Creating Magical Birthday Traditions for Children
Birthdays create such sweet memories! And I want to share some of the memories I have of our birthday traditions, and share ideas for creating magical birthday traditions for your children, too.
I remember so many birthday celebrations with our three kiddos through the years!
Here on the podcast, I bring you 10 birthday traditions that are better than cake!
Tap that play button above to listen. And follow along with the show notes below for links and resources.
Creating Magical Birthday Traditions
The biggest lesson I learned through the years celebrating our kiddos’ birthdays was that simple is better.
What my children remember is often one little special touch, like a story, a song, the games, or the friends who came. Birthdays can be made magical with just a few simple rituals. Remember, it’s the care and intention that’s put into the preparations that carries the magic. Not how elaborate the celebration is.
Tip #1: Keep it sweet & simple
My second suggestion for creating magical birthday traditions for your children is to keep your child’s age and stage of development in mind when planning a birthday celebration.
I loved choosing themes for birthdays that were related to the main lesson blocks we were doing that year. Watching my kiddos grow through the years and seeing how they embodied each stage of development was truly a gift.
If you want to discover the wonders of each stage of child development, get our BRAND NEW FREE Ages & Stages Guide.
So that’s Tip #2, keep the birthday child’s age and stage of development in mind when planning
When our kids were little, we didn’t have elaborate parties. We sometimes had friends over for more like a playdate in the backyard or at a park, and added in a few games, a special treat, and a special birthday song.
We’d sing the traditional Happy Birthday song as well as one called We Wish You a Happy Birthday that goes like this:
We wish you a happy birthday
A joyous and happy birthday.
To you, dear [NAME]
We wish you a long, long life.
Tip #3: Sing a special birthday song
Another tradition we had in our family was that the birthday child got to wear a special birthday cape. This was a blue cape with a felt star sewn on the back that I stitched up when my boys were little and it lasted for years.
In some families, this is a birthday crown which can easily be made out of felt.
Tip #4: Honor the birthday child with a special birthday cape or crown
I also recited a special birthday poem to them the night before at bedtime. Here’s the poem:
When I have said my evening prayer,
And my clothes are folded on the chair,
And mother switches off the light,
I’ll still be four years old tonight.
But from the very break of day,
Before the children rise and play,
Before the darkness turns to gold,
Tomorrow, I’ll be five years old.
[Five] kisses when I wake, [number of years old they are]
[Five] candles on my cake.
Then in the morning, I’d read this poem to my child at breakfast. And then, I’d leave a little card with the handwritten verse on it at his or her place at the table. I love this verse, a reminder that we each have our own star out there that feeds us.
Above my head, the stars do shine;
Each star is like a flame.
And one is mine, that o’er me shone
When to this earth I came.
Upon this earth, my step is firm;
The stones are ‘neath my feet.
I see the birds and beasts and flowers,
And loving people greet.
And every year, the day returns
When my star it shineth bright.
And I receive within my heart
The glory of its light.
Tip #5: Recite a birthday poem
On their birthday, some time during the day, I’d often share the story of his or her birth. I loved pulling out their baby books, looking through photos, and talking about all the events that transpired on the day they were born.
They would get to choose the dinner menu and the type of cake they wanted.
And we’d read these two beautiful birthday books. (These are my referral links. You can read my full Disclosure Policy here.)
And that’s Tip #6: Tell the story of your child’s birth and/or read a birthday book
Keeping Birthday Celebrations Super Simple
Keeping birthday celebrations simple is so important. Because it’s easy for all the excitement and build up to end in a major meltdown. Of course, all children are different and you know your child best. But I admit, I had to learn this the hard way!
Children’s birthday parties don’t have to be elaborate. We all know there are just some years when a big celebration is not possible. Like after a new baby arrives, after a big move, having a large family, or living a distance away from extended family.
So here are some ideas for simplifying. In our house, we would start with a theme and build from there. I loved using birthdays as an opportunity to weave in some of the lively arts, like stories, singing, and poetry. I led many a birthday circle!
Tip #6: Lead a birthday circle with movement games, stories, songs, & poetry
I often used our shadow puppet theater to tell a little birthday story of the child coming over the rainbow bridge to earth and to our family. Then I’d light a candle for each year of their life and tell just one milestone or memory from that year.
Other magical celebrations included a Safari Party, a Scavenger Hunt, outdoor Winter Birthday Party where we bundled up for a hike and cake outside, a High Tea Party where everyone dressed in their fancy clothes and older brother served tea in a suit.
Tip #7: Put on a birthday puppet show
I must say, we also had a lot of great creative birthday cakes because my husband Brian loved making them. I asked our kiddos recently what their favorite birthday memories were, and our oldest said his elephant cake. Then Brian recalled how he went over to his mother’s house to bake it. He used a huge sheet pan for the cake to then cut into the ears and trunk and all the shapes. Only he overfilled the pan and made a huge mess of his mom’s oven! All I remember is how late he came home that night.
And then there was the farm and garden cake complete with a little pond that held water with a plastic fish in it and a fishing pole beside!
Tip #8: Make a creative cake
Cooperative games are a great addition to magical birthday traditions. Here are a few to explore:
- The Second Cooperative Sports and Games Book by Terry Orlick. There are two books in this Cooperative Sports and Games series and this second book has a chapter on party games but is harder to find! Try your local public library.
- Games Children Play by Kim John Payne of Simplicity Parenting fame has lots of fun group games for children, but it’s hard to find these days, too. Again, you might try your local public library or a used bookstore.
- Games Children Play II by Kim John Payne & Cory Waletzko is more readily available and is full of fun games for groups and families.
- There’s also a Waldorf Games for the Early Years: Games to Play and Sing with Children Aged 3-7 by the same authors.
Here’s a fun game idea. This recommendation comes from Art of Homeschooling team member, Sarah. Her favorite game from the Second Cooperative Sports and Games Book was a cooperative gift opening game similar to musical chairs. A package is passed around while music is playing. When the music stops, the child holding the package gets to unwrap it.
The fun part is, to prepare the package, you have to wrap one layer of wrapping paper for each child attending the party. So there is at least one layer for each child to unwrap. And when you get to that last final layer, inside the box is one treat for each child, like a spinning top or a matchbox car. It’s so fun! And a sweet twist on a classic party game.
Tip #9: Cooperative party games
Another great suggestion for keeping birthdays super simple is by having a birthday buddy family. This idea also comes from Sarah.
They have one family that they do all birthdays with, unless the child is planning a special big party (which actually doesn’t happen very often).
With a birthday buddy family, that means only one family to invite and prepare for. Their birthday buddy family is a neighbor family down the street with 5 boys. So between them, they have 9 kids. And that’s all you really need for a party!
There are no invitations, no last minute house cleaning, no fuss. They each keep all the kiddos’ birthday dates on the calendar and check in with each other the week of.
Here’s what their gatherings look like: after a family dinner, they gather for a short evening of visiting, sing the birthday song, and eat cake and ice cream. Even as the kids are growing up and going off to jobs and college, they still observe this tradition. So simple and so sweet.
Tip #10: Share birthdays with a birthday buddy family
There you have it! Ten ideas for creating magical birthday traditions for your children.
The key ~ as always ~ is simple, inspiring, and doable!
Happy planning and celebrating!