top of page

DIY Birthdays: Pandemic Style

Updated: Aug 15, 2020

Birthdays in a pandemic - first world problems, right? But it's a very real problem for moms around the world who are trying to make their children feel special on their birthday without a party or the typical plans.

My oldest, Taylor, had a birthday at the beginning of April, only a short-time after San Diego county was hit with a shelter in place. Our plans for a weekend trip to LA with a visit to Universal Studios and a fun escape room vanished completely and my daughter, already dealing with the impacts of not going to school, and not seeing her friends, was feeling pretty down. I scrambled to make the day as fun as possible, and by the end, she told me it was one of her favorite birthdays ever. I assumed that would be my last pandemic birthday, but I was clearly wrong. So, as I start to put together the pieces for my youngest, Cameron's, birthday, I thought it would be helpful to lay out what I did for Taylor, and the ideas I have thought of, or have come across, since then.

What made Taylor's birthday especially challenging is that stores, like Party City, had closed down, and shipping was significantly delayed. Amazon, also, was prioritizing medical supplies, and slowing down the shipping for everything else. While these were understandable changes, they were ones that impacted us greatly nonetheless. With all that said, here's how we made Taylor's day special:

1. Surprise Cupcakes - Did you know Sprinkles delivers and you can create your own design? I pre-ordered them in advance, and had them delivered the weekend of her birthday so the celebration could start early.

2. Decorations - The night before, we decorated as if there was a party. Since I couldn't buy new decorations, I used what I already had to make the house feel festive and birthday-ish, including a petal trail from her room to the surprise decorations and streamer obstacle course downstairs.

3. Birthday Kid Makes the Rules - A risky move, my friends, but desperate times calls for desperate measures. She got to make the rules all day. Although, she didn't take full advantage of it the way I may have as a kid, she very much enjoyed the freedom and power.

4. Birthday Kid Chooses the Meals - She picked what she wanted for lunch, dinner and dessert. I asked her for her choices ahead of time so I could have all the ingredients ready to go (finding brown sugar and flour when the grocery shelves were empty was quite the excursion). She chose In 'n Out for lunch, Stuffed Shells for dinner and Carrot Cake for dessert.

If you are lacking in the cake decorating skills department, like me, this trick with frosting and sprinkles is the easiest way to add a customized look for your special birthday kid. A step-by-step guide to completing this look will be sent out in my weekly newsletter this Saturday. Not a part of my email list? Subscribe here. I promise, we hate spam as much as you do, so you will only receive one email a week with helpful design tips, easy recipes and more.

5. Surprise Donuts - We have a restaurant near us, The Donut Bar, that makes very specialized and unique donuts that she's obsessed with. We pre-ordered them the night before and had them ready for a surprise in the morning.

6. Pinata - While my options were limited on what I could find, I filled a pinata with several of her favorite things (candy, small toys, etc.). This was a big hit (no pun intended.... Who am I kidding? Pun was certainly intended. But seriously, this was one of her favorite birthday activities).

7. Ceramic Painting - Prior to her birthday, I picked up some ceramic figurines and paint from a local pottery shop. They were closed, but they were allowing pick-ups for you to complete the piece at home. After completion, you drop them off for glazing. It was a fun birthday project to work on during a shelter-in-place situation. If you're local to San Diego, here is where I grabbed our pieces from.

8. Birthday Drive-By - Family members stopped by to sing and celebrate from a distance. This was all still new, and the car caravans were not a thing, so I wish I had arranged something with her friends, but family driving by with banners seemed to do the trick.

9. Birthday Zoom - We pre-scheduled a Zoom with our family to sing and celebrate with cake.

10. Sister (Sibling) Sleepover - The girls got to have a sister sleepover filled with movies, popcorn and candy.

For movie nights, we like to add our favorite candy to butter popcorn. Pro tip: M&M's added to warm popcorn slightly melts the chocolate inside. It's heaven.

In Addition to the Ones Above, Here are Some New Ideas:

  1. Bounce House - You don't need to have a party with tons of kids for a boune house to be fun! Many bounce house rental companies are offering contact-free delivery and sanitizing their bounce houses thoroughly

  2. Birthday Present Scavenger Hunt - Setup clues in your house that eventually lead to their gifts.

  3. Egg hunt - I promise it's not just for Easter! I've actually worked egg hunts into many of my parties - a pokemon egg hunt during Cameron's Pokemon birthday party, gold magical unicorn eggs for Taylor's golden birthday party and glowing alien eggs for Cameron's space party. It's a fun way to switch up normal birthday/party activities and you can usually find a way to work it into the theme - especially when the kids don't question why unicorns lay eggs, because I have zero explanation for that. Usually, when the eggs are filled with fun surprises, they don't ask too many questions.

  4. Birthday Caravan - Setup a time for friends and family to drive by.

  5. Picnic - Arrange for a socially distanced picnic in the park or a car picnic in a parking lot so your birthday kid can see their friends and family.

  6. Backyard Movie - Screen their favorite movie, or one they've wanted to see for a while, under the stars in your backyard. Don't have a projector and screen? There are rental companies that can loan you one! If you're local to San Diego, here's a company that does this very thing! Throw in a mini-concession stand with popcorn, candy and drinks for the added touch.

  7. Nerf Gun, Laser Tag or Water Balloon Fight - Set it up in your backyard or local park (where allowed) and have fun together as a family. You can use cardboard boxes, inflatable pool floats and other items to create places to hide around for an extra touch.

  8. Friends and Family Scavenger Hunt - Unlike the present one I listed above, this hunt would involve the participation of friends and family nearby, and a bit more planning. Each clue would lead to a new friend or family member's house (the outside, of course), where the family member or friend can greet them/sing to them/cheer for them/give them a gift (from a safe distance) and provide them with the next clue.

  9. Beach/River/Lake Day - Sometimes a change of scenery, especially in times where the a change of scenery is rare, makes all the birthday difference.

  10. Backyard Birthday Camp-Out - Friends, this is the closest I will ever get to camping. Setup a tent in your backyard, roll out the sleeping bags, light a fire, make s'mores, tell not so spooky ghost stories (or I won't be able to sleep) and pretend you're in the middle of some glorious national park.

  11. Birthday Water Park - If you don't have a pool, it's not a problem! Use an inflatable pool, a slip and slide, a splash pad, several water guns, water balloons, and any other fun water activities you can find to setup a water park in your backyard. Another fun option is to rent a water park/slide from a local bounce house rental company. Most of them are still up and running and doing a great job at keeping our kids safe.

  12. Have a New Idea? - Contact me through my website or comment below! I would love to hear all about it and include it in an update to this blog.

I will be reliving Taylor's birthday on my Instagram and Facebook stories today. If you miss it, find them on my Taylor Instagram highlight bubble.

Subscribe here to receive my weekly email with helpful design tips, easy weeknight recipes, DIY advice, and much more! You have my word, I hate spam as much as you do, so you will only hear from me once a week.

1,330 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page