Create traditions to ensure your child feels super special on their birthday.
Here are 20 ideas to turn birthday celebrations into family traditions.
Also read our article on a organising a simple at-home birthday party.
1 Start the day by gathering the rest of the family and serenading the birthday child in bed to the tune of “Happy Birthday”. You may have to set an alarm clock to beat the excited child’s wake up … but the smile on their face should be worth it.
2. Make a birthday trail in candied popcorn (or ribbon or streamers) from the child’s bed to the hiding place of the treasure: their present. You could wrap a few extra tiny gifts and include these in a route around your home. For older children, interrupt the popcorn path with notes that give clues … then resume the popcorn at the position of the answer to the clue.
3. Stick up Post-it notes round the house saying why you love your child: one on their toothbrush, in their lunchbox, on the front door, in their sock drawer. Invite the siblings to contribute.
4. Serve or go out for a backwards dinner: eat dessert, then main course, then a starter – few children will object to this as a birthday tradition.
5. Tell your child’s birth story. Explain what it was like to hold them in your arms for the first time; what time of day they were born; and who came to visit them in the hospital; what they liked to do as a baby. Next, look through old photos and then watch your family videos to remind them (and you) of those early days. Children love to hear their story.
6. Write your child a birthday poem or compose a song. Collect the words or lyrics in a special book or capture your performance on video so you can re-live the fun later. You may not win a literary or Grammy award for your efforts, but you’ll certainly win your young child’s heart.
7. Light birthday candles at each meal. Very few children will pull up their noses at having “Happy Birthday” sung to them at breakfast, lunch and supper – and getting to blow out their candles each time.
8. Eat a special meal of the birthday boy or girl’s choice. Allow them to select the menu a few days before the birthday so you have time to buy the ingredients. Indulge the requests, even if not the most nutritious, you can always balance things out by giving healthy snacks in between – birthdays are, after all, just one day a year.
9. Pin streamers to the doorframe so your child needs to walk through the wall of colour to start the day.
10. Hold a dinner of appreciation: go round the table giving each family member a turn to say one thing they love or appreciate about the birthday girl or boy.
11. Create a birthday tablecloth for your child by recording their hand and/or footprints in fabric paint on a plain tablecloth or piece of material. Hints: apply fabric paint to hands or feet with a sponge to reduce mess; write the year in a permanent marker.
12. Let the birthday girl or boy choose the theme of their birthday cake and look for suitable designs together. Then let them help you bake and decorate it. Depending on your child’s age, it might take a lot longer this way, but they’ll gain a sense of satisfaction being part of the process.
13. Grant your child three special birthday wishes. You could be more specific: such as three things you’d like to do today or three games you’d like to play. You should set a couple of boundaries to keep pet ponies from appearing on the list.
14. Write your child a letter telling them some of the things you love and appreciate about them. For example, some of the things that made you proud or challenges they’ve overcome, and so on. Keep a copy of the letter to give to them when they are older.
15. Grant them a chore-free day. Get members of the family to volunteer to take over some of their household duties for the day. Nobody really wants to do dog-poop duty on their birthday.
16. Get your child to choose somebody they’d like to spoil on their birthday. This could be a friend, teacher or family member, a granny at your local old-age home or a child at an orphanage. Then buy the chosen person a gift and drop it off or parcel it up for posting.
17. Have a special plate and hat that the birthday boy or girl gets to use on their special day.
18. Serve the birthday child breakfast in bed. Up the fun factor by making boiled eggs and drawing a face on the shell or serving French toast with raisins for eyes and a slice of apple for a smile.
19. Make the birthday boy a DJ for the day. Let him choose which CDs you listen to in the house, what radio station or CD is played in the car – this is his chance to create the soundtrack to his birthday.
20. Give them special time with you. Mom takes her son out on a date, Dad takes his daughter. Take the sports-mad child to play mini golf – just you and him. Treat your preteen daughter to the movies and a smoothie. Think about what your child most loves to do and, in the week preceding their birthday, give them the gift of one-on-one time with each parent doing one of their favourite things with you.