We are all ready for a return to familiar family traditions like backyard cookouts and birthday parties. Anyone 12 and older can now receive COVID-19 vaccines in the United States, making small gatherings of fully vaccinated people safe.
Children and teens have had an especially tough time dealing with all the changes needed to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. We can help them ease back into dearly missed events, like birthday parties, by taking extra precautions, even including kids too young to get the vaccine yet.
Here are eight steps to take for extra safety when planning your unvaccinated child’s birthday party.
1. Keep gatherings to 10 kids and choose outdoor venues whenever possible. (Think a fun and festive picnic!) The virus spreads through the air; being outside lessens the risk of transmission.
2. If there is a need to go inside, open windows to increase air circulation. Choose a space large enough that children can keep a safe physical distance of at least 3 feet from each other.
3. Involve your child in planning to identify what is most important to them during the celebration. This can help narrow down the party itinerary. Then, tweak the activities with safety in mind.
4. Offer single-serve beverages rather than pouring from shared containers. Pre-filled water bottles decorated with guests’ names can be a great take-home party favor.
5. Rather than a single, large cake with candles, consider individual cupcakes, with a candle on only the birthday child’s treat. When it’s time to sing “Happy Birthday,” blow out candles and eat — activities that can spread more germs in the air — try to allow some extra room. If you do have a large cake, skip the candles and have a single person slice it and hand out pieces.
6. Choose games and activities that don’t involve close physical contact. Individual crafts and classic games like charades, Simon Says, Freeze Frame, and Spud (using a soft foam ball) can be good choices. Brainstorm together for other ideas, such as a nature scavenger hunt or a “drive-in” movie, where each child gets a box they can decorate and “park” a safe distance apart.
7. Make sure everyone at the party follows basic safety steps, like hand washing, physical distancing and wearing face masks, especially in crowded indoor or outdoor spaces.
8. Remember that if you or your child are coughing or have cold-like symptoms, or have had a fever, vomiting or diarrhea in the past 24 hours, you should not host a birthday party. Be sure to let other parents know that their child should not attend the party if they are unwell. Arrange to drop off a party goody bag so that child doesn’t feel left out.