When you're thinking about birthday traditions, the party is probably going to be the first thing that springs to mind. Kids can spend the better part of the year dreaming up their next birthday party -- the theme, the guest list, the bouncy castle, the pony rides, the human cannonballs and acrobats…it can get crazier and crazier every time.
But beyond the cake, the presents and the general insanity of a party, there are plenty of low-key, private traditions you can start that will make your kids' birthdays just a bit more special. They can be goofy or meaningful, sappy or serious. And it's truly the thought that counts; you don't have to spend a dime to create a ritual that your kids will always remember.
There are numerous ways to go about this, of course, but why not start on birthday eve? Sneak into your kid's room at night and decorate it (this is easier said than done, obviously, for parents of light sleepers). Keep it simple with a sign or string of lights, or go all-out and cover the floor with balloons. In the morning, parade the rest of the family into the birthday boy or girl's room and sing a special song. It doesn't have to be "Happy Birthday" -- make up a personalized tune just for your kiddo. Sing the same one every year or change it up.
This is just the tip of the iceberg, but here are a few more fun activities you can throw in throughout the day.
- Make a king or queen "throne" at the kitchen table. Don't forget the plastic crown, cape and silly sunglasses.
- Create a birthday book with letters from family members, annual pictures and interviews with your child about favorite things.
- Do something special at the exact minute of your child's birth.
- Let the birthday kid choose his or her dinner -- anything goes.
It's never too late to start a birthday tradition. Who knows, after a while your kids might start looking forward more to these little rituals than to the party!