Birthday Traditions


A child’s birthday is one of the most anticipated days of the year. If your child is like most, as soon as the party is over, he or she is already talking about what they want to do or get for their next birthday — 364 days away! I know every parent wants their child’s birthday to be spectacular, and each year, as your child gets older and his or her wants become greater, it’s easy to get caught up in the hype of trying to outdo the previous year’s birthday.

I grew up with three siblings, one of whom has his birthday only two days after mine, and my parents tried their best to make our birthdays special. Each year on our birthday we would arrive home from school and find 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 open gifts. It was a magical moment for which I waited all 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 created with some random magazine pictures and a groovy picture of me with a “shag” haircut and the date 1976 on the inside. That was 37 years ago, and I still have my trinket box today.

Now that I am a mother of two children, I look at birthdays differently. I think back on my own childhood memories and realize that I now have the control to create birthday traditions for my children. We are all so busy these days, and 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 birthday traditions to create some magical moments your children will remember for years to come.

The night before your child’s birthday, decorate the house or his or her room with balloons, confetti, flowers or a homemade banner.
birthday kid
Wake up your child by singing “Happy Birthday.”

Start the day by making a special birthday breakfast.

Pull out some baby pictures or other birthday pictures 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.

Have your child help you make his or her own birthday cake. It’s more fun for them to decorate the cake and taste the extra batter, frosting and sprinkles than it is actually eating the cake — regardless of 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 each year on your child’s birthday and decorate the cover with a picture that was taken on his or her birthday.

Take a picture each year of your child at the exact time he or she were born or as soon as they wake up.

Let your child pick out all of the meals that day. If he or she wants 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, give five markers, five coloring books, five lollipops, five pairs of earrings, etc.

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 about 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 special for them. Even if your child’s birthday falls on a school day, the key to making him or her 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 the mother of two children. She is always looking for clever and inexpensive ways to start new traditions with her family and to carry on the traditions from her childhood.

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