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How to Make Every Birthday Special

Today Melissa & Doug are sponsoring a little chat all about birthdays (and giving away one mega prize pack too!).  I’m curious – how do you celebrate your littles’ birthdays?  Here in Seattle, birthday parties are big business.

It probably has a lot to do with the weather – nine months out of the year the chances of rain on any given weekend are fairly high.  That means folks who don’t have a home suitable for hosting a big bash are often left scrambling for other indoor alternatives.  The result is a going rate for party venues of around $350!

I’ll admit, we went for it once (for C’s second birthday). While the kids did have a great time, I couldn’t shake the feeling that the whole thing wasn’t making much more of an impression then any other run-of-the-mill play date would have.  Since then we’ve changed our birthday philosophy a bit. Instead of focusing on picture perfect decorations, party favors, and cake – we focus on making a special memory.  And instead of collecting a haul of toys from friends that (frankly) we don’t need, we focus on selecting one or two high quality and engaging toys to gift our kids ourselves.


Our formula for birthday success now consists of three things:


  1. Including family – We’re fortunate to have the grandparents nearby so they always make the trip over for the day.  Both aunts also always get a special phone call.
  2. An edible treat – Instead of slaving away on an over-the-top work of art, I let the kids pick what type of birthday dessert they want and – here’s the key – let them help me make it.  It’s so much more fun for everyone when we’re concentrating on having fun rather than making something perfect.  Last year C chose cake pops (did you know they sell easy-peasy kits at the grocery store?) and the year before that a dug up construction cake.
  3. An extra special adventure – It dawned on me a few years ago that since having S, neither of our kids really get alone time with both parents.  So now our tradition is for both parents and the birthday kid to go on a special excursion in the morning.  Both sets of grandparents hang out with the other child so there’s no shortage of attention for them and then we all reconvene for dessert and presents in the afternoon.  Both of our kids absolutely adore the individual time with both mommy and daddy and we leave the activity up to the birthday boy or girl.  Last year C chose a trip to the Space Needle and a ride on the Monorail.  The three of us had a great time and, before heading home, we picked up a small Space Needle for his train table so he could remember the day.

So that’s the day – how about the presents?  As I said, we prefer a few high quality items to lots of things we know won’t last long.


In no particular order, our top 10 birthday gifts for both boys and girls include:

  1. puzzles
  2. cleaning tools
  3. a train track set
  4. stackable geometric shapes (for young toddlers)
  5. a tea set
  6. cuttable wooden food
  7. a large set of basic building blocks
  8. a doctor kit
  9. musical instruments
  10. a tool kit

You can find all of these things and more at Melissa & Doug’s “Best Toys for Birthday” page (which is conveniently categorized by age).  But wait, wanna win some cash to spend at M&D before heading over? Good news, they’re giving away $500 to do just that!


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Even if you don’t win the $500 prize, don’t forget that anyone can get 10% off their next Melissa & Doug order, as well as 15% off birthday orders, by signing up for the Loyalty & Birthday Club.

Finally, if you need some additional ideas for how to make birthdays a little more family centered, check out what we did for S’s 2nd birthday (spoiler: it involves an unbelievably awesome outdoor activity) as well as our post “Starting a Birthday Custom“.


How do you celebrate your kids’ birthdays?  Any special family traditions?



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