Are you stressed out about planning a birthday party for your child? Do you feel like you have to keep up with the Joneses and throw a Pinterest-perfect party? Guess what, you don’t. I’m not. And you know why? Because none of that matters to kids, it’s about how special children feel on their birthday and special birthday traditions you create with your own family that matter the most and will be what they remember. Read more to hear birthday traditions you can start with your children and will always have more meaning than a big party.
My twins’ 6-year birthday is coming up and honestly, I haven’t done a thing. I haven’t planned a party, made a reservation anywhere or even thought about presents. The reason isn’t because I can’t figure out what to do, it’s because I got caught up in the birthday party comparison trap.
If I’m being honest, a few weeks ago my daughter received an extremely nice birthday invitation which was custom printed and screams “Birthday Party of the Year.” All I could think was how the party will most likely have decadent goodie bags, over-the-top activities and cost a small fortune.
This one invitation has me second-guessing the mellow and low-key birthday parties I throw for my kids. Should this be the year I suck it up and go all-out on Pinterest inspired ideas and invite everyone we’ve ever met to keep up with the Joneses?
The actual thought of going through the dance of planning a birthday party right now gives me a stomach ache. I cringe each time I open up Pinterest to surf for ideas and after five minutes, I’m overwhelmed by the lengths to which other parents go to decorate their homes.
I threw a big second and third birthday party and both times, wished I would have spent less money and gone a simpler route. On their fourth and fifth birthday, we had a small party in our backyard with only a few close friends and it was fantastic, not to mention stress-free and inexpensive.
When I find myself being sucked into the trap of comparing my children’s birthday parties to their friends’ who are bigger, flashier and cost more money, I remember how at every party, they run past the intricately decorated table with food cut out in the shape of stars and dinosaurs and hightail it straight to their friends.
Kids don’t give a hoot about the details like fancy striped straws, food labels or the glitter that was stuffed into their invitations (please parents, don’t do this!)
Let’s be honest… this isn’t for the kids anyways.
It’s for the parents.
Kids don’t care about other people’s perceptions of their birthday party and the sooner you realize this, the faster you can let go of the pressure to throw a Pinterest perfect party and focus on the important thing – making you child feel special on their birthday.
The bottom line? Kids get excited when their friends arrive and playtime starts.
It doesn’t matter if the birthday party is at a park, sitting around your own dining table or the gymnastics studio you slapped your credit card down to rent out. What they care about are things like their friends, having yummy dessert and most importantly, being showered with love and attention on their birthday.
Some of our family’s favorite birthday traditions don’t cost a thing and the memories last forever.
The little things that make the day more special than any ordinary day is what will stand out and when they look back, they’ll say, “Mom, Remember that time you filled the bathroom with balloons on my 6th birthday?”
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1) START THE DAY OFF WITH A SURPRISE
From dawn until nightfall, surprise your child with little things that make them smile and birthday traditions to stand out. There are a couple different ways to start off the morning when they open the door to their room.
Balloon Doorway Avalanche
Cover the door from edge to edge with clear plastic and put balloons between the closed door and the plastic. When you child opens the door, all the balloons will fall into their bedroom and give the a big surprise!
Here is a quick tutorial on how to make a Balloon Avalanche.
Crepe Paper Doorway
If a balloon avalanche might be too much of a shock to your child or they would need to get out of their room in the middle of the night to use the restroom, you might want to go a different route. Instead, hang crepe paper streamers in long strings next to one another from the top of the door ledge. When they get up in the morning, they can walk right through the doorway streamers.
Balloons in the Bedroom
Sneak into your daughter or son’s room after they’re asleep and cover the floor with balloons – or helium balloons that will stay at the ceiling.
Want something even more unique? Spread the joy in unexpected places like filling the bathtub, their closet or your car with balloons.
Put a Gift Under The Pillow
Place a small gift, special treat or little note under their pillow for them to see and enjoy first thing in the morning. A simple note that says “I Love You” will mean a lot to your child.
2) DECORATE YOUR HOUSE FOR A FUN BIRTHDAY TRADITION
I love to decorate the night before so my kids wake up the next day surprised.
My kids get a kick out of birthday decorations, plus they’re inexpensive and add a lot of cheerfulness to every room I decorate. I love hanging balloons from the ceiling above the dining table, on the stair rail, and in their bathroom.
Strings of pennants are easy to hang as well as crepe paper streamers.
3) THE BIRTHDAY CHILD MAKES THE MENU
Let your kids choose the menu for the day. What is their favorite breakfast, lunch and dinner? Is there a favorite place they would like to dine at for one of those meals if you want to venture out?
Who said birthday candles are only for cake? Jazz up any meal by adding a birthday candle. For breakfast, toss a candle onto a stack of pancakes, a muffin, french toast or even eggs.
Make a Special Birthday Plate To Use Every Year
One of my favorite birthday traditions is that whoever’s birthday it is, they get to eat every meal on the birthday plate. The birthday plate is a plastic plate we have in our house which was decorated by all three kids. When it’s their birthday, we pull out the birthday plate and they get to eat off it all day long.
Create your own Birthday Plate with this easy to decorate and cook plate.
4) SPECIAL BALLOONS TO POP ALL DAY
Before you inflate a handful of balloons, slip a couple notes, a movie ticket, a voucher for an activity, a dollar bill, or even a small piece of candy inside each one. Write on the balloon a time of day they get to POP them and reveal the surprise inside.
For example, if you have 5 balloons, you could set the time to 7am, 10:33am, 12:45pm, 5:15pm and 7:22pm. When it’s the time shown on the balloon, your child can pop the balloon to reveal what’s inside.
This cute idea came from the Thinking Closet and it’s wonderful!
5) LEAVE LITTLE LUNCH NOTES
If your child will attend school on their birthday, pack a special snack in their lunchbox along with a handwritten note. This cute lunch idea from Bent-ology makes lunch stand out!
You can also add a little confetti, a small balloon, sweet treat or something that screams Birthday to their lunchbox. If you really want to go wild, wrap each food container in wrapping paper so they have to unwrap to eat lunch.
Add more surprise notes for your child to find throughout the day by tucking into book pages, inside their backpack or in a coat pocket.
This cute idea of the surprise note comes from the Thinking Closet and it’s wonderful!
6) START THE BIRTHDAY TRADITION OF SENDING BIRTHDAY MAIL
Have everyone in your family – your spouse, partner, siblings, friends and other family – send a special card to your child on their birthday. They’ll be checking the mail in anticipation and the small stack of birthday cards will make their day!
7) WRITE A HEARTFELT LETTER EVERY YEAR
Every year on your child’s birthday, write them a heartfelt letter that you can give to them or save for when they turn 18. In lieu of a letter, you can keep a journal with your son or daughter too.
Start a Journal with Your Daughter and write notes, feelings, doodles and letters to each other. Write without judgement but with respect and encouragement, empathy and praise.
8) THE BIRTHDAY FAIRY
I love the idea of the birthday fairy as a fun tradition. Each year, the birthday fairy visits your child and fills the person’s shoe with quarters. They bring one quarter for each year, plus one extra for good luck!
Read More about the tradition of the Birthday Fairy here.
Birthdays aren’t about parties or how many people you can cram into your backyard. They’re about traditions and making lasting memories with your children.
It will never be the size of the party they remember, it’s how you made them feel on their birthday. And making someone feel loved and cherished doesn’t cost a penny with special birthday traditions.
Don’t forget to document the day with an obligatory birthday photo and birthday interview (download this free printable here.)
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