Birthday catch-up: Parents plan kids’ spring parties after 2 years of changed events

Sahar Jurdi had planned a special first birthday party in March 2020 for her firstborn – complete with an elaborate cake which the baby was to crush in a joyful fit in front of friends and family – when the pandemic halted her preparations.

As the calendar marked Oliver’s second birthday last March, public health measures once again dampened plans for a major celebration. But now that gathering restrictions have been lifted across Canada, the Toronto mum is hoping to make up for two missed parties with one big party.

About 20 children from Oliver’s nursery are expected to attend the event at Jurdi’s house in a few weeks, with an actor dressed as Winnie-the-Pooh and a bubble show reserved for entertainment.

“We’re turning the basement into a playground,” she said. “We are catching up with two years without celebrations.”

Ontario lifted capacity restrictions for all indoor settings on March 1, as public health indicators for COVID-19 appeared to show the Omicron wave waning.

As restrictions ease and spring welcomes new optimism, many parents feel the need to throw lots of parties for their March and April babies after two previous pandemic-altered birthdays.

But others still seem hesitant to plan large gatherings.

Elvine Assouline, CEO of party planning service The Fun Master, said in-person party bookings were still not at pre-pandemic levels for her Toronto-area company, which specializes in events for children.

Assouline quickly turned to virtual services when the pandemic began. Two years later, he said many parents are still opting for online alternatives.

Although he has received many inquiries about spring dates since the restrictions were lifted, Assouline said he has noticed this same trend throughout the ebbs of other pandemic waves.

“We are seeing some fatigue for virtual parties because I think everyone is fed up with Zoom. So if they can get it in person, they will,” he said. “But we also have a lot of questions about our cancellation policy.

“People are comfortable planning as long as you tell them, ‘If things change, we can postpone or move to something virtual.'”

Assouline understands the feeling that some parents need to go further and bolder with the celebrations this year, but he said he hasn’t seen a noticeable change, adding that customers still have different price ranges and ideas. for what they wanted for their children’s events.

“I don’t see a change saying, ‘Hey, I want to spend more money this year because I didn’t last year,'” he said.

“There’s really no such thing as catching up on birthdays… Just go ahead and try to plan something cool for their (ongoing) party.”

Kristy Frasier, mom of an almost nine-year-old daughter in Toronto, isn’t sure how she will celebrate her daughter’s birthday on April 15.

Frasier, who has an immunocompromised brother, wants his daughter to throw a big party after missing out on more comprehensive festivities for her seventh and eighth birthdays. But health remains a concern.

“It’s been obsessing me lately because I don’t know what we’re comfortable with yet,” said Frasier, who has to choose between a big pizza party at a trampoline park or a smaller get-together without food.

Frasier had planned a modest family celebration for her daughter’s eighth birthday last April, but the rising wave of the Delta forced her to turn the event into a “brief interaction” outside.

Her daughter’s pandemic first birthday in 2020 was marked by a video call with friends and family, who dropped gifts on Frasier’s doorstep.

“She was really good. She understands that things can’t be the way she would like them to be,” Frasier said. “But normally she’s more of a party girl, so she (asked) for a little while, ‘Can we please party? Can we? Can we?'”

Dr Sheri Madigan, a clinical psychologist and child development expert at the University of Calgary, said birthday parties can be exciting milestones for kids, but parents shouldn’t feel pressured to make up for the celebrations lost due to the pandemic.

She noted that some children’s comfort level with loud, large-scale events may have changed after two years of not experiencing them.

“Kids won’t remember big birthday parties, but parents will probably get a sense that something was organized and I think that’s important,” she said. “But we have to take the initiative from the child in terms of what he is ready for.”

Jurdi knows her three-year-old won’t remember the dim parties that marked her first two birthdays, but she was still sad to miss those memories for herself.

She also believes the pandemic has made it harder for Oliver to have other social experiences, including traveling abroad to meet relatives.

“Keep in mind he’s only three years old,” Jurdi said. “But for a three-year-old child before COVID, life was quite different.”

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on March 6, 2022.