Dallas family-fun venues rescue kids' birthdays with high-tech virtual parties
Celebrating a birthday while sheltering in place can be a bummer for kids. So entertainment venues — normally hot spots for fun birthday gatherings — are going high-tech to help children mark their big day without leaving the house.
Main Event, which hosts 50,000 birthday parties a year, is moving its celebrations to Instagram, hosting virtual birthday parties and singalongs daily at 2 pm on Instagram Live. Kids may not be able to roll bowling balls or play laser tag now, but they'll still get a birthday serenade and shout-out.
On March 30, special guest JD McCrary (who played Young Simba in The Lion King movie) joined in on the party, wishing kids all over the country a happy birthday.
Parents can reach out via comment or direct message on Instagram to have their child included specifically in a celebration. Anyone can tune in and watch for free.
"We are responding to those who reach out via social media and coordinating with parents to surprise their kids on the special day," a Main Event spokesman says. "Those who have not been selected still receive a shout-out during the stream."
Sky Zone Trampoline Park is offering free virtual birthday parties that parents can arrange in advance. Sky Zone, which has one DFW location in Irving, arranges for kids to see and interact with their friends through an online network. Then, they'll be guided through 15 to 20 minutes of games, active play, and singing “Happy Birthday.”
"We believe every child should have a birthday party that makes them feel celebrated — even when they’re stuck at home," the company says.
To arrange a virtual party, parents can email Birthdays@SkyZone.com with their names, child’s name, email address, and phone number. A representative will then coordinate the party, including creating invitations with a Zoom video link. Up to 10 friends can be invited. Virtual birthday parties take place from 2-8 pm Tuesday through Saturday.
Each day at 4 pm, they're hosting 30- to 40-minute virtual parties for kids in locations across the country. The celebrations include magic shows, games, story time, music, special call-outs for every birthday child, dance parties, and a happy birthday song.
Parents can sign their kids up to join the parties here and can also invite friends and family once they receive the party link. The parties are free, but paid upgrades are available by emailing email@example.com.
"Since closing our retail locations two weeks ago, CAMP has looked for ways to keep our talented counselors and communities of local families engaged," says CAMP's CMO Tiffany Markofsky. "In the past week we’ve already virtually celebrated eight birthdays, and have welcomed over 150 viewers. On an average day, close to 100 camp member kids are celebrating their birthday. We are now hoping to scale the joy of CAMP virtually by extending this service to people who are new to CAMP."
Tips for celebrating at home
Steve Kemble, renowned Dallas party-planner-to-the-stars, says that with a little creativity, children's birthday celebrations at home can be a blast. He offers the following tips for making their day special.
1. Birthday parade
Encourage friends, relatives, and neighbors to drive by the birthday boy or girl's house at a designated time in a “car parade.” They can hold up written signs or tape balloons to car windows, honk their horns, and yell well-wishes out the window. "You can also just place a sign in your front yard asking people to 'HONK' for the person’s birthday," he says.
2. Birthday videos
With resources like Zoom, FaceTime, and Google Hangouts, friends can say and sing "Happy Birthday" and then watch the honoree blow out her or his birthday candles. "Additionally, encourage people to send themed birthday videos and photos and upload them to an online gallery," he adds.
3. Order a cake for pick-up or delivery
Many bakeries are still making cakes for pick-up or delivery. Getting kids involved in baking a birthday cake at home can be a fun family activity, too, he says.
4. Card writing is back
While birthday cards have never fallen out of fashion, they are back in a big way more than ever now. "You can even hide them around the house and create clues for a scavenger hunt for your child to find them," Kemble suggests.
5. Fun activities to celebrate without a party
Balloon waterfall: Tape a sheet to the door frame and stuff balloons between the sheet and the door so that when the child opens it, the child gets a birthday balloon "waterfall."
Scavenger hunt: You can place all the gifts in one room, then tie a string to the presents; then give the string a long and winding path through the house. Then give the string to the guest of honor for following it back to the presents.
Princess or prince for a day: Create an in-house “spa.” Prepare special meals and pamper the birthday girl or boy all day.
Themed dinners: Prepare the birthday girl or boy's favorite themed meal (Italian, Chinese, Tex-Mex, barbecue) and ask each family member to come to the table wearing something that matches the theme, such as cowboy boots, or dressed in the colors of the flag from which the cuisine originates.
Birthday messages: Write birthday messages on mirrors all over your house. You can use a White-Board (dry erase) marker that will come off with the swipe of a tissue or washcloth.
Take it outdoors: If you can take activities to the backyard, do cookouts with s’mores and more. Each family member can spread out his or her own picnic blanket in the grass. You can even stream favorite music via Bluetooth speaker for ambiance.
'Yes' day: Ice cream for breakfast? Yes! Cookies after lunch? Yes! Watch your favorite movie three times? Yes! Go ahead and bend the rules a little for the birthday girl or boy's special day indoors.