20 ways to make a kid’s birthdays special without throwing a big party or going over budget. Make Kid’s birthdays special without spending a fortune.
Birthdays are a special day for most people, but never more than for a child!
I clearly remember throwing a dinosaur themed birthday for my twin’s 2nd birthday and being completely exhausted afterwards, and then coming to the awful realization I had spent (far) too much money on decorations and pinterest projects my kids didn’t even notice, or care about.
Fast forward six years later, our family has grown by one more person and my twins have started attended some pretty extravagant birthday parties over the years with paint-a-pony (yes, a real live pony), private venue buyouts, singing disney character princesses, limousine rides and some pricey goody bags to boot.
When I was growing up, birthdays were a BBQ at our house or local park with all of our family, a few friends and hardly any decorations.
Cakes or cupcakes were always homemade and never from a bakery, and honestly, I can’t remember ever receiving a goody bag which feels standard now for kid’s birthday parties.
I love to make my kids birthdays special, but I don’t do it by throwing a big party or spending a lot of money and my kids, although have been to bigger and more expensive birthday parties, never complain.
Its our family philosophy that making birthdays special, don’t require a lot of money or a big birthday party.
Fortunately, throwing a big birthday party or going over budget isn’t essential to making your kid’s birthdays special.
(Plus, for some children, these situations can feel overwhelming, and can quickly backfire!)
20 Ways to Make Birthdays Special (No Big Birthday Party Required)
Here are some of my family’s favorite ways to make birthdays special without throwing a big party or spending much money.
1. Decorate the House With Birthday Balloons
Who wouldn’t love waking up to balloons?!?
There’s something cheery and magical about balloons and it immediately makes your environment buzz.
Hang up balloons in the bedroom doorway, from the ceiling, down the stairs banister, around the bathroom mirror, and anywhere you can!
I’ve also filled the bathtub with balloons, blown up a dozen and put them on the living and kitchen floors and in the car, too.
Gold foil number balloons are awesome to have as well (and can be deflated and used again!)
2. Have a Birthday Bin to Decorate For a Birthday Morning Surprise
Keep a bin or container with birthday decorating supplies that you can hang for the couple of times a year you celebrate. All you have to do on the eve of a birthday is pull out your birthday bin and get decorating!
I like to grab supplies anytime I see them on sale and have a few streamer rolls, bags of balloons, tape, and a Happy Birthday banner I can hang in the kitchen. You can also grab inexpensive birthday supplies at the dollar store or purchase a complete birthday kit one time, to keep on hand for future years.
You don’t have to go to town on decorating, a few pieces are all you need to see your child’s face light up when they wake up in the morning.
3. Let Them Pick Out the Birthday Dinner
This is one of my favorite birthday traditions I’ve passed down to my kids. When I was younger, we’d each get to pick the menu for our birthday dinner, which for me was typically homemade lasagna or stroganoff.
Now everyone in our home gets to do the same thing which means right now, with three kids under 8, there’s a lot of requests for breakfast dinner, pizza, or anything barbecued.
4. Dress up for the Occasion
Last year for my twin’s 7th birthday, I unearthed my wedding dress and my husband wore a suit to dinner. The kids each dressed up as they liked, and my youngest wore her favorite pig costume for our annual dress-up birthday dinner.
It may sound silly, but it’s one of the kid’s favorite ways we making their birthdays special and I know it’s something they’ll always remember.
If not a dress-up dinner in a wedding dress, you can theme dinner where everyone dresses up in their halloween costume, super-hero or favorite book character. Get creative!
5. Have a Birthday Breakfast with a Candle
There’s no need to wait until the end of the day to blow out birthday candles! Why not start and end the day with a little magic?
I love cooking up a stack of pancakes, topping the birthday person’s with a candle and singing them the “happy birthday” song sitting around for breakfast.
6. Serve Them Breakfast in Bed
If you can wake up 15 minutes early, this takes breakfast to a special level by serving breakfast in bed.
Now, if breakfast in bed sounds messy with little ones, we’ve also put a blanket on the floor and had a breakfast picnic in our bedroom to help contain the mess and sticky fingers when the kids were little.
7. Pick Them Up From School Early or Show Up For Lunch at School
Depending on your work schedule and availability, I know this isn’t possible for every parent, but if your child is going to school on their birthday, these are fun ways to add something special to a typical school day.
You can pick up your child for lunch, or pick them up an hour early to go do something fun, even if it’s heading to the park or grabbing an ice cream cone.
I don’t know about you, but my kids beg my husband and I to stop by for lunch at school. Surprise them by bringing a sack lunch, or grabbing lunch for them and you, and showing up at lunch time to eat together.
8. Have Everyone in the House Give Them a Handwritten Card
We’re a home of handmade cards and each birthday, everyone makes their own card with a handwritten message inside for the birthday person.
After our dress-up dinner, we one-by-one, give the birthday person their personalized card and they can read it aloud or keep it to themselves.
