!
Cons of Virtual party: The biggest con is the obvious, the inability to spend time physically with friends and family. The engagement of kids playing with each other and laughing together is priceless and something we will never take for granted again after this pandemic experience. One other con is that sometimes technology may not be in one’s favor when attempting to host. One tip is to please be sure to test out your software prior to the party, including the day of.
Now I’ve given some helpful tips for throwing a kids party, but you know I couldn’t forget about us grown-ups. An ideal day in the life of an adult party could be over brunch where each person makes their own Mimosa and everyone can chat, play games (Pictionary, Kahoot!, Jeopardy, Family Feud, Truth or Dare, Have You Ever, etc), and even sing Karaoke. Adults could host a cooking or baking challenge where everyone makes the same meal or dessert and shows it plated at the end. They could even take a pic of it and have judges on who’s looks like it would taste the best. Now for those of us who prefer to party when the sun goes down or when the kids are heading to bed, you could host a trivia night with friends and before it begins, the host sends a recipe of their favorite beverage so everyone can prepare and sip during the party. You can even have pizza delivered to yourself or friends or arrange to pick something up. And finally, if you’d like to do something a little more structured like Paint with a Twist parties used to be, there are a number of virtual paint party opportunities you could coordinate in having the materials shipped to you and still enjoy painting with your buddies or relatives. One example is Paintin & Poppin Traveling Paint Parties, LLC. They have what’s called “The Paint & Pop Box” where you receive a canvas, paint, and other supplies in the mail either for your own personal interest or in a party package for a live session with friends. (For more info, find them on FB, Instagram, or visit www.etsy.com/shop/PaintinAndPoppinLLC). Another example is booking a reservation for a virtual Escape Room experience. Just like the real room except virtual where you get 60 minutes to solve the clues to try to beat the game. One place that now has this that I’ve been to in St. Louis previously is Breakout Games (www.breakoutgames.com). They even have an offer up currently where they will provide you a complimentary game if you desire to play along with a loved one who is deployed. How cool is that!
I hope that you are able to have some virtual fun very soon and praying all of us will be back to normal fun by the end of 2020. Stay tuned for my Halloween planning post as well as more details on my latest project…my Holiday Children’s book!
I’m still celebrating MY birthday!
Yo! Mama Mesh