25 Special Birthday Traditions to Start With Your Family
Birthdays are So Fun for kids! Sure, they love the toys, goodie bags, and parties…but what they truly want on their big day is to feel cherished and loved. And there’s no better way to deliver that feeling than to create a birthday tradition that you and your family can put on repeat year after year. (Experts note that, like daily routines, birthday traditions provide children with a comforting predictability—a sense of security and safety—that they adore.) Besides, a birthday tradition is a great way to make your sweet pea feel extra special and once your tradition is woven into the fabric of your family, it’s a powerful memory to look forward to making again and again. Here are some fun and easy ideas for your own birthday traditions:
1. Have a birthday countdown!
About five to seven days before your child’s birthday, set the countdown stage! You can go advent-calendar like with a teeny treat each morning leading up to the big day. You can go the paper chain route or you can scrawl the “days till” on the family chalkboard. Or you can create a sign where the days left get swapped out each morning. You choose!
2. Go balloon crazy.
This requires some stealth skills, but it can be done! When your child is fast asleep, sneak into their bedroom and fill it to the brim with colorful balloons so they wake with a celebratory smile. If in-room decorating is too daunting, simply birthday-up your child’s bedroom door. (Because popped or deflated balloons are a suffocation risk, don’t let your child play with them.)
3. Bust out the birthday plate.
It makes no difference if you DIY one at your local pottery painting establishment or snag one on Etsy. It only matters that you take out this personalized plate once a year to serve your child their b-day dinner or cake.
4. Start a growth chart.
You can, of course, purchase one that perfectly meshes with your style, keeping it up year round in your child’s room. You can also make your own growth chart with butcher paper that comes out every year for the annual measuring. Or you can find a special spot in your home, and mark your child’s height each and every year on the day of their birth. No matter the method, the results are the same: A birthday tradition to cherish.
5. Take an annual photo.
Snap a picture in the same place—and in a similar outfit—every year to marvel at how your child changes and grows with each birthday. Another idea: Take your once-a-year snapshot with your child holding the same number of balloons as they are old—or a number balloon the represents how old they are.
6. Begin with cake!
Who says you need to end your birthday dinner with cake? Instead, kick the day off with a sweet treat!
7. Share birthday compliments.
Here, everyone in the family goes around the table and says what they love most about the birthday child. You can also record the messages in writing, on video, or audio so you can revisit down the road.
8. Grow together.
To commemorate another year of your child’s growth, grow something together! Depending on the season of your kiddo’s birthday, consider planting a birthday tree or flower each and every year.
9. Write a year’s end roundup.
And, no, you don’t have to wait till your little one can read to start this birthday tradition. Simply stash the letters in a shoebox for your child to enjoy later. The idea: Write a “best of” letter to your child, noting all the special and important achievements they accomplished over the past 12 months.
10. Have a Yes Day!
If you’re not familiar with the concept, here it is: On this special day, parents have to say “Yes” to everything their child asks for…within reason, of course. Feel free to set some parameters around, say, dangerous activities and budget, but otherwise, embrace the affirmative for warm and fuzzies all day long.
11. Make a birthday banner.
You don’t have to be a crafty genius to make one. Simply cut some felt in triangles and hot glue them to a flat ribbon. While making it is easy-peasy, the sweet sentiment lasts as you hang the same banner up each year to mark your child’s special day.
12. Put together lunchbox surprises.
Grab some scrap birthday wrapping paper and gift wrap all the lunch and snack items you’ll be packing for daycare or school. To make it extra fun, hide a wrapped non-food birthday surprise in there, too!
13. Introduce the Shoe Fairy.
Here’s how this wacky tradition goes: Your child chooses one of their favorite shoes and places one next to their bed on the night before their birthday. Then, magically, overnight the Birthday Shoe Fairy swoops in and fills up the shoe with a quarter for every year of your child’s age.
14. Create a birthday time capsule.
Each year on your child’s big day, have them answer the same list of questions. Think along the lines of: What’s the best book you read this year? What’s your favorite hobby? Who are your best buddies? What’s your birthday wish? Once all questions are answered and written down, place the paper into a keepsake box and have your child read them all on their 18th—or another milestone—birthday.
15. Have fave-color fun!
Each year, have the whole family dress head-to-toe in your kiddo’s favorite color! It’s totally silly, but definitely something to look forward to—and remember!
16. Write “Happy Birthday” everywhere!
Scribble it on the bathroom mirror with an old lipstick. Doodle the message on your windows and on the car with window markers or liquid chalk. Tap your child's chalk supply for a driveway “Happy Day!” Hide small “Happy Birthday” notes in your child’s drawers, in the fridge, anywhere! The more the better!
17. Have a scavenger hunt.
Sure, you could simply hand over birthday gifts to your kiddo—or you could make them work for it with a super-fun scavenger hunt filled with personalized clues helping to make your child feel special.
18. Tell the birthday story.
Make your child feel oh so cherished by sharing with them the story of how you met. Your child, of course, might not want to hear the official down-and-dirty birth story, but you can certainly craft a warm and fuzzy tale about the day you became their parent…and then retell it each year.
19. Have a special good night message.
Traditions can be anything from activities you do together, treats your child looks forward to…or simply something special you always say! How about this? Right before your child snuggles into bed on their birthday eve, say “Good night 3-year-old!” And then as soon as you see them the next day, greet them with “Good morning 4-year-old!”
20. Make paper crowns.
Store-bought birthday hats are totally fun, but having the family craft their own paper hats or crowns out of construction paper to wear for birthday cake is really something special!
21. Have a family sing-along.
Organize for the whole family—that means far-off relatives, too—to come together via a call, FaceTime, or Zoom to all sing Happy Birthday to the birthday kid.
22. Orchestrate a special delivery.
Have a balloon bouquet, a spray of flowers, a plate of cookies—anything that would make your child’s heart sing—delivered to the door as a special surprise. Psst: You don’t have to order anything. You can simply stash the gift at the front door, ring the doorbell, and let your child discover the heartfelt delivery.
23. Leave a present while they sleep.
While your sweet bub snoozes, leave a small wrapped gift on their bed or floor so they spy it first thing.
24. String up a piñata!
No need to wait till the friends-and-family weekend birthday extravaganza to have piñata fun. Buy or make a piñata and stuff it full of fun birthday surprises, specially selected for your kiddo, allowing the whole family to take swings. As kids get older, the treats will change but the fun will remain.
25. Set an alarm!
Okay, so this might not work for those children who were born in the middle of the night, but if your tot entered this world at a somewhat reasonable hour, consider always wishing your little one a happy birthday at the exact time they were born.
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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.