Social Isolation and Children
Teenagers and kids are more vulnerable to the negative effects of social isolation than adults. Anxiety, depression, etc. have become more common for our children during the last 18 months or so, that they have had limited live social contact with their peers. Covid-19 has resulted in many missed opportunities for your child to enjoy fun times with their friends. Because of this, as parents, want to help them stay socially connected, especially for occasions like their birthday. The question is how do we do this safely?
I’m not in a position to state what kind of party is the right answer for your family. I’ll just share a few ideas of how other families have safely created happy memories for their kids in spite of the pandemic. Some of these ideas are from my personal experience performing fun magic shows at birthday parties, and other ideas come from what I have read.
I am also aware that some of the safety measures that I’ll share below have been deemed by some scientists as not having much impact on limiting the spread of Covid-19. I mention them anyway because of two reasons.
First, I like to go the extra mile to make people feel safe. Here’s what I mean; not everyone reads up on the latest findings by the medical community. Some people are still acting on older information. As such if they see that you are not embracing certain (now outdated) protocol for safety then it may make them uncomfortable attending your party and/or allowing their child to be there. This can potentially mean some of your child’s favorite friends will not come to the party. Second, it’s better to be too careful than not careful enough. To what degree you take that extra care is up to you.
Full isolation from people outside of your normal “bubble” is a serious consideration for families with children who may have an underlying health condition.
A completely safe party would be to simply have a party with just your immediate family and maybe invite a few of your child’s friends to join via Zoom, Skype or some other virtual meeting software.
Our friends at Fatherly.com have some great ideas on hosting a Zoom party and ways to make your child feel special on her or his birthday.
I do not currently offer virtual magic shows but I have colleagues who do. Just send me a message and I can put you in touch with the right performer for your age group.
2) Birthday Party Parade
If your family is opting to maximize social distancing then another way to at least see friends is a birthday party parade. Send out the invites with the date and time for friends and family to drive by your front door without leaving their cars. They can honk, wave a banner, toss out a gift, sing happy birthday, and so on.
General Live Party Guidelines
3) Get Vaccinated Yourself
I know that there is a segment of the population with whom this is not a popular idea but I’m going to say it anyway. Since the vaccines are not approved for children as of the time of this writing, their protection comes from the adults around them getting vaccinated and following the safety protocol.
4) Guest Reduction
As we transition to considering a party options with live guests, the key to safety is to limit exposure. The first step at this is reducing the number of guests. Instead of inviting the entire class to your child’s birthday party, pick just a few.
5) Stay Home When Unwell
On your birthday party invitations, mention something about “staying home the day of the party if you or your child is unwell. If needed we’ll have the group Zoom call your ill child to cheer them up.”
6) Follow Safety Protocol
At the start of and again during the party share some safety tips with the kids. Remind kids to make sure to cough and/or sneeze into their elbow. Also share that they remember to wash their hands with soap when they go to the restroom.
7) Keep Your Distance
Socially distanced activities like games that don’t involve physical contact. Red Light / Green Light, Scavenger Hunt, etc.
8) Frequent Handwashing
Handwashing should be obvious by now and also be generous with hand sanitizer. Kids are used to this now. In my work at schools, I see kids with sanitizer bottles attached to or inside of their school backpacks. With that thought, a few bottles of the germ killer strategically stationed around the house is wise.
9) No Mouth Toys
Don’t have party favors that kids put in their mouth, like whistles, etc. This lessens the chance that kids will be sharing saliva by swapping party favors.
10) Cake and Candles
Have individual cupcakes and only have candles on the cupcake to be eaten by the birthday child. Candle space may be an issue. Or, skip blowing out the candle entirely. If you do have it blown out by the guest of honor, make sure the group is appropriately distanced from the candle.
11) Prepackaged Food
Minimize the possibility of anything being transmitted by food by using prepackaged individual serving food and drink boxes, single serve bottles of water, bags of chips, ice cream cups.
If you will be having balloons, then make sure to use a pump to blow them up, or buy them already inflated. In this way, if one bursts, then there is no saliva spreading around as the explosion sends bits of balloon around the area like a toxic hand grenade.
13) Honey Bucket?
One dad recently told me that they are keeping guests out of their house during the party, even to the point of renting a port-o-potty for their yard.
14) To Mask Or Not To Mask?
A mask is always safer, but the CDC guidelines suggest that masks are not necessary for outdoor events if people are staying socially distant. It doesn’t hurt to have them though.
15) Mask It Up
Ask everyone to wear a mask. Let the other parents know in advance with your party invitation. Also have some disposable masks on hand for anyone who forgot their own. Maybe have some pre-decorated masks as a party favor.
Studies have shown that when people remain close together in a room without recirculating the air, then it is easier for viruses to transmitted from one to another. Keeping some windows open for air circulation guards against this.
17) Kids Only?
Consider a drop off party. Based on news reports, kids are a lot less likely to transmit the Covid-19 virus than adults are. Omitting the adults reduces the risk. However you still do need enough adults around to help host the party.
18) Birthday Party Magic
Now for a bit of self-promotion. Another fantastic thing you can do to help create a great experience and lasting memory for the kids at your party is to hire a professional grade magician. I’d prefer that you hire me but at lest make sure you get an entertainer with lots of experience and plenty of 5 star reviews.
Why should you get a magician?
1) We are funny. At least the good ones are.
2) We are amazing. Yeah, I know. It’s an over-used word. But, we do stuff that the kids have never seen in their lives. Well… that’s true for the good ones. And I’m not the only one.
These two points matter because of this: kids and adults easily forget what is ordinary. To make your party memorable it needs to be different…in a good way.
These two things are key triggers to force something into long term memory: funny and amazing. (surprising, astonishing, unbelievable, etc.).
I look forward to hearing from you.
More Articles On Birthdays and Child Safety During The Pandemic
Small and Large Gatherings article from the CDC
This article shares ettiquette tips on inquiring about vaccination status of potential guests.
Note that any Covid-19 comments in this article is based on news sources available at the time of this writing. This information is no substitute for guidance from your pediatrician and/or current information from the Center for Disease Control or your local government health agency.
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