Last weekend we celebrated my sweet Bean's 9th Birthday!
I felt a bit stumped in the lead up to her birthday. I was pretty sure it wouldn't be possible to have a party with family and friends, yet the rules and restrictions around lockdown were constantly evolving. I knew that Bean wouldn't be able to have the birthday party that she had planned (at a local trampoline park), and that a birthday party online was not for us, but I wasn't sure how to go about planning something special for her.
A few weeks prior to her birthday, with still no firm plan in place, a local mother popped by to collect some toys I'd listed for sale on Facebook marketplace, and we got chatting about her plans for her daughters upcoming birthday. I was completely inspired by her idea of using balloons with challenges inside to help stretch out the present opening first thing in the morning. I thanked her profusely, as I knew it would be a hit with my Bean.
Ordinarily, we don't buy balloons, even for birthdays, as we're trying really hard to reduce our consumption of single use plastics, but we made an exception on this occasion. I bought a packet of confetti balloons from Sainsburys (similar to these ones, with tissue paper confetti inside). Inside each balloon (one for each year of her life), I placed a small piece of folded paper with a written challenge. Bean had to pop each balloon with a pin, hunt through the confetti to find the challenge, read the challenge instructions and then complete the challenge before opening each birthday present.
Here she is, in action, on her birthday morning! And here are her challenges:
1. Kim's Game.
This is a memory game which you may well remember from your own childhood. It is one that can be adapted easily to the age and ability of your child. To begin with, I set a timer for one minute and asked Bean to try and memorise as many items on the tray as possible. I reminded her that it can help to pair the items, e.g. bowl and spoon, caterpillar and butterfly, food items. I covered the tray with a play silk, and asked her to tell me 6 of the items on the tray. For the next few rounds, I removed items from the tray, and she had to tell me which items were missing.
2. Catch a Ball
Ordinarily, we use a small beach ball to play catch, but I couldn't find it so substituted it for our Success Ball. If you're not familiar with the Success Ball, I highly recommend them for young children learning how to catch. They are filled with foam pellets, which makes them easy to catch as they conform to the shape of the hand. The air flowing through the mesh slows it down in transit, making it easier to track. They also do not hurt on impact.
Anyway, to make this a little more challenging for Bean, we stood 2 metres apart, and she had to catch the ball 9 times in a row. If she dropped the ball, we had to start the count again. Finding the right level of challenge is important, as children become easily disheartened if the challenge is too hard.
3. Crack the Code
This is a challenge that Bean is familiar with because she's been interested in 'spy' play for some time, so she set straight to work. For this code I simply reversed the alphabet, but you can use pictures or symbols, an alphabet that your child is unfamiliar with, binary code etc. For younger children, you could use just the one word, e.g. bed.
4. Fairy Queen.
We both love this game. It's so simple and quick, but satisfying to play. After discarding any pairs from your hand, you pick from one another until the person left holding the Fairy Queen card wins. The illustrations are beautiful. We always have a laugh at the end as we try to pick the Fairy Queen from one another's hand. You can find a link to these cards here.
5. Spot the Difference.
We have a small pack of sweet spot the difference cards but you could easily print something similar from online, or tear out a page from a magazine or activity book instead. These illustrations are particularly detailed, making the differences challenging to spot.
6. Rush Hour.
This is a logic game that we have in our collection (link here). The aim of the game is to slide the red car out by moving the other vehicles out of it's path. Any other short, one player, game would work, or a little jigsaw puzzle perhaps.
7. Read a Book.
Again, you can pick something that suits your own child's developmental needs. Bean is a beginner reader, so I picked a book that she would be able to read independently. You could use a wordless picture book for pre-readers, and ask them to tell you the story.
8. Building Challenge.
What made this especially challenging for Bean was using these teeny tiny building blocks (I can't find these listed for sale anywhere, I'm sorry). I have a 'building project' highlight on my Instagram page if you want some more building challenge ideas.
9. General Knowledge Quiz.
And, lastly, a general knowledge quiz, with no expectation that she get all the answers to the questions right (she did!)
Mid-morning, we ordered some donuts from Krispy Kreme (in lieu of a birthday cake). We are newbies to having food delivered to our door, so that in itself was rather exciting. I was also delighted to discover that new Uber Eats customers can have £15 off their first order, so these only cost £2.95 with free delivery!
Bean headed off for lunch with her Daddy, then the late afternoon was filled with guinea pig cuddles, reading new books, eating more donuts, followed by a special dinner and watching the new Trolls film. It was a lovely, fun-filled day, and despite not being able to spend it with our extended family and friends, I know that it will be one that she will remember forever (along with the birthday party where she fractured her elbow!) She kept saying, "This is the best birthday ever!"
Do you have a child celebrating their birthday during lockdown? How did you make the day special? Do you think your child would enjoy birthday balloon challenges?