When plans for her daughter’s 7th birthday blowout in January had to be switched because of the pandemic, Syosset mom Sloane Grober shifted to a family-only backup plan. Her revised strategy: Dome is where the heart is.
"I rented an igloo," says Grober, 32, who consults for Blue Jean Baby, a kids clothing store in Woodbury. "We set it up in our backyard and used it for a family movie night. It was very cool." It was actually toasty warm for birthday girl Hunter and her sisters, Harlow, 4, and Hayden, 1. The furnished shiver-proof shelter leased from Long Island Igloos featured a TV, a popcorn machine – and a heater.
"When life hands you lemons, make frozen lemonade," says Grober, whose save-the-day solution is directly right on trend. Out-of-the-box party experiences are more popular than ever. "We’re trying to make things memorable, so our kids don’t just remember the masks," she says.
Long Island party pros and parents share hot themes and trends in 2022 – looking at you Spider-Man and TikTok – that are out there ready to make kids’ celebrations unforgettable, even if its Plan B.
Roni Gaon, 36, a party planner with three daughters who worked with Grober on an Oktoberfest-themed gathering for Hayden last fall, predicts slumber parties will be in vogue. "Everyone wants to party at home," she says.
For her daughter Maddyn’s 6th birthday, she created a basement spa at her home in Woodbury. Girls snoozed (and giggled) in teepees, pampered themselves with mini-makeovers, crafted dreamcatchers, and, of course, sampled irresistible desserts. The special delights, she says, "are about amazing decor, attention to detail and fun activities for the kids."
Look for some kids’ celebrations to be held in summer, whether their birthdays fall then or not. Outdoors is still where people want to party, says Andrea Correale, owner of Elegant Affairs in Glen Cove.
Transforming a backyard into a beach is a growing trend. Fill inflatable kiddie pools with sand and you’ve got the makings of a spot to build sandcastles. Colorful beach balls offer thematic hues for decorations. "You can press little sandwiches out of seashell cookie cutters," Correale says. "Customized beach towels are great giveaways for kids to take home."
Every kid wants to feel like royalty on their birthday. Princesses will continue to reign as a trend this year. Islip mom Kerry Sluker, 40, who’s in advertising sales, gave 4-year-old daughter Juliette the royal treatment at her birthday bash. The backyard tent party would’ve roused Sleeping Beauty from her nap.
The decor was pretty in pink. The cake was an edible castle. Two entertainers in regal garb set the mood. Cake pops were capped with a candy crown. "The princess theme really popped," says Shira Bush, 39, a Westchester-based planner who handled the party and often works on Long Island. "There should be no question of what the theme is."
"Parents are super into celebrating as we move ahead in 2022," says Bush. "So many have said, ‘My kids missed out last year.’ " Animals loom large trend-wise – from woodland critters to barnyard cuties to mythical beasts. "Unicorns are always big," says Bush.
If your Spidey senses suggest that a certain web-slinger is trendier than ever, they’re right. Following the $1 billion-plus success of "Spider-Man: No Way Home" the party popularity of Peter Parker’s alter ego is set to soar.
Sara Caiola, owner of Lavender Cupcakery & Dessert Shoppe in Hauppauge, has whipped the character into celebration-ready cakes and cookies. "Spider-Man has always been popular," she says, adding that the new hit flick has amped that up. Super Mario, Sonic the Hedgehog and mermaids "are always in."
LMNO Party Planning in Babylon expect that Spider-Man will have company when it comes to party requests. "It’s not just one superhero but the whole team," says co-owner Nicole Rosales. That includes the Hulk, Captain America, Superman, Batman and others.
"Encanto" is another hit movie party planners expect to translate into party trends. That owes not just to the charm of the animated film, but "We Don’t Talk About Bruno," a breakout song. "I just got a request for large letter balloons spelling out Bruno," says Laurie Ferrara, who runs Balloons by Laurie.
CANDY IS DANDY
By all accounts, moms and dads are planning far in advance for 2022 parties – and the year is going to be sweet. Ask Elli Krempa, 39, co-owner of Koukla Children's Boutique in Bellmore, whose daughter, Nikoletta, turns 4 this summer. In January, she booked a party at a steakhouse with an outdoor patio.
The theme is Candy Land. "She loves cotton candy, Swedish fish, ring pops, she loves it all." For a day, she’ll indulge in the sugar rush.
Tie-dye everything and hippie-happy Coachella will again be among top trends this year, party experts concur. TikTok will also lead the way. That was the original theme for Hunter Grober’s 7th birthday. And she’ll get to enjoy what had been planned – on her "half birthday" in July.
The summer party is set to include "someone who specializes in TikTok dances to teach the girls some choreography," says Grober, adding that partygoers will also be spray painting sweatshirts. "It’s going to be fun. I love planning parties. These days you have to be on your toes."
TO GATHER OR NOT TO GATHER? DOCTORS RESPOND
Should parents be hosting small play dates or birthday parties at this point in the pandemic?
“I don’t think it’s easy at this point in time to make blanket decisions,” says Dr. Aaron Glatt, chief of infectious diseases at Mt. Sinai South Nassau hospital in Oceanside. “I don’t think there’s an absolute recommendation. I don’t recommend people be lenient, I don’t recommend people be strict.”
Glatt recommends instead that people take into account their personal risk factors and make individual decisions based on the idea that it is healthy for children to get together if possible.
If all the children (and any accompanying adults) are vaccinated and the hosting family doesn’t have any family members at high risk for illness, then it’s reasonable to gather, Glatt says. However, gathering in a large room with good ventilation is safer than a small room with poor ventilation, he says. And having everyone wear masks further reduces risk, although he says it’s not entirely realistic to expect toddlers and preschoolers to keep their masks on correctly.
“The most important thing for children five years and above is they should be vaccinated at least two weeks before any gathering,” agrees Dr. Mundeep Kainth, a pediatric infectious disease physician at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park.
However, not everyone in that age group has embraced the vaccine, Kainth says. For instance, Kainth says she wanted to put together a party for her son Jaishan’s 9th birthday this month, but ultimately opted not to because at least one of his friends is not vaccinated and she was concerned for the risk to her elderly parents. Both of her sons, which includes Ishan, 6, have been vaccinated, she says. “If you really want to do it, I would do rapid tests and wear masks,” she says, adding that children should be wearing KN95 masks instead of surgical or cloth ones. She also recommends keeping tabs on the level of community spread when making choices --- while there may be a dip in numbers now, in a few weeks the virus may surge again.
— Beth Whitehouse