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Lots of good ideas here on starting birthday traditions - saving for later!

Starting a Birthday Custom

photos clockwise from upper left: Home & Harmony, Parents.com, giver’s log, Swiss Miss, and The Handmade Home


I’ve got a 3rd birthday rapidly sneaking up on me and, to be honest, I’m not feeling the party planning high I usually get around this time.  Maybe it’s because I feel like we just had S’s first birthday bash. Although, in reality, that was two full months ago. (Seriously, where does the time go?)


Or maybe it’s because of an awesome article I recently read in the current issue of Play Grow Learn about creating birthday traditions.  It got me thinking – this may be the last year I can get away with skipping a big party and not feeling like I’m shortchanging C.  So perhaps that’s exactly what we’ll do.


I’m really starting to warm to the idea of focusing instead on creating an extra special and memorable day with just our family.  And one of the ways I plan on doing that is by starting some extra special birthday traditions.  Click through for a few possibilities that are currently at the top of my list.


photo via Home & Harmony


  • Have a countdown – Doing an advent-calendar type countdown to the big day seemed, at first, like overkill to me.  I’m already worried about more toys invading the house without adding a bunch of extra trinkets to the mix.  But then I saw this lovely idea of filling each day’s pocket with a note from friends and family on what they love most about the birthday child.  So, so sweet. (P.S. if you have an older child celebrating a milestone birthday, then countdown gifts may be in order.  See this Make and Takes post on a very cool way to do it.)
photos via Parents.com and giver’s log


  • Incorporate a surprise – Everyone loves a birthday surprise and I’ve got 3 great ones to try.  First is this suggestion by Parents.com to sneak in at night and fill the special child’s room with balloons while they sleep (check out the link for other great ideas too).  Second is this idea to send your child a special corsage at school to wear all day long.  I love the reader story and the lovely corsage featured in this post.  And third is this hilarious doorway streamer project that allows the birthday kid to make a grand entrance to his or her special day.
photos via The Handmade Home and Swiss Miss (via A Cup of Jo)


Does your family have a special birthday tradition?  I’ve still got plenty of time to plan and I’d love it if you’d share!


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{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

Marcela September 15, 2011 at 4:34 am

We did the balloon thing this year! Our twins turned 3 in August, but throwing a party became very complicated for several reasons,so we decided to do something just the 4 of us. We filled the living room with balloons the night before, and they were so surprised and happy when they woke up! We went out, ate out, had cake (they were so happy with their cakes and fascinated by the candles!) and then we played with balloons all afternoon. They enjoyed it so much, I want to do something similar every year!


Allison @ All for the Boys September 15, 2011 at 4:39 am

I like to make the day special. I’ll usually have a balloon, pack of gum, and a card waiting for them at the end of their bed. I’ll make them breakfast in bed and they get to choose where we eat out for dinner. Not huge things, but they definitely let them know they are special :)


Emily September 15, 2011 at 9:16 am

In our house presents are given and opened in bed, you get sprinkles on your weetbix for breakfast and you can choose what Mum makes for dinner that night. We are only up to birthday number 4, so I look forward to seeing what everyone else’s traditions are and if we can adopt some of them as well!


Sarah September 15, 2011 at 10:36 am

Besides the celebration, we take a picture of the birthday girl in my wedding dress each year. Such a fun photo tradition. For boys you could use dad’s suit coat.

Love those pancakes :)


Pa Beauchamp February 21, 2013 at 6:13 am

That is stunning!! Love it, and she will cherish those photos so much!! 😀


Rose September 15, 2011 at 11:01 am

I’ll never forget my daughter’s second birthday and 9 months later she still remembers it as well. My husband and I stayed up late decorating our home with paper banners, feather boas on paintings in the house, and a hand-drawn poster by my husband. I sewed her a birthday crown courtesy of various blog tutorials and we made her a birthday waffle piled high with fruits and a 2 candle. She LOVED it and it was just the three of us. Honestly, when my immediate family came over with a cake (that they insisted on), I don’t think she had as much fun as her special breakfast and she still wears her birthday crown as part of her play clothes. My goal is to make a birthday crown every year for my children and have a special family breakfast. Oh, and I also make a video montage every year to music. She loves watching herself grow and I try not to cry :) .


