Special gift for a sad 8yo girl with cancelled birthday party

My daughter's birthday party got cancelled this spring (like many many others) and she is understandably very sad over it.  Family is sending gifts to open on her birthday over video conference and she will get a song from family over video conference but it is not the same.  I want to get her a gift or several to make the birthday more special since she cannot get her normal big party and won't get the usual many gifts from friends. Any ideas of something special to get an 8 year old girl to cheer her up.  I want something more special than usual but as our usual gifts are outings or tickets to shows/event (which are no longer an option now and I don't want her to wait unknown amount of time to get to enjoy her gift) I cannot think of anything to get her now and she is not really into any of her toy sets so adding to a collection is not an option either. She has a lot of activities continuing over zoon and is over it so adding another cool activity over zoom is not an option.  I was considering getting her own ipad but not sure I want to have the argument about limiting screen-time when the device is hers though her own device is tempting with all the school work lately and i cannot think of anything else.  I know this is such a first world problem at this point but I really want to cheer up my little girl on her birthday.  Any ideas?  I know many birthday parties are cancelled so figured others might have done something special as well and maybe there is something big I'm missing. 

Parent Replies

New responses are no longer being accepted.

I have a baby so not sure what the best present would be, but I read this and felt for your girl. I'm imagining transforming a room into another world (under the sea, fairy woodland, tropical luau, a scene from her favorite movie) with party decorations bought online and thematic takeout food, then have a scavenger/treasure hunt with a few small gifts leading up to one larger gift. Maybe something she can personalize so it still feels like an experience? Customized Keds, 'create your own' American Girl doll, a charm bracelet.

You could also ask her friends & family to record little birthday messages sharing one of their favorite things about her and play these throughout the day. It'd be a keepsake when she's older and remembering how crazy this whole time was.

Do you have space for something like a bounce house or trampoline?  A gift that offers a fun energetic break from all of the on-screen school time might feel special.  If she has some special friends you could ask the parents for a birthday "parade" where the kids drive or walk by your house (respecting 6 ft distance rules of course) holding signs and singing happy birthday.  Don't be afraid to ask - the other kids would probably love it too!  Finally, my kid's best friend had a zoom birthday party and all of the friends sent a gift the week before the zoom party where the birthday child opened all the presents.  I don't know where you are, but Five Little Monkeys is doing online orders and doorstep delivery.  There are also "quarantine birthday" t-shirts on Etsy - maybe it can help her feel like she belongs to a special club.  https://www.etsy.com/listing/798460961/kids-birthday-quarantined-shirt-custom?ga_order=most_relevant&ga_search_type=all&ga_view_type=gallery&ga_search_query=birthday+t+shirt&ref=sr_gallery-1-4&bes=1&col=1

Happy Birthday to your girl!  

I find it sad that giving her a special event to do over Zoom isn't special enough so I'd encourage you to re-think that.   What about something like a guitar and some guitar lessons over Zoom or some other instrument?  What about talking with her about donating some money or toys in her name to more unfortunate 8 year olds?    I like the idea Jannan suggested about a theme room for a pretend day with a treasure hunt.   IClearly, you will need to talk with her about how so many kids are sad about their birthdays right now and she's not alone in that.   I know that it hurts to see one's child hurting and I think it's also OK and even important for them to experience disappointment.   Life is not about always getting everything one wants, unfortunately.   Maybe talk with her about how to make it the most special day possible given the circumstances.   Happy Birthing day to you!  

My friends made a treasure hunt for their daughter. The treasure hunt was in their house, and every time she solved one clue, she found the name of a friend/family member, who she then had to call to get the next clue - this made it more social and fun!

