Creating birthday traditions
There are ways to make every birthday special, and many of them don't involve a lot of planning - or cash.
Your first child's first birthday is an exciting event. You spend a year — or more — thinking about what you'll do. You plan a guest list, consider hiring a caterer, buy gifts and go all out. But fast forward a couple of years (and a couple of kids) and it may be hard to maintain the energy level that went into that first party.
Here are some ideas for creating special traditions you'll enjoy maintaining.
1. Birthday letters
I have five children and I write each of them birthday letters every year. I started a few years ago on my personal blog. They have titles like Epistle: To My Daughter, on the Occasion of her Tenth Birthday.
I write a little about who they are, what they're doing these days and how I feel about their current age and activities. I don't give the letters to my kids now, but I plan to share them later, and I really enjoy rereading them each year. It's true that I didn't start this tradition with my oldest child's first birthday, but it's never too late to start a new ritual.
2. A trip to Starbucks
My pediatrician once told me that the most important thing you can give a child is one-on-one time with an adult. Surprisingly, even my too-cool-for-you 10-year-old loves it when I take just her to Starbucks. Take your birthday kiddo for a meal with mom and dad — without siblings or friends. Let him pick the venue and enjoy your special time together. Kids can be terrific dining companions!
3. Growth charts
My sister-in-law takes her two daughters for monthly portraits. Monthly. I know. (She's also skinny as a post and has great hair. Good thing I like her, or I'd really hate her.)
Here in our home, we aim for a lower standard — we try to take an annual picture of each child next to the same reference point so we can see how they've grown and changed. Pick a tree in your yard, a spot in your home or a time slot at the local Target and take your kids for birthday pictures. Bonus points if you create an annual photo album.
4. Birthday interview
Why settle for plain pictures, though, when it's so easy to shoot video these days? If you have a digital camera, fire it up and interview the birthday child. Years from now, these videos will be a lot of fun to rewatch. You'll be amazed at the changes you can see from year to year.
5. Celebrate your child
If you're concentrating all your effort on finding something special to do, it's easy to overlook the obvious: celebrate your child! When your child goes to sleep the night before his birthday, decorate with a balloon bouquet, a birthday banner and a cake.
Leave them out in a conspicuous location — the breakfast table is a great choice — and let your child enjoy being the center of attention on his special day. (Psst: You'll discover that teens love this star treatment just as much as their younger siblings.)
With just a little effort, you can make every birthday truly memorable.
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