Celebrating a birthday with feather boas, a dress up box, candy buffets, or any other themed bash, is an event children look forward to. The excitement begins as they hand out invitations, decide on a party theme, choose their cake and ice cream, and plan out their party’s activities. But now, in light of the Coronavirus pandemic, what changes are in store for our “new normal”? What does the future hold for our children’s birthday parties?
Parents, party planners and child-centric businesses have begun to implement a new way of holding parties, practices that could be with us for the next year or two–or even longer.
Limiting the Number of People in Attendance
Mallory Dicchary is the mom of two young children, a two-year-old son and a three-year-old daughter. The family celebrated their son’s second birthday in early June, but this party differed greatly from the ones they’d held previously. “For our daughter’s birthdays, and for our son’s last birthday, we probably had 50 plus people in attendance,” she explains. “We had the parties at our home, and for my daughter’s last birthday, we went to a local indoor party place called Jump-N-Jive.”
Since their son’s birthday occurred during the midst of the pandemic, the family had to celebrate a bit differently. “We didn’t do a big formal party like we normally would,” Dicharry says. “We had my husband’s family come over one day, then the next day, my family came over, then we had our friends over on a different day.” As Dicharry puts it, her family is practicing what she calls ‘the new smart normal.’
No Sharing of Food
Latasha Bailey-Johnson is the owner of Imperious Celebrations & Décor, specializing in a wide variety of party planning. She started her business about a year ago and says all was going well for her company prior to the pandemic, but once the Coronavirus hit, “It all went into left field,” she admits.
Yet, Bailey-Johnson made adjustments to how she plans her events, changing her game plan for “pandemic birthday parties.” “There are definitely a few rules I’ve added for kids’ birthday parties,” Bailey-Johnson says. “The mom wanted to do a candy buffet, but I suggested that we do something different. You have kids, you have parents, and you don’t know where they’ve been, so what I started doing is what I call ‘meal in a box.’”
The boxed meals include a sandwich, prepared and wrapped at a local store, a package of chips, a drink, and a package of sealed candy.
“So far, the parents are on board with my guidelines,” she says. “I tell them my first concern is my safety, the parents’ safety, and the safety of the kids. “I refuse to do anything with my bare hands, so I wear gloves, and I wear a face shield as well. It’s kind of sad, but this is now our new normal.”
Changing the Way Party Facilities Hold Events
The pandemic has certainly taken its toll on party facilities in the Baton Rouge area, including the popular Jump-N-Jive, owned by Jimbo Gravois. The business consists of two large arenas in a warehouse facility, with four large inflatables in each area. Gravois says that before the pandemic, their business held anywhere from 50 to 60 birthday parties per month, with two celebrations taking place simultaneously, every hour. “Now, we’ve gone to doing parties every other hour, so you get the entire building to yourself,” Gravois explains. “Instead of holding eight parties per day, we’re down to four.”
Gravois has begun taking the temperature of children and adults when they first come in, and suggesting that adults wear face masks when interacting with the coaches. Gravois has also implemented extensive cleaning procedures between parties. “We use hospital-grade disinfectant, taking a full hour to wipe down the inflatables and any other high-touch surfaces such as door handles and benches. This is the way it will be for the time being.”
The Current State of Birthday Parties, and Where Do We Go From Here?
Pediatrician Dr. Myriam Ortiz-DeJesus with Ochsner Health says, “This is an evolving situation in terms of what is going to happen with COVID-19. Is it going to go away. Is it going to come back?” She has suggested to her parents not to have birthday parties or at least postpone them for the time being, until the situation is a little clearer. “It’s very difficult within the guidelines for distancing, with kids, trying not to share things. I tell parents to be careful with gatherings of too many kids.”
She adds that if parents want to proceed and have gatherings, she advises that they do it with household members, people they have been in contact with for a long time, those who they live with.
“If you decide to hold a party with people from outside of your home, you need to ask guests if anyone has been recently sick, if anyone has had a cough or a fever, and make sure they don’t share any type of games or equipment. It’s something, unfortunately, that we need to ask. It’s a very difficult situation,” says Dr. Ortiz-DeJesus.