It’s come to my attention (as a mother) that just because you feel as though you’re locked in the most elaborate escape room ever does not mean you get a pass on planning elaborate birthdays this year.

Gone (for now) are the days of stroking a check and letting the party planner at the local jump place host the situation for you while you sat back and watched the fun unfold. Whether you love planning birthday parties or just enjoy seeing your kiddo light up, the burden of the merrymaker is now firmly back on your shoulders. Luckily, you don’t need a lot of money, a delivery from Amazon, or a party planner to make any birthday special. Here are 6 fun ways to make it really fun at home.

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Let Them Plan the Day

Set the ground rules, then let them go nuts. Morning movie? Sure! Jammies all day? Definitely. Super fancy dress-up dinner? What else are we doing! Let them pick and choose their favorite things or, if they have trouble coming up with ideas, put a few fan-favorites in a bowl and let them pick from it throughout the day. My favorites include “Bake Cookies,” “Play in the Sprinkler,” and “Family Bike Ride.” Bonus points if you have a crown they can don.

And don’t forget snacks!

Punt Meal Planning

Let your birthday friend pick out their favorite meals for the day. My daughter turned seven in April and took full advantage of her day. We had waffles with whipped cream and sprinkles for breakfast, Snack Dinner for lunch, and make-your-own pizza night for dinner. One benefit to things slowing to a halt is that I’ve got more time, especially on a weekend birthday, to make all the dreams come true—at least when it comes to food.

Host a Socially Distant Party

You’ve likely seen on your Facebook feed that friends are hosting drive by parties where guests come by during a set time and wave to the birthday boy or girl, who stands in the front yard. This is an easy way to keep the party to a limited time frame, see friends, and keep everyone safe. Tip for party attendees: Instead of stressing about how to give a gift or card without including your germs, send a digital gift card so the recipient can pick out their own present this year.

Go Full Digital

Zoom gatherings aren’t just for never-ending conference calls; kids are dialing in to Zoom birthdays to play Pictionary, Win Lose or Draw, or even Bingo. A few tips: make sure to password protect your party especially if you’re hosting minors, and if you choose Bingo, make sure you email guests different Bingo cards instead of emailing the same one to everyone. Ask me how I know…

Bake Your Own Cake

We’re firmly store-bought cake people when it comes to kid birthdays. I love baking with my kids, but not when I’m also on a deadline to get everyone in a car, to a location, or am finishing a day at work. This year was the perfect year to dial it down and make one at home. Again, since the whole goal is to make your kiddo feel special, let them pick everything. We landed on a chocolate sheet cake with blue icing and a rainbow on top made from marshmallows and rainbow airheads. Mine did not look like this. Or this.

Need more birthday cake inspiration? Check out our favorites.


You likely have extra ribbon, construction paper, and markers from your newly built homeschool stash; put them to work! If you don’t normally decorate at home, or rely on balloons, this is the year to give old-school decorations a shot. Hang streamers from the door frames, blow up balloons to cover their beds, and string ribbon from the light fixtures. Trust me, kids don’t care if it’s leftover Christmas ribbon, and your house will look more festive for a few days.

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