Hosting a Fun and Safe Birthday Party

Celebrating together, even while apart, has been a consistent theme throughout the pandemic. Throughout 2020 and into 2021, families have adjusted to revised guidelines, connected in new ways, and made changes to protect the most vulnerable in the community we share.

New positive cases and regional intensive care unit availability are still being reported daily on the State of California’s official COVID-19 response website: Each county’s current tier status varies, and while most of Central California is currently categorized under the orange tier restrictions, some counties are still in the red tier.

Birthday parties may have been canceled or postponed last year, but going forward events can be happier than ever—with some modifications. Through vaccinations, social-distancing, and other best practices, celebrations can be safe for everyone.

Pandemic considerations don’t have to put a damper on blowing out the candles—even if that particular tradition now gives party-goers pause. Inspired by the pent-up demand for fun and socialization, creative solutions for birthday party celebrations are trending, including where to celebrate and how. 


Decide How Many Guests to Invite

Guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends keeping gatherings small. Most birthday parties would typically fall well under county capacity limits, but indoor gatherings are still strongly discouraged. Verify your county’s status and check requirements here: 

Choose a Location

Will you have the party at home or at a venue? An outdoor space such as a park may help unvaccinated guests feel more comfortable and reduce the risk of infection. Parents may also be more likely to attend with children, who are not currently eligible to be vaccinated yet, if the party is held outside. Indoor venues will have their own safety protocols in place, but consider ventilation and the ability to spread out when selecting activities that can only be done inside. Alternatively, have the party via video conferencing with each attendee joining from home. 

Your Party, Your Rules

Let guests know what to expect on the invitation. Include information regarding social-distancing, mask requirements, and joining virtually if sick. People with COVID-19 may not always show symptoms, which makes it important for all attendees to follow your rules. Don’t forget to hit the usual highlights like date, time, location, theme, activities, and what kids should bring. The more information you provide on the invitation, the less phone calls, emails, and texts you’ll be fielding as the big day approaches! 

Skip the Handshakes and Hugs

Avoid close contact with others, including the usual greetings of handshakes and hugs. Stay at least three feet away from others. Helping children maintain social-distancing can be challenging, but staying engaged in outdoor activities or planning for distance within indoor spaces can help reduce children’s tendency to forget about personal space.

Keep Masks On

According to the latest CDC updates, masks should be worn unless all guests present are vaccinated or the party is held outdoors. Having disposable masks available for guests throughout the party along with wearing a mask yourself will help to encourage your guests to also keep their masks on.

Wash Your Hands

Have more than one hand-washing area available within your home or at the venue. While hand sanitizer can be used in the absence of soap and water, spending at least 60 seconds under the tap with warm, sudsy water is still the best way to wash your hands. Consider reminding kids to take hand-washing breaks throughout the party.

Eat Outdoors

If at all possible, use outdoor spaces for eating a meal, snacks, or birthday cake. The CDC still recommends guests bring their own food, drinks, and utensils. Sing “Happy Birthday” with masks on, then take them off and spread out to enjoy dessert. One person should serve to avoid too many people handling food or being present in the serving area. Keep tables at least six feet apart.


Host a Costume Party

Halloween costumes aren’t just for October—they can be fun any time of year and fit a variety of themes. From dinosaurs and unicorns to superheroes and villains, masks can enhance the outfits children bring to party in, with the option to change into regular clothes as needed. 

Encourage Activities that Keep Children Spread Out

Water balloons, sprinkler games, water wars, patio softball, and group hide-and-seek all involve children running outdoors with distance between them. These games also offer younger children the opportunity to practice purposeful social skills and learn classic games.

Style a Picnic for Your Party Needs

Picnics are perfect for all ages! Give other guests ample room on their own blanket. Decide if your picnic will have a beach, wilderness, or fancy theme and choose fitting items for each group sitting together. Provide bottled beverages, snacks, and birthday cake at each picnic blanket. For an even safer option, families can each bring their own picnic set-up and food. 

Host a Scavenger Hunt

Write clues, draw maps, and hide prizes. By land or in water, scavenger hunts keep children interested as they work to figure out clues and find prizes. Divide older children into teams to find a grand prize for added interest. If the occasion falls during summer, move the party to the pool with supervising adults, floating decorations, and diving prizes at different depths. Masks can stay off as long as children maintain social-distancing. 

Plan an Outdoor Movie Night

Give each child a hula hoop as his or her own personal bubble. Competitions and party games can lend themselves to active, physical play before settling down for a backyard movie after dark. Adults in lawn chairs and children sitting inside the circle of their hula hoops can provide adequate spacing.
Group Camping is the New Sleepover

Having children from other households in close quarters is not recommended, but separate spaces can make a sleepover party possible. Set up tents for individual campers or that siblings can share. If you need to move the party indoors for the night, maintaining separate sleeping areas is still possible with tents. Break out flashlights for shadow play and storytelling, both of which children can enjoy outside or from across the room.

Make the Virtual Party Experience More Tangible

Set a date and time for guests to celebrate online. Have porch pick-up for supplies each family will need or food to share. Outline an itinerary with crafts, a storytime, and when to sing “Happy Birthday.” 

Friends and family can get together safely during the pandemic to make birthdays fun, special, and memorable. No matter how you choose to get together, celebrating safely helps ensure we can all be together for many birthdays to come.

The foregoing information reflects best practices at the time of publication. Find updated information for hosting small gatherings from the CDC at