I'm sorry you're having to deal with this - it's a tough question. My instinct as the mother of my own 8yo would be that just buying a big-ticket item isn't going to address the underlying sadness/disappointment, which I'd guess is probably more about not having a celebration than not getting a ton of presents. The novelty of any shiny new thing you buy is going to wear off just like the Zoom activities and toy sets she's not interested in. A few suggestions: Other people I know in this situation have had friends decorate their yard or do a drive-by party or a socially-distanced street dance party. Or you might ask everyone to make a card or artwork and mail it to her - getting paper mail is still kind of a big deal when you're 8. Hang up all the cards around the house and celebrate her. If you have time (I know we're all navigating work and school and everything else), maybe give her a gift of a project that the two of you could work on together - planting a garden, or decorating a doll house, or making a fairy garden, or building a robot, whatever she'd be into. Time with you is valuable and unique. Or see if a grandparent or friend could give her cooking or crafting lessons virtually, sharing their knowledge, helping her build a new skill, having some facetime. My kid is really into acquiring new skills and being self-sufficient right now - even if it's just making a sandwich, he feels really proud of his accomplishments. My last idea is to maybe make a promise for an event you could attend or a day trip you could take once restrictions are over, and then giving her a book or a craft or something else related to that event that she can do at home now - for example, if you were planning a trip to the zoo, sign up for virtual zookeeper visits like the Oakland Zoo is doing, or get her some books about animals or a subscription to Ranger Rick or whatever her interests are. Use the delay as an opportunity to build excitement and knowledge that will enhance the eventual outing. Good luck!

Get the iPad! We got my 6 y/o "his own" iPad for Xmas and it's actually gone quite well, in terms of screen time, limit-setting, etc. And we're glad he has it now with all the distance learning and new apps and zoom dates - it's great, actually. If you're still hesitant, how about a puppy? Everyone is home, lots of time to train and bond... or a kitten, or a bunny, or hamster... you get the idea. :)

Have you heard about the "birthday parades" taking place?  Her friends who would have come to the party, relatives, etc. could drive by in cars at about the same time.  Kids can hang signs out the windows, make noise, sing happy birthday?  You could get cupcakes, keeping them in the bakery boxes, and have a table set up where the kids can come out of their cars and pick up a cupcake one at a time.  If they have presents they could drop them off.   I thought about doing this for my daughter who just had her birthday without a party, but didn't get organized in time.  It would take some coordination with the other families, but could lift her spirits.  

It is a disappointing thing to have a birthday party cancelled, so I think it's OK to let your daughter be sad over it. Don't waste this golden teaching moment. It's better for children to face minor disappointments and learn how work through them when they are young, so when they are older and meet real, more serious disappointments, they won't be knocked down by them. You can ask your daughter what makes her the most sad about missing the party--is it seeing her friends? Is it the feeling of being special that day? Is it the fun activity that was going to be at the party? Is it the presents? Then talk about which of these things are actually the most important (hint: it's not the presents, it's the people) and how you don't need a party to celebrate those important things. You can also talk about how people around the world are facing huge, real, serious, disappointments nowadays (like death of a loved one, loss of a job, illness), and you can think about how you can help others who are also disappointed, Maybe you can take some of the money you were going to spend on the party and donate it to a food bank, or buy some gift certificates from a struggling restaurant and give it out to people in need. This teaches your daughter to turn outwards when she feels sad, instead of focusing on herself and her sadness. Her feelings of sadness help her empathize with others and that is a very important skill to nurture. Giving her an excessively large gift at this time doesn't really teach her the right lesson, and I agree with you, DON'T buy her an iPad! My son just missed a big birthday party too, so we did some fun activities at home, and I surprised him with a Zoom call with his cousins from around the world (all 7 of them!) and we played a giant game of Drawful 2. It was SO fun. I know your daughter doesn't really like Zoom, but we found the game really fun and interactive. It takes a little tinkering to set it up via zoom, and be sure to set up family friendly controls. Happy Birthday to your little one!

She the perfect age for a micro kick scooter. They are fun and active but with 3 wheels do more stable and turn by leaning like a skate board. 

