Top 10 Ways to Honor Your Birthday Child
For our first Top 10 list, we racked our party brains and inspiration folders to come up with our most creative, fun and memorable ways to make a bona fide STINK over your child’s birthday. (Don’t worry, we limited this list to ten.)
What criteria helped us narrow our list? The ideas are neither elaborate nor expensive. Instead, they focus on the child’s inner-self and life story while demonstrating the powerful impact of a personal, sincere gesture.
1. Revisit the Past
Pick a time of day and special place to “time travel.” Sitting on mommy’s bed, in a blanket fort or under the dining room table, share memories. It will feel like yesterday to you, but he likely won’t remember these times. Watch videos of first steps and words, past birthdays and special occasions. Flip through pictures, read the baby book, tell and retell family stories. Everything you have captured is an opportunity to share and discuss what makes your child unique – his own life story!
2. Create a Birthday Hat
This one’s a classic, perfect for the young and not so young anymore. Grab some art supplies – glue, glitter, pictures, markers, jewels, tiny plastic toys, etc. – a pre-made party hat (or easily make your own) and craft a unique Birthday Hat for your child. You can do this by yourself to give as a gift or make it together during some special one-on-one time with the birthday child.
3. “When I Grow Up” Record
The answer to this question is always exciting: What do you want to be when you grow up? Each year, record the answer on your child’s birthday and look back to reflect on the evolution of her dreams. The conversation is sure to be meaningful and entertaining.
Pair this idea with a record of how your child has grown! On the morning of your child’s birthday, mark her age and height on a growth chart or doorframe. Record what she wants to be right there next to her age and you’ve got 2 memories in one place!
Have your child wake up to a birthday surprise. Tie a balloon to the bed post. Plant a gift under the pillow. Sneak a new lovey (with ribbons around its neck) in his arms. Go all out and decorate (or booby trap?) his entire bedroom!
Here’s a twist: Some may call this cruel (particularly for the tween/teen), but we find it hilarious at any age. Camera ready, wake them up and quick! snap a birthday morning portrait. Let’s be honest. It doesn’t get cuter than groggy and sleepy-eyed with bed head. And how fun (albeit mildly humiliating) to have a collection of “birthday morning portraits.”
5. Teach the Gift of Giving Back
What’s better than getting everything you want on your birthday? Learning that giving feels just as good! Have a dialogue with your child about the value of giving back and brainstorm ways he can help others on his birthday. The possibilities are endless!
There’s the “One in One Out” rule: for every birthday toy you receive, select a toy to give to a child in need. Or collect donations for a cause in lieu of gifts. For sleepover birthday parties, donations towards the Pajama Program work beautifully.
Your child might decide to reach out into his community, volunteering his time towards an important cause. The birthday party is a way to get his friends in on the act, too. Have your child pick a charity or cause and you’ve got your theme—and likely a (free) location.
Birthdays are a perfect opportunity to give thanks and teach our children to think about and care for others.
Breakfast, lunch, snack, dinner, dessert plus drinks. Allow the birthday child ownership of the entire day’s family menu— a “Birthday Menu.” We know what you’re thinking, and we don’t want your child to be sick on her birthday, either! Set guidelines so that the menu is balanced (i.e. every meal must have at least one fruit or vegetable, the menu must be reasonably healthy, etc.) and attach a firm request to this special task: “I want you to feel good on your birthday. Choose foods that taste good, but also make you feel strong and healthy!” Your child will probably surprise you with her choices!
7. Plant a Tree
The book, A Tree is Nice by Janice May Udry inspired us for this idea. Though any year’s a good year, your child’s 5th birthday (or the year they begin school) is the perfect time to plant a tree. The learning opportunities in this experience are vast.
There may be a perfect spot for a tree in your yard, but your child could also decide to complete a community service project, getting permission to plant the tree at a local park or school or take part in a tree planting program. In any event, do the research together, then head out to your local nursery and have your child select a birthday tree. You could even ask the salesperson how old the tree might be!
Your child will love connecting with nature and watching the tree grow and change every season, every year, just as he grows and changes. And you’ll always share the memory of nurturing those roots – together.
8. Write a Letter
A letter is better. No spelling or grammar check, no backspace… a hand-written letter is imperfect and real – a reflection of who you are, right down to your penmanship and how you dot your i’s. A letter will stand the test of time. Its content doesn’t have to be serious in nature or particularly deep, just honest. What do you want to convey to your child on her birthday? How do you want to make her feel? Write a poem, a story, your best doodle … pen to paper is what counts and from the heart never fails.
9. Light Up the Night
Carry the celebration past bedtime. Build excitement during the day so everyone anxiously awaits night fall. And then, once it’s finally dark, head outside and light up the night! Continue the celebration with music and anything that glows.
Sparklers, glow sticks, black light effects, light up balls or any light up toys are thrilling for children and make a lasting impression. Build a bon fire or light up the fire pit for s’mores! Use the fireplace if it’s too cold to go outside. Whatever you do, make the day last and play into the night. Birthdays only come once a year.
Do something you make a point to repeat every birthday with and for your child. For children, a tradition reinforces critical elements of a thriving family dynamic: a strong sense of self, stability, a sense of belonging, security, extension of values and—three cheers for—togetherness.
Party planners and mothers that we are, we can think of a hundred ways to dote on your birthday child. And why shouldn’t you?! For one day out of the year you deserve to take stock in the miraculous being that you welcomed into this world. It’s your time to get outrageously celebratory and painfully sentimental. Your time to hug and kiss until they’re screaming for mercy. Anything to lighten the emotional load we all carry on our child’s birthday: the acceptance that our baby is getting older. And with every passing year, come every bittersweet birthday, they feel our boundless love and see themselves as we see them – worth celebrating.
Please share your ideas with us! How do you make your child’s birthday a day to remember?