Birthday Celebration & Gift Ideas During COVID-19

Celebrating milestones brings people together. Birthday parties are an especially important tradition, giving family and friends an opportunity to shower affection on loved ones and remind them how much they are valued and cherished.

While staying healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic has limited in-person events and celebrations, that doesn’t mean the party is over. There are a million little ways to make someone feel celebrated in the midst of social distancing. And technology is on our side. Between high quality video conferencing tools, the internet, and an abundance of creativity, here are just a few of the creative ways to celebrate birthdays while still observing social distancing recommendations.

Ideas for Virtual Birthday Parties

For many, the go-to solution for socially distanced birthday celebrations is video conferencing tools. With plenty of options out there, it is easier than ever before to get your family and friends online to celebrate together from afar. We recommend exploring tools like SkypeFacebook MessengerGoogle HangoutsFaceTimeZoomWhatsAppHouseparty, and Squad to find the platform that best meets your needs.

Once you have your platform of choice, it’s time to start planning a fun and entertaining virtual birthday party! These are just a few of our favorite ideas…

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Give a Toast

Toasting the guest of honor is a well-loved tradition that dates back to ancient civilization. Even though your birthday celebration is now digital, putting together a meaningful toast creates an opportunity to share a brief memory, along with well wishes for the future.

We recommend preparing your guests by sending a quick note inviting them to speak during the virtual celebration—and preparing them to have a toast-worthy drink in hand. Have guests take a trip down memory lane and share a story or memory about the guest of honor. Stories and toasts can be funny, touching, or downright silly. The goal is to show how the guest of honor has made a difference in the lives of friends and family.

You can even share some resources to help them write their toasts. A few great options include:

Another great option is to ask every guest to share a picture of them with the guest of honor to go along with their toast. And don’t forget to have fun! Your virtual birthday celebration is about sharing moments, laughter, and sweet memories.

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Share Advice and Life Experience

Whether you’re turning nine or ninety, everyone loves a little sage advice or humorous wisdom. Ask participants to come prepared to share the best and most important advice they have received over the years, or the most important (or ridiculous) tips and tricks they have learned through experience.

What birthday guest wouldn’t be delighted to gain some insight from Confucius, Gandhi, your little brother, or Great Grandpa? Need a little inspiration? Check out this funny advice from kids for a good laugh. Advice might range from super-serious to overly silly, but no matter what, it’s sure to be entertaining.

And don’t forget to appoint a scribe to take notes! Turn the advice into a fun, digital party favor that gets sent to all the guests after the party.

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Get Competitive

What birthday party would be complete without a little friendly competition? Games are a staple at most birthday parties, even the virtual kind. Bingo, Charades, and Pictionary all work on video chat, with Pictionary and Charades being the fan favorites.

Charades, for example, doesn’t require any special tools or supplies. Simply adapt the rules to your virtual forum. There are even sites where you can generate your charades phrases automatically.

Bingo lovers are also in luck! Online tools such as the Bingo Card Generator allow you to download and share Bingo cards with all of your guests. Other sites, such as Online Bingo and Lets Play Bingo automatically generate the calls.

If you want to take the competitive spirit to the next level, host a dance contest, scavenger hunt, or drawing challenge. Enjoy a (virtual) room full of laughs as your guests take on the competition of your choice.

Plan to have your guest of honor serve as the judge, and prizes can be awarded in a wide variety of categories, including:

  • Most Creative Performance
  • Most Courageous Performance
  • Least Likely to Be Forgotten
  • Most Entertaining
  • Most Likely to End Up in Show Business

For more great ideas for competitions and games, check out websites like, and

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Teach Something New

If you have a guest with a particular skill or hobby, consider hosting a “how-to” event at your virtual birthday party. While in-person parties sometimes offer cupcake decorating or pottery painting, your virtual party can still be a great opportunity to teach your guests a new skill or craft.

Prepare your guests by sending a list of necessary supplies at least a week prior to the party. Depending on your guest of honor’s favorite hobby or art medium, choose something that is fun and easy to teach online. Some virtual birthday parties have centered around a group painting experience, while others involved knitting, container gardening, or even making your own hand sanitizer.

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Pick a Theme

Themed birthday parties never seem to go out of style, no matter your age. Some of the most beloved themes, from “Under the Sea” to the “Roaring 20’s” are still very much applicable to your virtual birthday party.