Rose September 15, 2011 at 11:03 am

I forgot, I once read about the idea of having a printable coloring sheet that the child colors every year on his or her birthday. That way you can see how much they’ve developed with their coloring each year. I think I’ll start that one this year with one of Made by Joel’s coloring sheets. (Not affiliated with him. Just like the sheets.)


Mary September 15, 2011 at 12:29 pm

We have ice cream for breakfast on birthdays.


Jamie September 15, 2011 at 12:38 pm

I have had similar thoughts regarding ditching the party and just throwing that extra effort, energy, and money into my kid on his/her special day. We have eight children, with seven of their birthdays between April and June. We’ve tried combining celebrations to make it easier on guests being able to come, but even then, folks have gotten so busy these days with extra curricular stuff that attendance is declining. I get frustrated that I put so much effort in for few to be able to come, and my kids get disappointed, not understanding why their friends can’t come. Thanks for sharing your ideas!


Lisa September 15, 2011 at 12:51 pm

I think this is a perfect idea for me. My husband and I just started our own business which for my children means the first time they have an outside babysitter other than family watching them. With me trying to find my balance is that much easier now that school has started…so back to birthdays. So wonderful to celebrate having that person in your life for the past year and looking forward to another one. This summer I was so sick that I told my 5 yr old the morning of that it was her special day. I managed to drop cupcakes off at her day camp, but honestly if we had a tradition it would make those days for all of us that much easier and honestly something to look forward to!


Me September 15, 2011 at 12:59 pm

We’re also working on finding traditions to love and keep – for every holiday! So far birthdays have always been devoted to the birthday girl. She wakes up to find a cupcake and a pile of presents on the table, then she gets to choose what she wants to do, eat, etc for the rest of the day. Nothing amazing, but she seems to enjoy it!


Lea September 15, 2011 at 1:32 pm

We make a paper chain together of our child’s age-that they are turning and each morning when they wake they get to cut a link off the paperchain to countdown the days till their birthday.


Lea September 15, 2011 at 1:35 pm

In case that doesn’t make sense.. if child is turning 6 we make a chain with 6 links. The older they get the more links and I think they are able to wait for their birthday. Don’t want to start counting too early with little ones so I think making the links to correspond with the age works well.


Anonymous September 15, 2011 at 2:44 pm

This post has tons of great birthday traditions. http://secretsofasupermommy.blogspot.com/2010/02/birthday.html


Leslie G September 15, 2011 at 4:01 pm

My son’s birthday is December 5th, and every year on his birthday night, we take him out around town to see the Christmas lights and the luminaries at our local botanical garden. It’s very special and he loves it!


tjppnw September 15, 2011 at 4:07 pm

I love these ideas…we always did a little party, but I love the idea of a fun at home morning or day! We have a little one we can do it with, but any way to translate to our older boys at 7 and 9…do not want them to feel left out?


Mary Ann September 15, 2011 at 4:16 pm

We filled our living room with balloons the night before my daughter’s third birthday, and she loved it. I like the idea of doing that in her bedroom this year – smaller space to fill, and she sees them as soon as she gets up. I also ordered a beautiful and fun felt birthday crown from Etsy.com. I’m not crafty at all, so $25 for an adjustible crown she can wear every year was a small price to pay. I think the last thing I’ll do this year is incorporate some kind of food tradition – maybe the decorated pancakes on her “special day” plate.


Steph at ModernParentsMessyKids.com September 15, 2011 at 4:31 pm

I love these comments & ideas! This is definitely swaying me. I’m thinking decorating the house as a surprise, special birthday food, and I love Rose’s idea of making a video montage – C LOVES watching movies of himself.

