My seven-year-old grandson’s virtual birthday party was a huge hit. My grandson acted as the Master of Ceremonies and had a printed schedule for the robot-themed contests. Partiers had the chance to work individually or in teams. We could enter as many contests as we liked. These included the best robot costume, the best robot creation made from recycled materials, a robot drawing contest, the chance to write a robot story or to make a robot-themed dessert.
I wrote a story about a talented Octobot (a robot with eight arms) who helped entertain during a birthday party. My husband, anticipating snow, made a model of a snowplow out of boxes that, with a bit of programing, could be operated by a robot. He would love it if a real robot-operated snowplow showed up under the Christmas tree.
As the party progressed, my husband and I were charmed with our grandson’s diplomacy skills as he complimented individuals on their contributions. He also respectfully offered a few suggestions on how they could be improved, which caused a few chuckles from the adults. It was also fun for us to engage with family from California, Illinois, and New Mexico who normally wouldn’t have attended.
We had so much fun, we’re planning something similar for Christmas. Since you, too, might be planning a virtual holiday, here are a few tips I’ve gathered.
- Get organized. Choose a date and time. Plan a schedule and prepare by decorating the house, deciding if you want music, and sending out the video conferencing invitations. All the while, anticipate the big day.
- Consider picking a crazy theme that you normally wouldn’t do if face to face. Everyone gets to wear their jammies or ugly sweaters or Santa hats or reindeer antlers. Or have a funniest costume on the family pet contest.
- Share a book such as “The Polar Express” or “The Night Before Christmas.” Or stage a live nativity.
- Do you have a special tradition such as telling family stories, putting together puzzles, or making gingerbread houses? These are all possible. Let’s use puzzles as an example. To borrow an idea from a friend who organized this for her library, households buy the same puzzle. Participants open it at the same time. It could even turn into a competition to see which group finishes first.
- Play games such as Yahtzee that don’t need a common board. As long as all families have the game, the group can enjoy the friendly competition.
- Plan a family talent show. Family members can show off their musical talents or a comedy act, skit, or a performance of some kind.
- Food and drinks are always a special part of family holidays. Prepare mulled cider, hot chocolate, or eggnog. Munch on cookies made from Grandma’s special recipe. Consider eating a virtual meal together including favorites such as ham, potatoes, and the traditional dessert.
- Enjoy gift opening. Have packages shipped to loved ones’ houses or drop them off beforehand. Receivers might try to guess what their gift is.
- If the party is dying, choose a buzz word such as Santa or present or Christmas or wrapping paper. Every time a partier uses that word, he or she has to do a pushup or twirl around or stick their fingers in their ears and waggle them. This is sure to keep the laughter going.
- Maybe one of your family members knows how to get in touch with Santa and could ask him to make an appearance. Santa is sure to perk up the party. And he won’t get his beard pulled, either.
Be creative. Prepare. Have fun. We can make this one of our best holidays ever.