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The ultimate guide to birthdays at every age during coronavirus

(Ross May / Los Angeles Times; Getty Images)
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Tiny moments of joy, like blowing out birthday candles with family and friends, are not only important, but they may be critical to holding on to any sense of normalcy right now. COVID-19 may make it impossible to see one another in person, but, that’s where the internet’s real power comes into play. We compiled a list of ideas and resources to make sure your birthday celebrations are worth remembering.

“Social connections are absolutely crucial,” Marley Majcher, CEO of the Party Goddess, a luxury event planning company in Los Angeles, says about our love for social gatherings, including birthday parties and beyond. “We still need our friends. That is why now I think we’re hearing more and more about virtual parties.”

The nice thing about technology, Majcher says, is virtual events can happen on a dime, and everyone’s invited. However, she notes that even virtual events still need to come with a plan. Enter: this ultimate guide. Here’s advice from Majcher and other elite party planners in Los Angeles for throwing a birthday party amid quarantine, followed up by party ideas for every age group.

Make it simple

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“The key to all of this is not forgetting that communication is simply the most important,” Kristin Banta, founder of Kristin Banta Events in Los Angeles, says of sharing all the details of a virtual event. Communication begins with choosing and sharing a platform for the digital event. Google Hangouts and FaceTime are free options, while platforms like Zoom offer the basics at no cost.

Once you choose a platform, it’s time to not only send invites but also send instructions on how to join — the more detailed, the better.

“Send the instructions like you are sending them to a 5-year-old,” Majcher says. “Maybe all of your friends aren’t super tech-savvy. I believe in making things dummy-proof.”

(Full disclosure: Times owner Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong is an investor in Zoom.)

Just because you’re staying home doesn’t mean you have to be lonely. How to set up video chats for a dinner party, game night, karaoke session and more.

Deliver the party to your guests’ doorsteps

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If even this amount of planning is too much to bear, call in the big guns to do the virtual work for you.

“We decided to make this a more flawless, seamless, standardized experience where we all feel like we’re going to the same party,” Jared Reichert, founder of the Reichert Consult, says about his new venture, KikiKit, one of the first virtual party planning services to be born out of these wild times.

Inside a KikiKit, guests will have everything they need, including standardized glassware, drink kits, table decor and floral arrangements.
(KikiKit)

“What we do is we take everything from the digital invitation and create a customized invite through Paperless Post, assigning a Zoom ID to that invite,” Reichert explains. “Guests have an idea of what they’re getting into because a KikiKit will be delivered to them the morning of the party.”

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Inside the kit, guests will have everything they need, including standardized glassware, drink kits, table decor and floral arrangements. All this so when guests log on they feel like they are “at the same space and experiencing the exact same event.”

Think age appropriately

All the experts agree each age demographic has its own unique wants and needs out of a digital birthday party, starting from the youngest set, who may be missing birthday parties the most.

Kids under 13

Children deserve an epic birthday no matter what’s happening in the world around them. The key here is to keep it tight.

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(Ross May / Los Angeles Times; Getty Images)

3 ways to involve other people:

  • Quick virtual party: Invite both kids and parents for a Zoom catch-up. But keep it brief. “Keep kids parties shorter,” Majcher says, noting they can be as short as 30 minutes.
  • Rent a character: Bring your parental A-game by hiring a prince or princess to virtually MC via companies like Ever After Princess. This also means parents can kick back and relax while Cinderella and Prince Charming take over.
Hire a prince or princess to MC a virtual party via companies like Ever After Princess.
(Ever After Princess)

  • Create together: If virtual Elsa is already booked, Reichert suggests sending out a task with the invite, such as a Lego building set or Play-Doh so parents and kids can get creative together during the event.

3 ideas for an in-house experience:

  • Scavenger hunt at home: Everyone loves to feel like a winner, especially kids celebrating their birthdays. Create a small scavenger hunt or mystery map for the birthday star to follow until he or she reaches the final prize — a birthday present.
  • Create a ball pit: Keep the birthday VIP happy and preoccupied for hours in a homemade ball pit. All you need is a baby pool and a few bags of balls ordered from a place like Target to create some at-home magic.
Teddy Casey celebrating his first birthday.
(Stacey Leasca)

  • Get the neighbors involved: For extra cool points, get the entire neighborhood involved in your child’s birthday with a neighborhood-wide “safari.” Ask the neighbors to place various stuffed animals on their porches or lawns so you and your child can walk through the streets and spot the animals, checking them off a premade list along the way.

Staying home this weekend? We’ve got some ideas. Take care of your plants, make your house cozier, help neighbors and start planning your next trip.

Teens:

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All the experts agree it’s best to leave the teens alone during their virtual hangouts. Not only are they likely more tech-savvy, but they will bemoan too much structure. However, one tip Majcher suggests is to provide virtual invitations with a set start and end time so everyone can enjoy the party together.

