6 Ways to Make a Small Birthday Celebration Feel Special When You're Social Distancing

Birthdays are still worth celebrating even if you have to scale back the festivities to keep everyone safe. Here are 6 ideas for creating memorable birthdays for the special kids and adults in your social circle — until we can blow out the candles and host large-scale gatherings again.

putting decorations on a homemade birthday cake
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Think back to your last birthday. Perhaps it was a big dinner party? Maybe some dancing? Definitely a shared birthday cake, with candles on top blown out by the guest of honor.

Now fast-forward to 2020, when due to the coronavirus pandemic, a lot of things have drastically changed. Including celebrations. But you need not skip celebrations altogether. Here's how to pivot to make a birthday party safe, pandemic-friendly, and fun all at once.

For the Kids

family celebrating daughter''s birthday with cake and balloons
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1. Surprise them with a yard sign.

Similar to supersized cards and ideal for all the selfies, jumbo yard signs are a festive way to show love without a large crowd. Find a local retailer or order one online ($69.99 at Amazon) and set it up after the kiddo's bedtime on birthday eve so they can start their day with a smile.

2. Eat cake at every meal.

True, you're probably not hosting a class-sized bash. All the more reason to let them eat cake! Start a new tradition by serving cake at breakfast (Good Old Fashioned Pancakes or a stunning Crepe Cake, lunch (Best Ever Crab Cakes) and dinner (Baked Polenta Cake with Fresh Tomatoes and Parmesan) to infuse fun into the birthday from morning 'til night. And don't forget Rainbow Pinata Cake for dessert.

For the Adults

3. Try a virtual "bar crawl" or wine tasting.

Pouring red wine into a glass
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If your local regulations allow it, order a round of to-go cocktails from the birthday celebrant's favorite pubs and bars to deliver to their doorstep (and the doorstep of their pals invited to the virtual bash). Then "crawl" your way through as you snack and sip the evening away connected via video chat. Bonus points if you can dial in the bartender or owner of their all-time favorite, where-everybody-knows-your-name spot.

If that's not an option where you live, or they're more of a wine fan, host a wine tasting by scoring the same bottles for each household of attendees to take a "tour" through the bottles virtually. Possible themes include New World vs. Old Word, Unusual Red Wines, Sparkling Wines From Around the World and Rosé All Day.

4. Indulge in a home spa day.

While you likely won't be jetting off to a fancy Sedona hot springs soak or other spa-cation, you can have a splurge-y staycation that will feel plenty decadent. Light candles, prepare some herb- and cucumber-infused water and diffuse some essential oils (Project 63 Woodgrain Oil Diffuser; $27.99, at Target) as you paint nails, try different skin scrubs and potions and layer on face masks. The dress code is, naturally, robes and slippers. (Get more tips and recipes for a DIY spa day.)

For Both

5. "Travel" to their dream vacation location over dinner.

Tour the globe or visit their dream vacation destination by way of your menu. A few potential ways to cure their wanderlust:

6. Organize a drive-by parade.

family waving hello during a birthday car parade during pandemic
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To stay safe and socially-distant but still allow the birthday celebrant to see friends and family, coordinate a neighborhood parade. Invite everyone on Facebook or via email to decorate their cars with signs, streamers and balloons, then attach a map with a meeting place, "captain" and the best path. At the captains "go," the parade begins. A few minutes before the arrival time, ask the star of the day to step outside for a surprise. It will be a fun This is Your Life-like moment they won't soon forget.


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