12 Simple Traditions for Your Child's Birthday

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by: Erin Dower
Planning a picture-perfect, creatively-themed, out-of-a-magazine birthday for your child is so last year! The most meaningful and lasting birthday memories can come from simple gestures you repeat each year to make your child feel special. So resist the urge to go overboard and try one or two of these easy birthday traditions for your child. We promise she'll be thrilled!
birthday child with balloons
Give Her a Balloon "Wake-up Call"
When it's time for the birthday kid to rise and shine, stand over her bed and shower her with a laundry basket full of (non-helium) balloons and pieces of curled ribbon. Or, scatter balloons in her room after she has fallen asleep the night before so she wakes up to a sea of color. What a happy way to start the day!
birthday boy wearing crown
Make a Paper Crown
Skip the store-bought party hats with the itchy chin straps! Decorative paper, scissors, and a small piece of tape are all you need to craft a cute crown for your little birthday king or queen. Sticking with the royal, make-believe theme, let your child choose a title or name he or she would like to be called for the day and some fun little rules (within reason) for your family to follow.
birthday cupcakes decorated
Let Her Decorate Her Cake
We all aspire to try the fancy cake designs we see on Pinterest, but the truth is most kids are happy as pie with a simple dessert. Try this: buy or make your child's favorite kind of cake, and provide all sorts of fun fixin's — candy, frosting, sprinkles, small toys, ribbons, and bows. Let your child go nuts decorating it however she pleases. It's sure to be original!
family wearing blue
Dress in His Favorite Color
Favorite colors are a big deal during childhood. Any youngster would smile at the sight of mom and dad rocking Cookie-Monster blue — or whatever hue he's currently obsessed with — on his birthday.
jar for time capsule
Create a Birthday Time Capsule
Turn an empty jar, canister, or shoebox into a magical "time capsule." Our printable time capsule for kids makes it easy to document your child's favorite things and memories from the past year. Fill the capsule with the printable and other mementos, and your child will love to open it and reminisce years down the road.
girl drawing picture
Have Her Draw a Portrait
The birthday child can also fill this printable picture frame with a drawing of herself, her family, or her favorite thing. Fold up the portrait and put it in the birthday time capsule. It will be fun to see your child's imagination (and art skills) evolve over the years.
boy on treasure hunt
Do a Gift Treasure Hunt
Turn gift-giving into a fun little game. Leave a trail of clues for the birthday child to find his present! Involve physical activity in some of the clues/challenges (such as hula-hooping or scoring a basket in basketball) if your birthday kid is a busy-body!
birthday basket with balloons
Give a "Birthday Basket"
Kids love Easter basket and stocking stuffer type goodies. Attach some balloons to a basket and fill it with some fun trinkets. This is a nice chance for siblings to pick out a little present or gag gift for the birthday kid.
photo collage spelling fun
Decorate with Pictures of Her
Fill a wall (or a piece of poster board) with some of your favorite photos of the birthday child from birth to present day, or just from the past year. Use the pics to spell out your child's name or initials, or make a random collage. Look at the photos together and talk about the happy memories!
family watching movie
Watch His Favorite Movie
Make it a movie night! Let the birthday kid choose a favorite film to watch together as a family. If your child is having a birthday party with friends and family, a movie night on his actual birthday is a low-key activity to balance the excitement of the big party day.
father measuring daughter
Size Her Up
Each year, mark her height on the wall, take her handprints, or take her photo in the same spot so you can see how much she grows and changes each year. She'll be surprised to see the difference on her birthday next year!
mom writing birthday letter
Write a Birthday Letter
Write an annual "birthday letter" to your child highlighting special moments and milestones from the year (and telling him how great he is!). Keep track of funny and special moments and quotes from your child by keeping a running email draft for yourself. Handwrite the letter to make it an extra-special keepsake. (Break out the tissues, Mom!)