Guide To Virtual Children's Parties

Ages 3 - 8
By Charles Kraus, alias Charles The Clown

Sadly, kids looking forward to their spring and early summer birthdays, especially those who have some sense of the way the world has come to a halt, are probably frustrated by the prospect of a party postponement ... the ever changing party date, moving deeper and deeper into the calendar year. Fortunately there is an alternative. Many parents have already begun to think along the lines of a Zoom or Hangouts party.

If you are considering gathering children via the internet so they can celebrate your child's birthday, I offer you a few thoughts. These from a children's entertainer who, over the years, has attended thousands of parties -- in homes, parks, restaurants, on boats and trains, at museums, skating rinks, amusement centers ... and more recently, on the internet. Zoom along with me. I have a few suggestions. Adjust them to fit the ages and stages of the guests.


Zoom gives you 40 minutes. It's not a bad idea to fit the festivities into a time frame. If necessary, the celebration can be broken into two Zoom meetings with a break in between. I discuss the concept later in this article.


You want enough children to make this a party. Four or five can do that, especially if parents help with some of the online enthusiasm. Eight - OK. More than that gets "crowded."


Not every aspect of the party is going to be restricted to wireless images and sounds. A lot of preparation will require assistance from other parents. You'll be giving each parent a few simple assignments before the party takes place.


After a theme is negotiated, get some party goods, probably online. This is going to cost you a few dollars, but ultimately less than one of those in-person parties we held back in the pre-pandemic days. Search for inexpensive, paper goods and decorations that you can have shipped to guests' homes as well as to your own. Shopping online for decorations and favors, the balloons, paper plates, the themes, colors, etc., is an activity that can be shared with your youngster and will give the birthday person a sense of control and pride in being able to determine an outcome.

An hour or so before the party, Zoom-guests get to decorate their spaces. The trimmings should be within camera range. Kids can show off their unique approaches to taping colorful crepe paper streamers, balloons and cardboard theme characters on the walls and chairs.


You can mail favors to each family, party hats, too. Consider ordering these online and having them sent directly to each guest. Key: Parents are to keep the favors out of sight until party time. "Surprise! Even though it's a virtual party, you get a favor!"


Many children are Skype, FaceTime, Hangouts and/or Zoom pros. They probably know more about controlling the technical aspects of a chat than I do. Than you do. But virtual birthday party events take a good amount of coordinating and lots of cooperation, not just from the kids, but from the parents as well. If a child is not familiar with the video chat experience, I suggest some family practice prior to the party.


Guess what ... you are going to serve refreshments! (with help from other parents). Ask each parent to secretly prepare a party treat for his or her own child. It's got to look like a PARTY TREAT, not just a cookie. The fancier the better. And, oh, please add a birthday candle on top. Key: The results get hidden behind the cottage cheese, or somewhere. Guests are not supposed to know you've been baking.


"Hi Everyone, welcome to Lila's birthday party. This party is different from the birthday parties you are used to. We are so glad to be able to see you and talk to each other over the Internet."


Sitting still is not kid-like. OK, if a child is glued to a cartoon, perhaps she'll stay in place. But a Zoom party can be almost as appealing as Spongebob Squarepants, Peppa Pig, or Daniel Tiger. There are unique interactive opportunities using Zoom that are simply not available when passively watching a children's show. Despite this advantage, some children will want to get up and take a break. Bathroom call. Go check on the cat. Parents need to mute their audio to prevent private conversations from being broadcast to the gathering. Except for something like a parent-child interaction as stated above, it's fine to keep the audio flowing. Crowd noise is appropriate -- it's a party and needs to sound festive.


As I mentioned earlier, it is possible to divide the party into two consecutive meetings (with a very short break between them). Older kids might enjoy a two part celebration.

At a point when it seems like the kids are ready for a break, every parent brings out a preassembled tray of art materials for collage: paper, markers, glue, scissors, scraps of colored fabric, felt, feathers, shiny paper, old Xmas cards, corks, glitter, stickers, yarn, etc. Now it is time to end Part One of the party. Make sure everyone is aware that a second meeting has been scheduled for fifteen or twenty minutes later. During this break, kids are asked to work on their art projects. The results will be shared shortly after the Zoom party resumes.

Welcome back to Susie's party! Everybody ready? Who wants to show us what you've made ... and tell us about it?

And now ... TA -DAAAH!


Once the kids have more or less settled in, the Party Star's mom or dad announces that it is time for the cake and candles. That's when parents spring into action, producing their heretofore secret treats. "Don't touch, not yet, first the candles and the singing!" Parents light the candles or at least pretend to do so. Here we go with the happy birthday song!


So ok, singing on a Zoom chat is imperfect and not particularly musical. (It's often not that melodic in person either). If you want, you can enhance the proceedings by playing a prerecorded version of Happy Birthday that you've cued up on another device. Kids can sing along with the recording. After the song, guests get to blow out the candles on their own treats.

This might be a good time to end the party, especially for younger kids, but here are a few additional options if you and your guests are still in high energy mode.


These get sent to the birthday child's home well in advance of the party. Only the parent knows they have arrived and where they are hidden. The birthday song ends and .... Yes! Yes! the presents show up! Best to leave them wrapped. Just one clown's opinion. Ultimately, doing the present thing at your child's virtual birthday party is up to you and should be based on the extent to which you think your own child and her particular group of friends would enjoy seeing them opened and displayed.


I am one. An entertainer, that is. Some of us have begun experimenting with Zoom appearances at virtual parties. When considering this option, keep the following in mind.

Most children's entertainers have limited studio setups. Kids are used to watching professional videos and programs that are well lit and benefit from multiple camera angles, endless edits and special effects. That's very different than watching a static shot of a singer whose been Zoomed in to the party direct from his garage. What makes the appearance of an entertainer worthwhile is the opportunity for interaction. Singer: What song do you want to sing? Can we all do this together? Clap along. Or, in my case, my puppet engages with the kids, asks and answers questions. Children pick balloon colors, and I have a patented method of creating a giant balloon animal for the birthday child that I put into a disappearing box, right there before your Zoom-eyes. As soon as it vanishes, it instantly reappears in front of the birthday child!

Use entertainers who are highly experienced and interactive. Otherwise, kids can watch YouTubeKids shows.


Generally, games with specific instructions work best for kids aged 6 and up. Overlaying the need to conform to game rules is the need to remember Zoom etiquette, for example when one person is taking a turn, the rest of the group remains quiet.

Some games can be adapted to a virtual reality. But the key is simplicity. One of the easiest and most successful Zoom games is Charades.


Prior to the party, parents have prepared envelopes containing a several small pieces of paper. Each has written on it the name of an animal, or perhaps an emotion (angry happy, frightened, etc). Children reach into their envelopes and pull out one of the papers. Each child takes a turn portraying the subject as depicted on the paper. Adults can help read the word, and perhaps whisper some advice about the pantomime actions. Keep it short and uncomplicated.


When the Zoom party is finished, it is nice to help your Birthday Star draw, dictate, or otherwise create thank you messages that can be emailed to the guests. Attach a photo of the birthday person and, if possible, a screen shot showing all the guests partying from home.

Happy Party!