My birthday is in March so I’ve already had my second pandemic birthday celebration (humble brag). As we move slowly toward our modified normal, we wanted to highlight the creative socially distant — but still together — birthday party celebrations, food heroes, and entertainers. Some are at your house and a few require a visit to a nearby destination.
Not ready to mix with others in person? Check out our totally virtual quarantine-friendly birthday ideas!
Tips for safer gathering
Modified from the CDC guidelines for safe small gatherings, here are a few tips for would-be party hosting parents:
- Limit the guest list.
- Keep your masks on unless eating. As the party host, plan to offer masks to guests who forgot.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and items between use.
- Keep your distance, especially while eating.
- Keep the celebration outdoors!
- Encourage guests to wash their hands often. Have a separate space for guests to wash their hands or provide hand sanitizer.
Celebration ideas for socially distant birthday parties
Learn from our mistakes. Keep the party short, about 90 minutes unless there’s a movie. Keep the group small. If the children are small enough to require parents to stick around, set your limit at one or two other families. If the kiddos don’t need adult supervision, five guests seem like a maximum depending on your space available to spread out. Do the math: with 5 friends making a six-person group, how far can you distance? How can you converse?
Parents have told us that having barriers, bikes, boxes, blankets, chalk circles, or cars makes it easier for kids to stay separated. Pick one that works with your theme!
Jen V. said: We attended a kickball party where everyone wore masks and the host family’s favor and dessert was a clever little wrapped item with a mini cupcake and candy inside. [Refresh your memory on kickball rules]
Helen S. said: We did a kite flying party at Berkeley Marina. We bought each kid a kite and everyone had a lot of fun! It was perfect because the wind made it feel very safe.
Lauren H. said: We did a backyard drive-in movie party. Kids got their own car and to-go boxes of food to enjoy separately, but together.
Mobile Nerf Party is a full mobile Nerf Party company that provides the gear for Nerf Wars around the Bay Area. They provide all the Nerf Guns, darts, battlefield, and an event coordinator to host your party. Request a quote. Website >
Have you seen bubble soccer? Honestly, I don’t know anyone who has tried this during Covid-19 but I’m super intrigued. Play hard and bounce off your friends. Rental from San Leandro starts at $22 per Bubble per hour based on 10-20 bubbles.
Little Beach Party
Kat C. said: We went to Albany Beach at the end of Buchanan St. for Keira’s birthday, but it wasn’t much of a party, just us and one other family. I think keeping it small is the key.
When my youngest turned two, we met one other family for a ride on the Tilden Park Steam Trains and then shared a box of cupcakes. Perfect for a two- or three-year-old mini party or for a one-year-old with an older sibling.
Squirt Gun Battle
Julie H said: A friend of mine did a squirt gun birthday party at Terrace Park in Albany, which was super fun. Since all the kids are running from each other, it was intrinsically socially distanced. Nerf guns would also be great for cooler weather. The activity becomes the party favor!
DIY Crafts or Science from a Kit
Do you have space to spread out and get several kids doing parallel projects? There are super mad science concoctions, art masterpieces, and woodworking projects to consider for almost any age and interest. 19 ideas for kits and projects you can do with a group >>
Letter Scavenger Hunt
Whitney said: We met at the park for a photo scavenger hunt. Kids had to find and photograph something with each letter of the birthday kid’s name (ie something that starts with W, H, I, T, you get it). Double letters? Find two things that start with S. More photo scavenger hunt ideas >>
Carol B. said: We organized a small group bike ride around César Chávez Park and picked up sandwiches at Sea Breeze. The kids ate lunch at the Marina on the rocks/shoreline 6 feet apart. [More spots to ride your bike]
DJ Ryan assures us that he can host a socially safe, high-energy, engaging event from his kitted-out Drive-up DJ van for outdoor events. Sounds super festive! This works especially well if your yard is enormous or your block can be blocked off from other traffic.
Honorable Mention: Goat Yoga
Lemos Farm in Half Moon Bay offers goat yoga and we are into it! For adults or willing teens, each session includes 45 minutes of yoga, followed by 15 minutes of free time. From 5 – 25 participates per class. The class is $35 per participant + a $99 private event fee.
Best foods for a socially distant party
One key to a pandemic-safe(r) group meal is to minimize cross-contamination through shared utensils. Anything that can be served all by itself is a hero in my book: burritos, personal pizzas, individually wrapped s’mores goodies, cupcakes, small boxes of popcorn, juice boxes, or pre-packaged anything. You can also save money and plan your party time to skip food altogether.
Some Favorite East Bay Cupcakeries
Angel Cakes, Oakland — Order cupcakes, mini or regular-size in so many flavors. Order from Angel Cakes. >
Cupcakin’ Bake Shop, Oakland & Berkeley — baking an assortment of mini and standard cupcakes in glorious flavors with pickup or delivery available. Order from Cupcakin’ >
James and the Giant Cupcake, N. Oakland — offering a full menu of creative cupcake flavors in mini, standard, and giant. They also sell decorating cupcake kits. Flavors change each month. And for an extra fee, they’ll box cupcakes individually. Order from James and the Giant Cupcake >
Love at First Bite Cupcakery, N. Berkeley — Pretty frosted cupcakes and freshly baked cookies. Preorder. Order from Love at First Bite >
Miette, Jack London Square, Oakland — Preorder cupcakes, cookies, macarons, and other confections. Order from Miette >
Sugarsweet, Oakland — A dozen cupcakes is $33. Look for pretty iced cookies, too. Order from Sugarsweet >
Some Favorite East Bay Taquerias
The smallest of new eaters can usually manage some mashed-up avocado or soft black beans. Even picky toddlers will go for quesadillas. Our family-favorite taquerías that can offer you a pile of customized burritos and tacos to go:
Cactus (N. Berkeley + Rockridge) | Call ahead for takeout or order out in person. Website.
Cancun (Berkeley) | Committed to fresh ingredients, lots of salsa choices. Pick up or delivery. Website.
Cholita Linda (N. Oakland) | Take out and delivery only. Farmers’ Market stand turned brick-and-mortar. Website.
Gordo Taqueria (S. Berkeley + Albany) | Offering tacos and burritos to go. Website.
La Penca Azul (Alameda) | Take away, delivery, and drive-through on-demand. Website.
Picante (Berkeley) | Drive-through carry-out available with online or phone orders. Website.
Paradita (Emeryville) | Modern Peruvian street food. Families enjoy grilled meat skewers and savory empanadas. Website.
Tacubaya (Berkeley) | Order pick-up or delivery of kid-size quesadillas and many kinds of taco. Website.