Need to celebrate your child’s birthday but don’t want to leave the house? Fear not, a virtual party is the perfect answer.
There are a variety of reasons to host a virtual party. Far distance from friends, illness, and not having an adequate party space are just a few.
Don’t be intimidated if you’re not familiar with the concept or don’t feel comfortable with technology. There are many websites and services out there to make the process simple and painless.
We’ll walk you through all the steps to guarantee your child’s virtual birthday party is a huge success.
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What Is a Virtual Party?
A virtual party is hosted online rather than in person, but that’s really where the differences end.
You can still send out invitations, decorate, give out goody bags, make crafts, play games, and even eat cake!
This can work for all kinds of party types. From birthdays to bridal showers and even for wine tastings.
How Does a Virtual Party Work?
First, you’ll need to choose the online platform to host your party. In this day and age, there are quite a few options out there.
- Zoom. With a free account you can invite up to 100 people and have 40 minutes of video chatting, longer time limits (and more guests!) if you upgrade to the pro account. As the host of a Zoom party you can control the muting/unmuting guest microphones, which is a really nice feature. We’re also fans of the “Touch Up My Appearance” video filter option.
- Skype. Allows up to 50 people to video conference for free, complete with screen sharing options available.
- Houseparty. Slightly different from a video conferencing service, Houseparty calls itself a social networking app. It allows up to 8 people to chat in one room, and users can float between rooms. One neat feature is that if you call from a phone or tablet, you can play games (like pictionary and trivia) with built-in app games.
- Google Hangouts. Probably one of the easiest to use, Google allows you to “hang” out with up to 25 guests. One slight downside is that some users have trouble with screen sharing capabilities while video chatting, so make sure you try it out beforehand to get the hang of it.
Choose a Theme
Next, choose a theme to aid in planning and pull the party together. This will help you decide on invites, party favors, decorations, and activities. Encourage guests to dress up to get into the party spirit!
Sure, it is easiest to just text out the date and time, but sending invitations makes it more official and fun.
Invites can set the tone for your party, showcase your theme, and get everyone excited!
Be sure to include any instructions for joining the party as well as anything your guests should have on hand to participate like snacks, paper, or craft supplies.
While many attendees will be familiar with video conferencing, others may not. Share particulars about the platform you’re using (gallery vs. speaker view, muting microphones, etc).
They don’t have to be traditional mailed invitations (though all kids love getting mail). It can be as easy as a Facebook event invite or email. Evite makes it easy to email free invitations and there are lots of cute templates to choose.
Set The Scene
Make a fun backdrop for the guest of honor!
Since your guests will only see a limited area behind the birthday boy or girl go all out with the decorations in that spot.
Balloons and streamers make a traditional, fun birthday background, but don’t be afraid to get creative. Your party theme may lend itself to a really unique background like a dinosaur or unicorn.
Also consider the option of making a green screen behind them to use a virtual background. This makes an easy way to have a fun backdrop without actually having to get decorations. You could put old baby pictures, their favorite characters, or the Disney castle as the background. Zoom, in particular, makes this very easy.
Give Your Guests Supplies
Make the part festive for everyone by providing some party supplies.
For those further away, you could have a party favor delivered or mail balloons, party hats, and confetti.
If possible, try to give your guests anything they would need in order to participate in any activities you’re planning, like delivering craft supplies or emailing a printable.
What Do You Do at a Virtual Party?
Short answer: everything you’d do at a “regular” party!
You can still have games, food, presents, activities, entertainment, decorations, and more at a virtual party. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Activities & Games
Ask the group questions and they can either use the chat feature to answer or write them down and use the honor system. You don’t have to come up with your own questions, this website has trivia for kids and even a section of Disney questions. Some of the kid’s questions are surprisingly difficult so be sure to keep in mind the age level of your guests. If you’re feeling ambitious, come up with your own trivia questions based on your party theme.
If your child likes crafting, an easy project that everyone can do together is a great virtual activity. Choose something that can be done with basic household items and geared towards the appropriate age group so everyone can participate. Ideally give your guests a heads up to have supplies ready or provide them via drop off or delivery, especially if your craft requires something most people wouldn’t usually have on hand. One cute idea I’ve seen is to have the birthday kid and guests make birthday crowns towards the beginning of the party so they can wear them for the duration of the event.
This traditional party game can work very well for a virtual party. Divide your group into two teams and use an online Charades idea generator (this one has ideas specifically for kids) to come up with the words and phrases to be acted out.
Another great party game that translates well for a virtual setting if your resolution is good. Divide the group into two teams and one person tries to get their team to guess words by drawing them. There are also online idea generators for pictionary though I could not find one specifically for kids, the easy setting should still work well.
