We can all agree that the middle of a lockdown during a pandemic is definitely not the ideal time for a milestone celebration. Or any celebration, really! But we recently celebrated my oldest child’s 16th birthday.

We had already started planning several events with good friends but those plans had to be put on an extended hold. I was left looking for a way to make the day special and fun, while in our house, with only a mom and a little brother on hand for company. I decided to attempt to create an immersive experience of his all-time favorite show, The Office. To my surprise, everyone had fun and he ended the day saying, “Mom, today was a really great day.” That’s high praise from a teenager! If you too are searching for a way to make your child’s birthday special, try what I did. Pick a movie, show, or story they really love and give them a day living in the middle of it.

Here are the general elements I chose to include:

Set the Scene

An immersive day starts with your eyes. I spent a lot of time figuring out how to convert our little home into the office from the show. This went beyond the average signs or balloons. I printed signs headed to the other business, wrapped a book to look like one mentioned on the show, fashioned desks to look like particular characters, and even wrapped our kitchen shelves in tin foil to make it look like a vending machine! It took all night but when the kids came out in the morning, they felt like they were walking into a paper company.

Bring in More of the Senses

Don’t leave the preparations to just the decorations. Find ways to round out the experience. An easy addition is to fix thematic meals. When you’re stuck at home for an entire celebration, it can break things up and bring a lot more fun when you offer meals and snacks throughout the day. I was lucky. With a show as extensive as “The Office,” the hardest part was picking what not to serve them!

I had the same benefit when it came to adding sounds and songs. I made a playlist of most memorable songs that would evoke memories from the show and then played it throughout the day.

Keep It Going

You can break up the day even further with thematic activities. The amount of work you’ll have to put into creating these activities depends on what world you are trying to recreate. But it’s worth it! We took turns catching cheese balls in our mouths from across the room, folded and tested paper airplanes, and did obstacle courses with full coffee cups. Believe it or not, my teenager not only participated in the activities I’d planned, he asked for them to go longer! Key advice: if you feel stuck, search the web. Someone, somewhere, has probably already brainstorm everything!

We all know these situations are not ideal. But with some extra thought and creativity, you can give your birthday kid a celebration that, while not what they would have chosen, gives them the gift of a great and memorable day.