Keep the theme alive by sharing it in advance and inviting your guests to arrive on screen in costume. To help them manage proper social distancing—and to make things more entertaining—require guests to only make costumes from items available to them at home.

Other ways to utilize your theme include having fun with virtual backgrounds. Video platforms like Zoom offer a variety of backgrounds to create the right mood for your guests and to match their themed costumes.

You can even watch a movie together—one that fits the theme, of course—starting and pausing everyone’s screen simultaneously. Netflix subscribers have this option through Netflix Party (only the host needs an account), and there is Kast for larger groups.

Gift Ideas that Can Be Sent by Mail or Online 

While in-person birthday parties are out due to social distancing, that doesn’t mean we have to do away with gift-giving as well! Giving gifts can be challenging in the time of coronavirus, but there are still plenty of ways to spread the love. Many e-commerce businesses are experiencing long delays, but the good news is you don’t have to rely on retailers to get thoughtful birthday gifts to your loved ones. These are some great, social distance approved gift options that come straight from the heart, ensuring your friends and family will treasure them for years to come.

Create a Birthday Party-in-a-Box 

Balloons and confetti are fun whether you are celebrating virtually or in-person, so package up all of the traditional party fixings and send them off to your loved one. In addition to balloons and confetti, include a birthday sash or crown, streamers, and a party favor. Don’t forget the most important part: a sweet treat that you made yourself or selected with care during your weekly run to the store.

You can upgrade your party-in-a-box by adding some do-it-yourself decor that reflects the recipient’s interests. These are just a few ideas:

Of course, if you are short on time, supplies, or creative energy, there is nothing wrong with asking the professionals to step in. You can create and send a party-in-a-box from your favorite party supply store. Party City is open for online orders, as are Michael’s and Oriental Trading.

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Send an E-Gift Card 

Online gift cards can be delivered instantly, which makes them a perfect choice for socially distant birthday celebrations. Now is a great time to send something fun that the recipient wouldn’t normally buy for him or herself. Consider their hobbies and opt for something that might encourage them during this time of social distancing. Send a gift card to their favorite local art supply store, bookstore, or restaurant (if they have to-go options available).

You can also look further afield for some fun gift card options from online retailers. Grab a card from Williams Sonoma for the cooking hobbyist, or perhaps a subscription to for the wine lover who is looking to expand his or her palate.

The Best Meal Delivery Services for 2020, Ranked & Reviewed | SPY

Gift a Subscription Service 

For those experiencing more time at home, there are some advantages to social distancing. Long-neglected projects are finally getting completed (we hope), movie buffs are rewatching old favorites, and many people are improving their cooking and baking skills.

One way to make this birthday extra special is by gifting a subscription service that adds some variety and spice to quarantine living. For the movie lover who hasn’t quite transitioned to the streaming lifestyle, consider gifting a streaming service such as NetflixHulu, or Disney+.

Other subscription services that make great gifts include online learning platforms, tools for the artist in your life (such as ScribeDelivery or SketchBox) or even high-quality meal kit services, especially for the aspiring chef. With meal kits, the recipient can choose from a variety of menus before boxes are shipped, and each package includes everything needed to put a delicious meal together.

50th Birthday Memory Book Sample

Create a Collaborative Memory Book

Whether you are celebrating a milestone birthday, or you simply want to mark this profoundly unique season, nothing captures all of life’s beautiful moments quite like a memory book. Birthdays are a celebration of life—and a celebration of a lifetime’s worth of experiences, relationships, and achievements. Now is the perfect time to bring those moments together in a memorable way.

Gather pictures, thoughts, advice, and memories from all of your closest friends and family to create a one-of-a-kind collaborative memory book. To make things even easier, you can use a comprehensive service like Newlywords.

This platform is specifically designed to reduce the stress of collecting, sorting, and arranging memorabilia from family and friends. Instead, you send an email invitation to each participant and they upload their pictures and thoughts directly to the Newlywords site and our easy-to-use templates. You don’t have to chase them down, sort through their photos, or send email reminders. Once all the contributions are submitted, you can rearrange them to your liking. The end result is a beautiful digital or printed memory book that the birthday recipient will treasure for years to come.

