Birthday Party Planning as a Parent in a Wheelchair

Planning birthday parties is among my favorite parts of parenthood. This year feels even more special because we haven’t gone all out in a couple of years. Our youngest’s 3rd birthday party in 2020 was our last large family gathering. Many of us have not seen each other in months or longer! This year, we’re celebrating Riley’s 5th birthday and a lot has changed!

Coming Up with a Theme

The first step to birthday party planning is choosing a theme. Surprisingly, Riley didn’t hesitate or waiver this year. She wanted an Encanto-themed party! We found giant paper flowers and a flower garland to hang. My Stretto Power Wheelchair with iLevel® technology allowed me to elevate and help with decorating. I usually splurge on a personalized cake topper from Etsy because it’s a nice centerpiece and the kids’ hang it on their door after the party. We found Encanto-themed table clothes, plates, and napkins from Party City and I always get balloons and fresh flowers the morning of the party.

Creating Encanto-Themed Activities

Since Encanto is still relatively new, there weren’t as many suggestions for games or activities as I’d hoped on Pinterest. I found some wooden house cutouts on Etsy and pitched the idea that the kids could each paint their own casita (the life-like house of the family in the movie). Riley loved it and it ended up being a great activity for the kids to do together for an amount of time that matched their attention spans! They were dry by the time the party was over and I popped them in favor bags to go home.

We also played a pin-the-donkey-on-the-Luisa game that my 11-year-old came up with the night before the party! We printed and cut out donkeys from the scene in the movie where Luisa carries them and then Hannah and my mom sketched a Luisa. The kids loved it and I could adjust the height of my power wheelchair to tie their blindfolds.

Meeting the Parents

This year’s party was Riley’s first where she invited friends of her own, whose parents I had never met. I am always anxious about how these interactions will play out with her friends meeting me and her dad (also in a wheelchair) and their parents meeting us. Prior to this party, I had the most incredible gift of one of her friend’s parents sharing something about their identities over the phone because they, too, wanted our meeting to go smoothly. It was the perfect opportunity to add, “Well while we’re on the subject of what makes our families unique….” It’s never easy to put ourselves out there but we also never know when we’ll be inviting someone else to come along and join us.

The party itself was a success! Riley proclaimed it “the best day ever” and we are still listening to the Encanto soundtrack on repeat. Thanks to Ohio weather (70 and sunny the day before but below freezing the day of), this party was inside but I’m looking forward to using my Stretto for outside parties this summer. I’d love to connect and hear your party planning ideas. Reach me @DrKaraAyers on Twitter or @KaraAyers on Instagram.

About Kara Ayers: Kara is a mother of three and lives in Ohio. She is an associate professor at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and Medical Center. In 2021, Kara spoke to the Biden-Harris COVID-19 Equity Taskforce about the need for people with disabilities to access the COVID-19 vaccine. Click here to learn more about Kara.


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