My son just had his birthday in mid-April, so we struggled with the same dilemna... he is 4, so I know our experience is a bit different. Even though he wasn't able to enjoy his brithday with friends and family, we were able to do several things which made it an extra special/memorable day:

  • I hid presents for him in various locations in the house and gave him a treasure map so he could find them all.
  • We made his birthday cake together! He loved it, and has been talking about it ever since.
  • I discovered Radish Kids (https://www.raddishkids.com/) which sends out monthly cooking boxes. Ours took about a week to arrive, and so we opened it up on my son's birthday and cooked a special meal together.

The options are definitely limited during Shelter In Place, but I think if you can do an unusual activity with her at home, or even just spend extra time together, it can end up being one of her favorite birthdays ever!

I did break down and buy our kids the iPad Air and an Apple Pencil to complete their school work. One kid is the same age as your daughter (turning 8 soon) and he is super excited. This is despite our setting up strict parental controls and time limits on the device and requiring all school work to be completed before any games are unlocked. The pencil is great because he can write directly on the many PDFs coming home for school (no printing and scanning) plus he can color and draw on the free coloring and drawing apps which is super fun. If you’re considering something functional for your sanity and that will be super exciting for your daughter and the iPad is in your budget, it’s a good gift. Even if you set up lots of restrictions around it.

If you want something that is not a device that kids are super excited about, I would recommend a hammock - you can hang it indoors to studs if you don’t have any outdoor space. Our ENO DoubleNest hammock with the Atlas suspension system is extremely portable and easy to hang anywhere with trees or posts (the 7 yr old can do it). If you want to hang it indoors you just need to add some metal carabiners and anchors to studs in your wall. ENO sells a “hammock hanging kit” with metal hardware for hanging indoors. We’ve had our hammock for a while and it is well loved by all children at the park, when we camp, etc. We’ve had it out for the whole shelter in place, and it’s still getting used every day by the kids and parents too.

Wishing your daughter a happy birthday!

I’m so sorry, my daughter is 8 also, this is tough.

A friend of hers is turning 8 in a few days and her Mom sent out a request a few weeks ago for friends/teachers/family/etc to send over a short video birthday message that she is compiling into a movie for her daughters bday. I thought this was super sweet and we enjoyed making the video to send her. Not the same as an in person birthday but very sweet. I think it will be a fun day for all of you, acknowledging her sadness and staying positive will really help too. :)

I was also going to suggest the custom American Girl doll -- if she likes AG dolls. If she's more into small dolls there are some very talented people on Etsy who do OOAK (one of a kind) Barbies and similar size dolls. I know some kids really get a kick out of having a "mini me." If she's interested in learning an instrument maybe this is the time for a special-looking smaller sized guitar? I'm not a guitarist, but I know there are some smaller ones that are still full sized in terms of sound. Lots come in pretty colors, etc. I'm sure someone more knowledgeable could advise you. If she likes Taylor Swift, for instance, maybe she'd think it was cool to learn to play and write songs? Anyway, I really feel for you, and hope you settle on something she loves.

What a good parent you are!  Birthday parties are a big part of our lives. My kids always had two parties each, one with our family and one with friends. The first thing that came to mind you might both enjoy; if you don’t already have one maybe you could order a sewing machine online and sew together (blankets, superhero capes) My now grown daughter knows how to sew, we are making masks together for donation to local healthcare workers. 

Our sons birthday is next week and the idea of skipping it broke my heart. So while we can't have a traditional party or go out to any of his favorite places. We decided to surprise him and turn some rooms into different activity stations based on some of his favorite things. For example I found a disco light and glow sticks to create a dance party, filled a room full of balloons, a cooking challenge and an indoor obstacle course. I'm sure your daughter will have a great birthday!

I just celebrated my daughter's 8th birthday and we did a the floral hoop photo shoot, lots of balloons and an art project on evite video chat with a few friends.  www.mydarlingparty.com

In case you haven't seen it, 510 Families put together a post with ideas for celebrating birthdays in quarantine that might be useful: https://www.510families.com/virtual-birthday-parties

I know you said no Zoom.  But this might be different enough.  Does she like to bake?  How about a Zoom workshop where she and her friends learn how to bake amazing bagels.  Just a thought.  I teach that workshop.  Laurie