I love how sweet the messages are and the time each person puts into making a card, or drawing a piece of art. Then thought behind it is always the most important part of making birthdays special.
9. Look at Old Baby Books & Home Videos
It’s a birthday after all and one of most special ways to celebrate another trip around the sun is to talk about their birth story and reminisce with baby pictures and home videos.
10. Make Their Favorite (Homemade) Cake
The week of the birthday, don’t only ask what the birthday person wants for dinner, but what kind of cake they want from the flavor to the frosting color. You can include the birthday person in making the cake, pie or dessert and decorating it, or surprise them with it on their birthday.
I think there’s something special about making a cake for your child from scratch (or a box) and your child seeing the time and effort you put into making it special for their birthday.
11. Plan a Fun (& Free Activity)
You don’t have to spend money to spend quality time with your child and family on their birthday! You can plan activities that are completely free or don’t cost a lot in order to make their day feel special. Here are a few no-cost or low-cost suggestions:
- Take a bike ride
- Visit a new or different park
- Roast marshmallows and make s’mores
- Have a beach, lake or water day
- Play a family board game
- Go on a scavenger hunt
- Use a coupon to visit someplace new – check groupon and local coupon books for ideas
12. Plant Something Each Year on their Birthday
We started this sweet tradition at our first home for the first birthday of our twins and every year we’ve continued it. Now that the kids are older, they’re involved in pick out what they want to plant for their birthday.
We’ve planted trees, bulbs, flowers and vegetables in our garden and love seeing the kids caring for their plants and watch them bloom and even produce food.
13. Serve up Meals on the Special Birthday Plate
You can buy porcelain plate kids or go to a local paint-your-own pottery studio to make a one-of-a-kind birthday plate.
The birthday plate comes out once a year and is only for the birthday person to eat dinner (or any meal) on, for their special day.
We used this exact paint your own plate kit and it’s held up really well – largely because it doesn’t get used very regularly.
14. Birthday Shoe Fairy Tradition
Each year, the birthday fairy will visit a pair of shoes you set out and fill it with quarters or a dollar for each year your child is old (plus an extra quarter of dollar bill for good luck.)
For example, if your child is 5 the birthday fairy would bring 5 quarters or 5 $1.00 bills, plus one extra for good luck!
Read more about the tradition of the Birthday Fairy here.
15. Have Everyone Share What They Love About the Birthday Child
Going around the breakfast or dinner table, take a moment for everyone to share three qualities they love about the birthday person.
Not only does this make birthdays special, but it forces people to look for the good in a person and promotes healthy family relationships and sibling relationships.
16. Wrap Up Items in the Lunchbox
Can’t go to school for your child’s lunch or take them out to lunch? No problem!
Wrap all the pieces of your child’s packed lunch in wrapping paper so they get to unwrap everything one-by-one at lunchtime and in front of their friends.
Such a fun idea from the Happy Home Fairy.
17. Have a Birthday Scavenger Hunt
This take a little planning, but the time is well worth it when you watch your child race around the house and yard looking for the last part of their birthday scavenger hunt!
You can have your scavenger hunt lead them to their birthday present or special activity you’re doing together, but it’s a way to build excitement and even get your family involved in the fun.
18. Hide Special Messages Inside Balloons & Let Them Pop Them Each Hour of the Day
If you’re doing balloons for a birthday, it’s fun to slip inside special messages, a $1 bill or special coupons you make inside.
You can allow the birthday person to pop them all at once or one balloon each hour to build the excitement of what comes next!
Here are a few sample coupons you can write and slip inside before you tie the balloon.
- Special dinner with Mom or Dad
- Playtime at ______ park
- Stay up 30 minutes later
- Get a new book
- 30 minutes of screen time
19. Make Bath Time Birthday Special with Slime, Balloons & Bubbles
This is popular with younger kids since bath time is a favorite part of the day!
May birthdays special when they’re little with a jazzed up bath time that may include colored water and bath crayons, balloons in the bath, bubbles, new water toys or even bath slime (they’ll want to wear swimsuits and shower off afterwards, but it’s fun and cleans up easily!)
20. Ask Everyone to Send a Birthday Card in the Mail
Getting mail – not bills – is still exciting as an adult, but as a child, it’s pretty special to see your name addressed on an envelope in the mailbox.
Ask your family to send a card via mail to your child and send them to the mailbox to collect all your mail and watch as they light up when they see their name!
What are other ways you make your kids birthdays special without spending much money or throwing a big birthday party?
More Birthday Traditions and Special Birthday Ideas for Kids:
- 24 Unforgettable Birthday Traditions to Start With Your Kids at Any Age
- 15 Tips for Throwing a Birthday Party on a Budget
- 8 Birthday Traditions Kids Love (No Big Party Required)
- 50+ Alternatives for Goody Bags: No Candy, Chochkies or Junk
- The Modern Parent’s Etiquette Guide to Hosting Kid Birthday Party