(Ross May / Los Angeles Times; Getty Images)

3 ways to involve other people:

  • Stream a movie together: If there’s one thing teens love to do it’s going to the movies together. Luckily, they still can with apps like Netflix Party, which allows friends to watch together and chat at the same time. (Sorry, no holding hands in the back row though.)
  • Make something: Now’s the time to bring back a sleepover classic: the friendship bracelet. Prior to a virtual hangout, send all your teen’s friends a kit to make friendship bracelets (still somehow a thing and still readily available on Etsy) and create them together.
  • Get dancing: In case you haven’t noticed, the youths are all about that newfangled app called TikTok. What better way to spend a birthday than by dancing with your friends? Record the final attempt and upload it to the app.

3 ideas for an in-house experience:

  • King or queen for the day: Every teenager deserves to feel like the boss, even if it’s only for 24 hours. Make them the queen or king of the castle for one day and do everything they say (that goes double for younger siblings).
(Ross May / Los Angeles Times; Getty Images)

  • Family game night: Bring the entire family together around the table for a good old-fashioned game night. Allow the person whose birthday you’re celebrating to pick the game (and maybe even give them a head start since it’s their day).
  • Have an at-home campout: Though the national parks are closed the backyard is open for business. Create a glamping masterpiece at home by setting up a tent, bringing out a few blankets and covering everything in twinkling Christmas lights for a night outside.

20/30/40s:

For the grown folks out there, it all comes down to one thing: Cocktail time. Plan the event for after the kids go to bed, bust out the top-shelf goodies (or have a KikiKit delivered) and log on with your friends. Want to level up? Majcher suggests requiring everyone to bring a plus-one so “you can grow your circle of friends in the real world too.”

(Ross May / Los Angeles Times; Getty Images)

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3 ways to involve other people:

  • Create a cocktail together: Rather than have everyone pour their own drink, choose one (or several) to make together. Learn something new, like an easy old-fashioned or a yuzu spritzer to expand your horizons. Again, send out instructions to friends for your preferred platform (Zoom, Google Hangouts, etc.) along with a specific time to log on. Try 6 p.m. Pacific/ 9 p.m. Eastern so you can bring your coast-to-coast friends together.
  • Dance: Not into drinking? That’s OK, you can all come together for a Ryan Heffington dance class instead. The famed choreographer is hosting near-daily dance parties on his Instagram account, showing everyone how to perform his signature moves. FaceTime your friends, log on, and practice (and laugh a lot) together.

  • Throw a virtual theme party: Who doesn’t love a theme? Let the person celebrating a birthday pick the theme (think: Tiger Kings and Queens, Pajama Jam or Prom Night), and log on wearing your finest duds.
Stretch out and say “om”: Here are some yoga routines and classes to try at home. Plus: Why you should really be doing yoga right now.

3 ideas for in-house experiences:

  • Relax with a spa day: Sometimes, the best celebration is no celebration at all. Create an at-home spa for your own birthday or the birthday of a loved one by ordering bath salts, scented candles, masks and a few magazines. Make the spa experience complete by having lemon water on hand.
  • Take a baking challenge: Accomplish new feats of greatness in the kitchen by baking a gourmet confection. Try something unique like a fried blood orange cake or go for a classic chocolate cake for a thick slice of goodness worthy of a few candles.
  • Join TikTok: Yes, TikTok was in the teen category too, but you know what, 30-somethings are the true stars of TikTok. Join the fun, learn a dance with your partner, roommate, family or whoever is around, and share it with the world. It’s your day. People will like it regardless of whether you’ve got the talent.

50-plus

If there’s one group that needs to feel the love right now, it’s those over 50. As the demographic most at risk, it’s their time to feel special. For their birthdays, we can celebrate by gathering online or delivering them a bit of joy at home.

3 ways to involve other people:

  • Create a virtual scrapbook: Ask everyone involved to email a favorite photo along with a brief memory, then upload it to free services like Canva for a virtual keepsake they can have forever.
(Ross May / Los Angeles Times; Getty Images)

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  • Hold a surprise reunion: For a milestone birthday like 50, 60 or 75, host a virtual “This Is Your Life event. Bring on new surprise guests as the night goes on and ask them to share their favorite moments with the person celebrating a birthday.
  • Host a wisdom hour with children and grandchildren: There’s nothing parents love more than sharing their wisdom. Indulge them by hosting an hourlong virtual event where the person celebrating their birthday can impart their pearls of wisdom with abandon.

3 ideas for in-house experiences:

  • Deliver their favorite things: Order up the birthday celebrator’s favorite restaurant meals, wines and desserts for delivery. As a bonus, this helps support local shops too.
  • Form a drive-by caravan: It’s still OK to see someone as long as you stay six feet apart. Keep it safe by creating a caravan of cars, each one decorated with streamers and balloons, playing the same song, and drive by the birthday celebrator’s house to show a little love.
  • Declutter with joy: Since we’re spending time at home, we might as well declutter, right? Make it into a birthday game by giving the Marie Kondo method a go. Have the person celebrating a birthday speak about the object, where it came from and why it sparks joy. Then get rid of the rest. And hey, this way the person has not only celebrated but accomplished a task too.

In these times, Banta reminds us all that it honestly is the thought that counts. As she says, “In a world where we overcomplicate things, sometimes there are moments that are stand-alone that still bring smiles.”

People are decluttering while hunkering down at home. An expert shares tips on how to get organized during the coronavirus pandemic.


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Stacey Leasca is a former social media editor at the Los Angeles Times.