Has COVID-19 put a dampener on your (child’s) birthday party plans? There are still ways to celebrate the milestones with a bit of creativity. Who knows? It might even become one of the more memorable ones!

Simone Emery is the nutritionist and fussy eating specialist at Play with Food who loves to make happy memories around food from family meals to birthday celebrations. That memory took on a very different form when her daughter turned eight in early April, right in the middle of the Australia government’s increasing social distancing measures in response to the coronavirus crisis.

Not to be deterred, she threw her daughter a birthday party which the birthday girl declared “the best day ever”.

“Yes, she probably says that every year on her birthday,” says Simone, “But I’m still taking it! Trying to throw her a birthday celebration this year required leveraging one of the most creative resources we have: the internet.”

The birthday party started with a cake-cutting and “Happy Birthday” singalong with her daughter’s school class using Zoom.

“After missing her friends for over two weeks, she was very excited to see them,” says Simone. “It was probably a bit chaotic as the kids found ‘muting their mics’ a foreign concept. Yet, a usual cake cutting is always a flurry of excitement. The biggest difference with this cake was that I could get away with making the demure Mildred Mouse one from the iconic Women’s Weekly birthday cake book. A suitable size for four people, who actually got to eat the cake. It was much easier than some of the big cake undertakings of previous years.”

Simone’s daughter also received video messages containing birthday jokes from friends and family, which made her really happy.

“In the afternoon, we had a cooking party . . . online! This was organised by Foost,” says Simone. “We sent out the email invitations that Foost distributed to us. Everyone logged into our party room and we got cooking. We made mug cakes with our friends following the instructions from our Foost party host, Emily. The birthday girl thoroughly enjoyed her chocolate-and-pear mug cake. Her sister opted for choc raspberry. Our neighbours enjoyed their banana and chocolate chip mug cakes. Emily also played some games on the interactive whiteboard feature for everyone to join in with.

Online birthday party while in quarantine

“Organising this birthday was quite simple, in fact. We posted the zoom link for the cake-cutting to the class WhatsApp group, specifying the time to log-in. I was in contact with Foost to organise the hour-long cooking birthday party. She arranged to get the hats and aprons out to us for the party, along with the ingredient list (with plenty of substitute ideas just in case participating families weren’t able to locate the ingredients.)

“With some cuddles, her favourite dinner and a new book to read at bedtime, my little girl looked up at me and said she had a special day. A golden moment in an uncertain time,” Simone says.

Other quarantine birthday party ideas

Now that staying at home has become a reality for most families, many are coming up with other innovative ways of celebrating their children’s birthdays.

Collect birthday wishes

“Friendships are very important to our little people,” says Allira Bell, stylist at Temple & Webster. “Help them connect with their besties by organising a doorstop collection of handmade cards.” Or like Simone, you could collect video messages containing birthday wishes for the special child. 

Virtual dinner party

While moving parties to the Zoom video conferencing platform seems like an obvious one, one mum went a step further. Fifteen minutes before the zoom party was scheduled to start, she dropped off a little party esky to each of the party attendees. Everybody dressed up as though they were actually heading out, and then sat in front of the computer all eating the same type of food.

Surprise them

Polka dot wall decal

“Create an element of surprise and decorate your child’s room before they wake up,” suggests Allira. “Cover the floor with brightly coloured balloons with treats hidden inside, throw around some festive crepe paper or stick paper polka dots on the wall for the ultimate birthday surprise.”

Organise a treasure hunt

As Allira says, this can be done in your home or any available green space. “Use riddles or pictures as clues to find goodies like framed photos, craft supplies and presents,” she says. “Don’t forget to leave some chocolate out for yourself too, we all need to have some fun!”

Themed day

“Plan a family movie or game night around your child’s favourite theme,” says Allira. “Unicorns? Make special headbands using ice-cream cones and ribbon. Superheroes? Everyone wears towels as capes! Disco? Create a dance floor, complete with music and flashing lights. Planning the evening around their favourite thing is sure to make for cherished memories—and funny family photos.”


Probably best done if you live on a quiet suburban street. Organise to have your kids’ friends drive by at a certain time frame, while you stand by the front door with the birthday child. Encourage the kids to decorate the car, shout out birthday greetings from the car window or even pop some party poppers for a bit of celebratory cheer.

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