How to throw the ultimate virtual kids’ party

Mother and daughter enjoying an online birthday party
Maggie Westhead,-Digital editor

Kid’s birthday coming up? Here are 10 steps to a stress-free virtual party everyone will remember 

One of the big sacrifices children have had to make this year is a big, loud, messy birthday party. Instead, in 2020 kids have had to socialise via technology and virtual parties have become an acceptable replacement. But on the plus side, there are no biscuits ground into the carpet or dietary requirements to worry about. How to do it in style? Follow these simple steps and you’ll have kids – and parents – smiling.

1. Choose the best app

By this stage of 2020 you probably have your favourite video-call app well established. Zoom is still best for bigger groups, while Houseparty is great for smaller groups of older kids and has lots of fun games they can participate in. Thankfully, as we’ve all become a dab hand at socialising online, getting everyone involved should be easier that it was back in March. Choose whether you want to keep control and have people on mute (tempting) or whether you want to get them all noisily interacting.

2. Set a date and time

Build up anticipation in the same way you would for a regular party. Send out a personalised e-invitation through an app such as Paperless Post, which now has a whole section devoted to virtual events. Or, if you want to add to the sense of occasion and make it feel really personal, there’s no reason you can’t send real paper invitations.

3. Think of a theme

You need to work a bit harder to create atmosphere at a virtual party so a theme is important – it also helps give you focus. Let your child lead you and go with whatever they’re currently into, whether it’s superheroes or space. Pinterest is an excellent place to start if you’re looking for inspiration, with everything covered from pirates and unicorns to dinosaurs. And if you’re after cake inspiration, check out Waitrose & Partners’ delicious cake recipes.

4. Go big on decorations

Distinguish your party from a regular conference call by dressing your room for the occasion. If you’re feeling creative, turn it into a crafting activity and get the kids to design a festive backdrop. For extra drama, add balloons, disco-ball lights and bunting – the more the merrier. Talking Tables and Ginger Ray have a great selection of party decorations and fun backdrops that are perfect for virtual celebrations.

5. Choose your entertainer

If you want something super special, hand over proceedings to an expert – most kids’ entertainers and party planners (including Twizzle, Magical Quests and The Bubbles Crew) now offer virtual parties. ‘For the kids, with an online party it’s all about perception and creating more of a TV-show type feel that they can interact with,’ says Tom Burton of well-established party planners The Bubbles Crew, whose team of talented actors and performers switched to offering online parties. ‘Just like with a normal party, the entertainers will take the stress away from parents and lead the children on an imaginative journey to create a memorable event through the screen.’ 

6. Set a dress code

Getting kids to dress up is a great way to add colour and fun within your theme. Ensure you give parents plenty of notice and try to stick to something fairly generic so it’s likely they already have something appropriate in the dressing-up box. However, if you want to treat your birthday boy or girl to a special costume, we have a selection of fancy dress outfits to suit all interests.

7. Keep it short and sweet

While traditional kids’ parties lasted around two hours and could include a whole class of 30, less is definitely more when it comes to virtual ones. ‘We recommend having no more than 10 children to keep it more manageable,’ says Ceridwen Smith at Magical Quests, whose interactive Zoom parties have been a big hit in recent weeks. Offering everything from Wizard Of Oz and Frozen themes to mystery parties, they’ve already hosted dozens of virtual celebrations for children around the globe. ‘The great thing about virtual parties is that you can get grandparents, aunties and uncles, and friends and relatives who live abroad to join in, too,’ Ceridwen adds. 


8. Let the games commence

While many kids are just happy to chat, giggle and dance to a cheesy soundtrack, it’s good to have a few games up your sleeve. ‘Make sure one person is hosting and in charge of running it,’ says Peter Robertson of children’s party planners Twizzle, which also provides online birthday parties for kids of all ages. ‘For younger children there’s no reason you can’t go for traditional games like musical statues and dancing games – just keep each game to five minutes maximum. Ensure you have your playlist sorted beforehand. Go for easy-to-dance-to golden oldies. You can also get everyone to start the party by saying one nice thing about the birthday boy or girl. The results are bound to raise smiles.’

9. What about older kids?

Quizzes and treasure hunts are a great option for older kids and teens. Houseparty has a range of fun games, including Quick Draw, where friends have to guess what you’re sketching, and charades-style miming game Act It Out. ‘Older kids love a quiz and there are lots you can download online,’ Peter says. ‘Ensure everyone has their microphone on and get them to say “Buzz!” if they know the answer.’

10. Forget the party bags

One of the most liberating aspects of hosting a virtual party is not having to make up party bags. This frees you up to spend more time baking, crafting decorations or devising fun questions/activities for birthday boy or girl. Stick to 40 minutes and within a hour you’ll be sitting down and have a cuppa and a slice of cake. Minimal clearing up, no mound of gifts to open and no thank-you notes to send. Be grateful for small mercies.

Cool kit to get the virtual party started

Main image: Getty. Other images: Ginger Ray

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