Record a Video Montage 

If virtual birthday parties aren’t your style (we get it, Zoom calls can be exhausting) another great way to spread the birthday cheer is with a video montage. Ask friends and family to record a short video for the birthday guy or gal and send it your way to create compile one celebratory video. Encourage participants to keep it simple. They can record a video easily using their laptop, tablet, or smartphone and email or text it directly to you.

To make things even easier, consider using a service like VidHug. Similar to Newlywords, you send invitations to participants directly from the site, and they receive instructions for submitting their special birthday message. Once all contributions are received you can easily compile the montage through the VidHug platform.

Build a Group Puzzle 

If you’ve never experienced the joy of a group puzzle, now is definitely your chance. Group puzzles are a great way to celebrate a birthday and make a person feel loved and connected in a time of social distancing.

There are a few ways to create your group puzzle, but by far the easiest option is to print a puzzle pdf from the folks at Oh Happy Day. Send one page of the document to each participant. They write a message on the back and send it along to the birthday recipient. The birthday guy or gal assembles all of the puzzle pieces into a final poster-sized image that is filled with the messages of loved ones.

Whether you choose to mail a gift, send a memory book, or celebrate a virtual birthday party—or all of the above—social distancing doesn’t have to put a damper on your celebration. In a time when being physically together simply isn’t possible, with a little creativity and the help of technology, you can still make every birthday memorable!

Did we miss a great idea? Share your suggestions in the comments below.

Ten tips for planning a milestone birthday party

So, your friend or family member has a big birthday coming up — one of those milestone birthdays that ushers in a new decade and maybe even a new attitude. Milestone birthdays call for a little extra celebration; they’re often a time to reflect, but that doesn’t mean they’re not a time to party. Here are 10 tips for planning a milestone birthday party the guest of honor won’t soon forget (even if they’re over the hill now).

1. Mix Up a Signature Drink

Most milestone birthdays are after age 21, so your guest of honor will be able to throw back a signature cocktail. For a big 30th birthday, a drink celebrating the Roaring ’20s is a clever addition to the menu. Turning 50? Blend together something using 50-proof alcohol.

2. Invite Special Guests

Since life milestones often inspire gratitude and the chance to look back on past decades’ accomplishments, your guest list deserves special attention. Invite people from different stages of the guest of honor’s life. High school friends, college friends and colleagues from their former job are just a few people who might be welcome!

3. Organize a Birthday Memory Book

What’s better than a game of “This Is Your Life”? Instead of trotting people out from behind a curtain, have loved ones work together to assemble a meaningful group scrapbook. Birthday memory books filled with photos, funny stories and sentimental memories from a large group of friends and family will be cherished forever.

4. Put Your Appreciation in Writing

A milestone birthday is the perfect time to shower your loved one with affection. Put up a poster board, and let guests list things they appreciate about the birthday king or queen. Better yet, create a poster that is milestone themed. If you’re celebrating a 50th birthday for your friend Jane, create a “50 Things We Love About Jane” poster.

5. Create a Custom Playlist

Can you remember which songs were popular 40, 50 or 60 years ago? Time to refresh your memory by putting together an epic playlist for the party. You can pass out CDs of the playlist as party favors or create and share a Spotify playlist if your guests are streaming savvy.

6. Personalize the Stemware

A 30th or 75th birthday (or any milestone age, really) is the perfect time to splurge on some personalized glassware. Or, if you prefer, plastic cups. Get the name of the birthday celebrant printed on the side, along with the number of the milestone birthday, to personalize the soiree.

7. Put Their Name in the Headlines

Hey, your loved one is turning 40 — he deserves some recognition! Print up a faux newspaper with his name and birthday as the headline. You can fill the rest of the front page news with details about his life’s accomplishments thus far, or what was happening back on the day they were born.

8. Bottle Something Special

What’s that? Personalized wine glasses or drinking cups aren’t elaborate enough for your birthday party? You can also order wine bottles with a personalized sticker to commemorate your loved one’s big milestone.

9. Bring Photo Props

Everyone will be snapping away with their iPhone or Galaxy, so you may as well give them some fun ways to capture their experience at the party! Silly themed props such as mustaches, giant glasses and cutouts of the milestone year (like a big 5-0) give guests a way to unwind and take photos with the guest of honor.

10. Create a Hashtag

Want to send your party viral? Give guests a unique hashtag — such as #JulieTurns30 — and encourage your guests to use it when posting to social media. Want to go all out? Create a special Snapchat filter to use on all photos posted on the social platform from your milestone party.