Celebrating lockdown birthdays in Kent including virtual panic rooms, online magic shows, igloo hire and sleepover parties
After close to a year of restrictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic almost all of us have had a 'lockdown birthday'. And with March fast rolling around again, there are likely to be some youngsters who are set to have another celebration absent of many family or friends.
With businesses adapting to restrictions and companies finding unique ways to help us celebrate from home, here's some suggestions for enjoying a lockdown birthday in Kent...
Before the pandemic hit last March The Panic Room in Kent was a hive of activity with groups of families and friends entering the escape rooms attempting to crack the codes and solve the riddles.
The Gravesend-based company, led by managing director Alexander Souter, had to quickly adapt to coronavirus restrictions and find other ways to allow groups to still enjoy the challenges he had on offer.
Over the last year The Panic Room has grown its online shop to be the largest escape room shop in the world with 22 different virtual rooms to choose from that can be booked and played 24/7 across multiple devices and households.
With a range of games available Alexander says there is something for everyone including a number of family-friendly experiences which are ideal for birthday celebrations. Price are competitive, he says, and depending on players it can work out as little as £2.50 each for the entertainment.
Gravesend's panic room is not the only attraction believing it can bring separated people together over Zoom.
Until the pandemic started magician Tom Brace could be found travelling across London, Kent and other areas of the South East performing mesmerising magic shows.
Since restrictions put pay to everyone's socialising the London-based talent has turned to Zoom in order to continue the fun. Families and friends can book anything from Zoom magic shows to lessons and the reviews on social media have been outstanding - with one booking describing Tom's stay-at-home show 'incredible'. Bookings can be made via Tom's facebook page or by visiting www.tombracemagic.com
Add some sparkle...
Whilst children and teens wouldn't necessarily choose to share their birthday celebrations solely with a sibling - lockdown has meant families clubbing together to mark birthdays in ways they otherwise might not.
Carla Helyar runs Sparkle Party Co.
Her business, which in normal times also specialises in pamper parties, has been inundated during the pandemic with bookings for her indoor sleepovers and outdoor glamping bell tents for families or groups of siblings to enjoy from the comfort of their own home or back garden.
The family business, based in Medway, covers all the Medway towns, Maidstone, Sittingbourne and all surrounding areas and she's now taking requests for bookings months and months in advance, particularly when it comes to summer bell tent bookings.
Responding to the latest government guidance families can book a contact-free sleepover party with all items sanitised thoroughly between bookings.
Carla explained: "We are currently offering a contact free self set-up option, where we deliver the complete kit to the customer and they have a guide inside to help them with easy set up. We have a facebook page that people can message us via and also look at lots of pictures of set ups we have supplied throughout lockdown and also before then."
The sleepovers come in a variety of themes to suit the birthday child with all options available to book through Sparkle Party Co's facebook page here with customers also able to get in touch via the company's website www.sparklegirlspamperparties.co.uk
Sally Povey runs Above and Beyond Balloons from her home on the Isle of Sheppey.
Her skills for designing personalised and unique balloon structures of all shapes and sizes have been in exceptionally high demand since the pandemic started and her business facebook page is packed full of the wild and wonderful creations she's been designing for lockdown birthdays since the pandemic started.
Alongside birthday designs that she puts together from customers requests she also designs balloons and gifts for special occasions such as balloon embelished sweet cups for Halloween when children couldn't go trick or treating, Christmas balloons to mark the arrivel of the elf on the shelf and creations for upcoming Valentine's Day.
Families have come to her requesting everything from sculptures for their children depicting all of their favourite things whilst others purchase them to gift to family members they can't enjoy a birthday with.
She said: "Balloon art is proving super popular in lockdown. Special personalised sculptures and gifts to cheer up family members or surprise displays for children to wake up to in the morning - I have something for everyone."
No birthday would be complete without a bag of sweets or two and there is one company in north Kent responding to the demands in lockdown for some sweet treats to brighten a long day and mark a celebration.
Gemma Shaw established confectionary business Sweet Cake Delights in 2011. The company creates 'sweet cakes' made entirely of chocolate, chewy or jelly sweets with no dried fruit or sponge included. The company is also used to taking requests for its popular £1 sweet cones, which make great additions to parties or children's party bags in normal times.
But since the first lockdown in March 2020, parties got cancelled and Sweet Cake Delights saw its level of orders understandably drop. Responding to a few requests from customers Gemma began a 1kilo sweet box delivery service, which rapidly became a huge hit.
This safe and free delivery service of the giant pick n mix boxes runs across north Kent areas with DA and ME postcodes. A contactless payment and contact-free delivery is also available for those having to isolate.
With a focus on special occasions and novelty gift items the company has also responded in the last 10 months with Halloween sweet boxes, Christmas treats and now Valentine themed sweet boxes - all alongside the sweet cakes it continues to take orders for.
Alongside its website www.sweetcakedelights.co.uk potential customers can see the vast range of sweets on offer and available to order through the Sweet Cake Delights facebook page available to see here.
Lockdown celebrations come rain or shine...
At the start of the summer, ex-air hostess Charlotte Maude only had a single bell tent as part of her offering from Charlie's Angels Parties.
She now has four of them, alongside three hot tubs, 14 indoor teepees and two outdoor dining igloos to help her create different experiences for families' special occasions and celebrations.
The company, based in Gravesend, has gone from strength to strength during the pandemic as people look for ways to mark birthdays and anniversaries at home and what started out as a small company two years ago offering children's sleepovers has evolved into a multi-pronged business now serving families across Kent.
The 36-year-old said: "Trying to juggle the business as well as spending nearly five months home-schooling two of my three children has been very hard, but I'm now an extremely proud owner of a very successful business.
"It all started when my daughter wanted a pamper party for her seventh birthday. We booked one elsewhere, but afterwards I realised I could have just done it myself, as I had just started to build up a business in beauty therapy.
"The pamper parties soon led to the indoor teepee sleepovers, then the bell tents, then hot tubs and most recently the igloos.
"It's been insane throughout the pandemic. The demand is crazy - the bell tents and hot tubs were fully booked all summer, and now the igloos are booked out in the winter."
A teepee sleepover costs £80 for two beds with extra beds costing £25 each. An outdoor dining pod, which can cater for up to eight people, will set you back £299. For more information visit the Charlie's Angels Parties facebook page here.