Also, there’s a link at the bottom of this post to another I did on birthday crowns. I didn’t think C would be into it last year but this may be the year :)

Keep the comments coming everyone – they’re wonderful!


colourgiggles September 15, 2011 at 4:34 pm

I blogged about family traditions a week or so ago as think it’s such a wonderful idea and now that our first is 18m it’s time that we can start creating our own. I love this idea, would be great for a birthday or any special day – planting jelly beans and see what ‘appears’ the next day (I big colourful lollipop)!



Katie September 15, 2011 at 5:18 pm

So Many great birthday traditions! I have 9 more months until the return of our birthday season but i will definitely keep these in mind. I recently wrote a post about one of our birthday traditions, the birthday cd: http://childhoodlist.blogspot.com/2011/09/15-birthday-cds.html. Another big one in our house is the birthday date. Instead of an actual present (we have a big family so our kids always get lots of presents from grandparents and aunts) my husband and I take each child on a birthday date. They get to pick where they want to go and they go all by themselves just with us. They love being in charge of where we go and having the one on one time with mom and dad!


se7en September 15, 2011 at 9:17 pm

We used to go on elaborate outings that were so stressful to organise and stressful to co-ordinate amidst grannies visiting and chaos… we started going out just for ice-cream – an easy happy outing – works every time!!! Here’s our typical birthday celebration, because it turns out my kids want to do their favorite things on their birthdays – not necessarily fancy things. http://www.se7en.org.za/2010/09/22/how-to-celebrate-a-birthday-in-se7en-easy-steps


life:styled September 15, 2011 at 10:41 pm

We decorate the kid’s doors, usually with using decor from their parties. They love looking at their door throughout the day, and I make them hang low enough so they have to duck to go in and out. It becomes a fun game. We also do choc chip pancakes and then plan special family day together. We love birthdays around here.


soybeanlover September 16, 2011 at 10:39 pm

This is great, we have one kid within two days of Christmas, and another next to new years, so presents are sometimes hard to think of, but traditions are great. So far we invite the grandparents over for birthday dinner. I’ll have to try the streamer door or balloon thing. We have taken our kids to Disneyland for their first birthdays. More fun for us and the older kid(s).


Kimberly September 18, 2011 at 12:12 am

Our tradition is that we always take that day off work to spend as a family. We have a nice casual breakfast which is usually pancakes and then we do something fun that my son gets to choose. I also have written him a letter ever year on his birthday that notes some of the new things he can do that he wasn’t able to do last year, some cool things we did that year together and some thoughts from me on why he is so special to us and what we love about him. I read him the letter and truthfully right now they don’t sink in much but I think when he is older he will appreciate looking back on them and seeing how he changed over the years.


Jade September 21, 2011 at 2:38 am

Kimberly, what a lovely, lovely idea. Such a thoughtful, intimate gift. Think I may have to borrow this idea!


Anonymous September 23, 2011 at 5:48 am

We always started the day with breakfast with candles and birthday singing. Depending on their age various things happened during the day, but for dinner our tradition was that the birthday child got to pick the dinner. Sometimes friends came or sometimes it was just our immediate family, but whatever the birthday boy/girl picked the whole family ate. It was fun and over the years they tended to pick their same special dinner each birthday.


Jodi October 27, 2011 at 1:30 am

I made a Birthday plate at a local Paint-Your-Own-Ceramics store. It has a big cupcake in the middle and ‘Happy Birthday’ around the rim, along with balloons and polka dots. The birthday person gets to use the plate all day long.


Christie November 10, 2011 at 6:39 pm

We are in the process of eastablishing traditions, too. We are missionaries in Nigeria, so big presents and parties aren’t that likely, anway, which isn’t a big deal to us because we don’t like lots of stuff as it is. :) One thing we started doing, though, is taking the b-day child to a bookstore and letting him pick a book out. We love books, so we’re okay with buying those! 😉 When we’re in the States, we will probably make it a date day with Mom and Dad and do lunch. We are planning on a week of activities in a sort of countdown style. One day is the book selection, another is putting the child’s handprint on their b-day tablecloth (Hope he’ll still cooperate when he’s 16! 😉 ), another looking through photos and telling stories about the child and when he was born. One present will be found via scavenger hunt (because I love me a good scavenger hunt!), and dinner of choice on day of. Contemplating the streamer door as well.

