A child’s birthday is one of the most anticipated days of the year. And as soon as the party is over, they’re planning their next birthday—364 days away! Every parent wants their child’s birthday to be special, and each year, as your children get older and their wants become greater, it’s easy to get caught up in the hype of trying to outdo the previous year’s birthday.
Growing up with three siblings, one of which has his birthday only two days after mine, my parents tried their best to make our birthdays special. Each year on our birthday we would arrive home from school and there would be balloons, gifts and handmade cards around the “birthday chair.” As soon as we finished dinner and gobbled up our cake, the birthday child was directed to sit in the birthday chair and would proceed to open up their gifts. It was a magical moment each year!
On my 10th birthday, I received a blue three-speed bike. Aside from that, the only other gift I remember receiving was a small wooden trinket box my mother had polyurethaned with some random magazine pictures and a groovy picture of me with a “shag” haircut and the date 1976 on the inside. That was 36 years ago—and I still have my trinket box today.
Now that I’m a mother of two, I think about those special celebrations of my childhood. Families are so busy these days that finding simple, inexpensive ways to turn an ordinary day into an extraordinary birthday celebration may take a little time and creativity, but it certainly doesn’t have to empty your wallet.
What children want more than anything on their birthday is to feel like it is their own special day. So find ways to help celebrate it with them. Here are 15 ways you can start your own birthday traditions to create some magical moments that your children will remember for years to come.
- The night before your child’s birthday, decorate the house or their room with balloons, confetti, flowers or a homemade banner.
- Wake up your child by singing “Happy Birthday.”
- Start the day of by making a special birthday breakfast.
- Pull out some baby pictures or other birthday pictures from the years past and decorate the house with them.
- Stick a special birthday snack or note in your child’s lunch box.
- Have lunch with your child at school and bring cupcakes. Okay, they may not like this when they get older, but during the elementary years, you and that box of cupcakes will be the epitome of cool!
- Have your child help you make their own birthday cake. It’s more fun for them to decorate the cake and get sugared up on eating the extra batter, frosting and sprinkles than it is actually eating the cake—regardless of their age.
- Plan a family outing that you will do each year: a trip to the beach, a picnic in the park, or even a trip to your favorite pizza joint.
- Start a scrapbook for each year on your child’s birthday and decorate the cover with a picture that was taken on their birthday.
- Take a picture each year of your child at the exact time they were born or as soon as they wake up.
- Let your child pick out all of the meals that day. If they want spaghetti for breakfast or pancakes for dinner—go for it—it’s their day!
- Give gifts that reflect the same number as your child’s birthday. For example, if your child is 5, how about five markers, five coloring books, five lollipops, five pairs of socks—you get the idea.
- Get crafty and make something for your child each year. A special pillow, frame, jewelry box or toy chest. She may not appreciate it now, but in years to come those handmade mementos are going to be the gifts she cherishes.
- Create a time capsule. Each year on your child’s birthday put a photo of your child, a newspaper, perhaps a drawing your child made and a note of all that is going on in your life. File away for the next year or for years to come.
- The birthday chair. Go on ahead, it’s been a tradition in my family for years, and to this day I still get to sit in the birthday chair complete with balloons and handmade cards— and now, so do my lucky kids!
Regardless of your child’s age or interests, birthdays are a special day for them. Even if their birthday falls on a school day or they have extracurricular activities, the key to making them feel special is that you remember the whole day is their birthday—so celebrate and let them enjoy it. By taking some time out to create your own family birthday traditions, you will be giving your child something to look forward to all throughout the year and perhaps for a lifetime.
Kara Ferraro is a publisher and mother of two elementary school children. She is always looking for clever and inexpensive ways to start new traditions with her family as well as carry on the traditions from her childhood