How to Create Meaningful Birthday Celebrations

Since so many parents (I’m guilty of this too!) want to make our child’s birthday special, we run the risk of overdoing it: we blow budgets and work ourselves into a frenzy to make the day memorable and the “best ever.” Instead of focusing on the endless party details, cake, decorations, and gifts, what we really should be asking ourselves is What meaningful actions can we take to make this day memorable, while teaching our kids positive values?

So before you jump in and start planning the biggest birthday ever, ask yourself these questions:

1. How do you include your child in the planning? Even a young child can help plan a party. Take your almost 1-, 2-, or 3-year old to the store and see which party themes capture his or her imagination. Maybe it’s Curious George. Or Clifford the Big Red Dog. Or something else. See what your child is drawn to.

2. What’s the budget? It’s helpful for kids to see how much different elements of a party costs. (This has made my kids to be much more savvy with their choices.) Party planning can be a great way to teach kids about money management and prioritization. One of my kids always loved to go somewhere for his birthday. He loved taking friends mini golfing or to a water park. We’d research how much the admission cost for each person and then figured out how many friends he could invite. One of my other kids preferred to have birthday parties at home. He was into Pokémon trading cards at the time (and so were all his friends), so he wanted to give his birthday guests Pokémon card packs.

3. What’s the birthday theme? One of our kids’ friends thought that birthdays should be about service. She had her birthday party at the local food shelf. Everyone brought food donations instead of a birthday gift. The kids then spent part of the party sorting food for the food shelf. That birthday party got talked about for a long, long time.

4. Who do you include? When our kids were young, they often had two parties: one for friends and one for extended family. We felt it was important for kids to connect with their grandparents and with aunts and uncles. We made a dinner and created a birthday party that was more about relationship building than just about the gifts.

As your kids get older, they may go through phases where they won’t want to have a birthday party. Instead, try celebrating the day in other meaningful ways that will still make them feel special. You may ask them which restaurant (within a certain budget) they want to eat at for their birthday with the family. Some teenagers like to keep their birthdays low key. Others like to throw a big party. (I’ve experienced both of these with my kids.)

For my one son’s 16th birthday, he invited 25 kids. The party was in the backyard on a summer evening, and everyone ate pizza and drank soda pop. One of his friends made a cake, and we (the parents) hung out in the background to make sure things weren’t getting out of hand. To this day, my son still fondly remembers his 16th birthday as the “best birthday ever”.

Now that both of my kids are teenagers, they’ve become more interested in other people’s birthdays. One loves to cook, and he often makes birthday cakes for grandparents and other family members. The other likes to help plan birthday parties for his friends. Last year, my 20-year old loved celebrating his birthday with his 93-year-old great grandmother.

I’m happy about these shifts in both of my kids. They’ve discovered that birthdays aren’t just about receiving, but they’re also about giving. For them to get as excited about someone else’s birthday as well as their own, is something I’m proud about.

So, Are you a “party pooper” like me? Do you agree that parents can often times be guilty of overdoing it when it comes to birthdays? Tell Us: ——>How do you celebrate your child’s birthday?

1. Birthday Party Ideas, the Winners’ Circle.

2. Holidays and Special Occasions, Parentfurther.

3. Image via Carmen Zuniga on Flick’r.

Thanks for the great photo, Carmen!


Love the blog. Thanks for giving me credit in the picture


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