Ways to make a child’s birthday happier during these challenging times

Wed, 04/08/2020 - 12:00pm

    In the larger scope of things, not being able to celebrate your birthday while social distancing isn’t as important as what is going on in the front lines. But, for most children and teens, birthdays are highly anticipated moments of their lives. For those looking forward to a birthday or a milestone celebration while the state is prohibiting group gatherings, the disappointment and frustration of not being able to have friends and family surrounding them are real. 

    For Lyla Tibbetts, who turned 11 on April 1, the day before Gov. Mills  “Healthy At Home” mandate took effect, a birthday party was out of the question.

    “There is a lot weighing on our minds as parents and on our children’s minds with the Covid-19 pandemic,” said her mother, Christina Tibbetts. “As we educate our children on the challenging times our world is going through and the importance of distancing, they understand to a degree, but are saddened where most of their life is a social adventure. At 10, turning 11 my daughter is at an important stage where her friendships mean so much to her. So with her birthday nearing we had discussed postponing our family gathering with immediate family to possibly the summer, as well as having a friend get together. You could see instantly her disappointment. yet she understood, due to the situation. As a mom, you think: ‘How can we show our kids you mean everything to us and are not forgotten even in our stressful times in life?’”

    Thinking outside the box, Tibbets had another idea.

    “I reached out last minute on Facebook, asking if friends and the community if they would like to just drive by our house, honking and waving to let my precious girl know she is celebrated and loved,” said Tibbetts. “Within moments, I had some of my coworkers reaching out to friends for my daughter’s surprise.  A neighbor down the road with two girls of her own that are friends with my kids, came first thing in the morning and decorated the end of our driveway with sidewalk chalk and ribbons, paper and flowers!”

    The Camden family even recruited the Camden Fire Department in their plans, so that a fire truck was part of the parade.

    “We had about 15 cars gather up the street,” said Tibbetts. “It put a very surprised look on my daughter’s face, as one by one, cars came honking down our street.  Lyla was speechless for the first time I can even think. At the end of the parade, I could see she was fighting back tears. It pulls at your heartstrings when you know how much the small acts of kindness by others makes such an impact on our lives. My daughter told me numerous times throughout our day that it was the best birthday ever.”

    Here are some more creative ways to pull off a celebration while still maintaining social distance.

    Alternative birthday ideas

    • A Scavenger Hunt with presents set throughout the neighborhood or in a large open outdoor space.
    • A half-birthday celebration scheduled six months out with a small celebration on the actual birthday and the promise of a big party on the half-birthday.
    • A virtual surprise party via Facebook Live, Google Hangouts, Skype or Zoom with cake, presents and greetings from friends and family all over the country. For teens, organize on the Houseparty app.
    • A social media request for birthday cards and greetings to be sent to your mailbox. This idea is modeled after a mom’s plea on social media to ask strangers to send her son cards went viral.  For those who’d prefer a no-contact way, the alternative is to ask for e-cards and iPad drawings.
    • Turn your living room into a dine-in theater with a favorite take-out dish and a movie kids can watching simultaneously and comment on with friends, such as Netflix Party a Chrome extension for watching Netflix remotely.
    • For tweens and teens, do a Reverse Parade and plan out a route to drive your child past friends’ houses that are decorated outside and then to a favorite outdoor spot to have a picnic.
    • For young people celebrating a milestone 21st birthday, turn a garage or shed into a makeshift nightclub, as this mom did for her son.


    If you have alternative ideas on how to celebrate a child’s birthday, please let Penobscot Bay Pilot know on our social media channels.

    Kay Stephens can be reached at news@penbaypilot.com