…So that’s us at this point. :)


Cindy December 24, 2011 at 6:21 am

Birthday week- we have birthday week so for 7 days you get a gift. Everyday leading to your day you receive a small gift (it can be movie tickets or candy) then on your birthday you receive the big present (whatever that is), as well as dinner of your choice out or home cooked.
Birthdays are important, you as a person is important to the world in general and you should be celebrated


Sarah McMullin December 29, 2011 at 6:22 am

Growing up we always got to pick a Birthday cereal. Coming from a big family, having my own box of NAME BRAND cereal was a big deal! I want to keep this tradition alive with my kids since it’s personal, fun, and affordable.


jewardell January 30, 2012 at 5:15 pm

I found a tutorial for a book with 20 questions you ask your child each year and then put a picture of them on their birthday in it. It starts at age 3. I am doing it and excited to see how her answers change over the years.


Monika Balmori November 19, 2012 at 12:49 am

I love this idea, where did you fibd the book, dies it have a name?


Ruchi Chopra March 20, 2012 at 3:21 pm

i dont have babies yet but i enjoyed reading everyone suggestions and i feel like quickly having twins.. to do all these things for them.. am recently married and am totally following this blog.
I run a company that helps ppl plan surprises and i think these are great for kids..


Kirraleigh February 18, 2013 at 2:04 am

Hi! I come from Australia and we have lots of different places we can visit within a few hours drive, and having 2 children, we have decided to alternate their party and family outting year to year. This year is my eldest daughters turn for a party, which she choose a butterfly party and is turning 4, and our younger daughter who will be turning 2 gets a family outting just the 4 of us to somewhere special, thinking about a place called ‘Snakes Downunder’ which is a small reptile park about 35 mins from where we live, as they get older we will travel futher and do more exciting things like theme parks etc. Other than that, we have a cake every year, last year Miss 3 had hers at Hungry Jacks and invited very close family and friends who brought their own dinner and enjoyed cake with us, no party bags or anything, just cake and gifts.
Being a stay at home mum, Im home all day with them anyway but their daddy also has the day off to celebrate them aswell, which makes it extra special. presents are set up in the loungeroom for when they wake up, where we all watch on as the birthday girl opens her gifts.
The birthday girl gets to choose dinner aswell.
I am loving the idea of the 20 questions and have decided to start this for miss 4 this year, as well as the special bday breaky of special pancakes and I LOVE the idea of a birthday plate! I think I might get me one of those!
Also thinking the balloons and streamer thing is awesome too! YAY! Bring on August so I can start some new traditions! 😀


Kelly May 30, 2013 at 9:23 pm

-Birthday tablecloth: one painted handprint and footprint made on a table cloth (started the day home from the hospital) on each birthday…continued until 13.
– # cookie: big (plate sized) chocolate chip cookie baked in the shape if the birthday age
– Breakfast in bed
– child’s choice trip (usually to a zoo or waterpark), annual photo at same spot, or doing same activity (feeding the goats, riding in the tube)


M August 22, 2014 at 8:39 am

We do the party with friends thing on a different day and keep the actual birthday for family traditions- the best of both worlds!


meg September 13, 2014 at 10:12 pm

My dad as a joke years ago gave one of us kids (there’s 7 total) the number we were turning in candy bars, while not the healthiest tradition (depending on which one of use, they can last months) it’s been fun. At nearly 30 he still gets me mine (this last year he switched to mini ones lol). I don’t have kids yet (follow ‘mom’ blogs cause i do daycare) but think this is something i might do for my kids in some form. The best year was when i was in college he carefully slit several of the wrappers and put in $20 bills then retaped them, he did such a stealthy job i had no idea until i opened one that had the $ hidden, as a broke college student it was a double treat!


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