You can print 30 free Bingo cards or even play an entire virtual bingo game at My Free Bingo Cards. The site all has different and customizable options besides just traditional Bingo cards like one with emojis as well as fewer numbers and letters for younger kids.
Kids love scavenger hunts and they are so easy to do for a virtual party! The host calls out an item and each guest runs to find that in their house and show it on their screen. The first person to show the item gets a point or for a young crowd everyone who brings back the item gets a point.
Come up with a list of common, kid friendly household items beforehand like a stuffed animal, shoe, book, spoon, toilet paper, Lego, crayon, pillow, tv remote, and sunglasses. Items don’t have to be hard to find especially for young children. If possible, it’s fun to choose your scavenger hunt items based on your party theme.
This old party favorite works great in a virtual setting. Start by instructing everyone to stand up in front of their screens. Have one person be the “caller”, instructing everyone to follow the movement directions. If a child gets caught acting out the motion without the hearing “Simon says” first, they can sit for the remainder of the round until one guest is left standing. For bonus points rather than saying “Simon says”, choose something related to your theme. For example, this could be “Elsa says” for a Frozen party theme.
This is a great idea for active kiddos, especially if they start to get wiggly or distracted. Find a video kids can dance to (either on YouTube or GoNoodle), tell everyone to get on their feet, share your screen, and hit play! That’s it. Simple and super fun.
Don’t forget prizes for kids who win the games at your virtual party!
You’ve got a couple of options for this. You can either do an online prize (Amazon gift card, game credits, subscriptions etc.) or send them a small gift after the fact.
It’s especially cute if the gift matches your party’s theme. Some examples would be a cute Sparkly Unicorn Sequin Bag for a princess party or costumes for a superhero get together. Of course books are always a popular (and inexpensive) option as well.
There are lots of entertainers (magicians, comedians, animal trainers, characters, etc) that you can hire for online events. Simply provide them the link/info to join your virtual party and let them know the time.
You can hire someone to just appear for a short amount of time (~15 minutes) or you could hire someone to handle the entire party.
One professional we love is Character Chats. We’ve had Elsa talk to the kids at bedtime just for fun. I’ve also seen her as Rey leading a Star Wars-themed party through Jedi training.
One fun idea that everyone loves is to host a movie night (tell guests it’s BYOP – bring your own popcorn!).
Copyright laws make this slightly tricky, but you do have a few options. If you find a movie/show/video on regular Youtube (NOT paid content), you can almost always watch it with your friends via screenshare.
There’s also a Chrome extension called “Netflix party” that allows you to sync Netflix movies with your friends so you’re all at the same time. It even sets up a chat box so you can talk with your friends during the movie. Downside is that it requires all attendees to have their own Netflix account, so it may not always be an option.
Whichever option you choose, be sure to test it beforehand.
Don’t Forget the Cake
You can’t have a birthday without cake! During the end of the party, invite all of the guests to unmute their microphones and sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to the guest of honor while they blow out a candle.
For nearby guests, deliver cupcakes the day before so you can all eat and celebrate together.
Opening birthday presents live on screen can be a fun idea, especially for family parties where grandparents or other family want to see a child’s reaction to their gifts.
Drive By Car Parade
While not technically a “virtual party” idea, it’s a good idea when social and physical distancing is recommended. If your guests live nearby, a “parade” in front of your house can be a fun addition to your birthday celebration.
Friends and family can decorate their cars and sing happy birthday as they drive past your house!
It’s a fun and silly way to bring some birthday cheer to your child even when we’re apart.
Some Helpful Virtual Party Tips
- Set a realistic time limit. Keep it short. Kids have limited attention spans for video chatting. For young children (5 and younger), I wouldn’t plan to go past 30 minutes. For older kids, plan for an hour.
- Work out the kinks beforehand. Whatever platform you choose, test it multiple times before the big day. Make sure you know how to mute microphones, control guests, instruct attendees to turn on their microphones/cameras, etc.
- Be prepared with talking points. In the world of virtual party chatting, only one conversation can happen at a time. So unlike at house parties where you can leave guests to chat on their own, you’ll have to be prepared to lead the conversation, engage the quieter guests, and keep things moving.
- Don’t forget to capture the memory. Take a few screenshots during the online party to document the event. If you record the party, often it will only record one active speaker at a time. So the only way to get a good shot of the entire party and all of your guests is to capture it during the event itself.
- Consider the number of guests. The number of guests you invite depends on your planned activities. If you’re hoping for mainly conversation and catching up, don’t invite more than 6 as it’s hard to keep everyone engaged. You’ll need lots of organized activities and structure for larger parties.