Start a Birthday Tradition

With a little imagination, you can create a birthday tradition that you and your child will treasure. These birthday party ideas create birthday keepsakes and include birthday activities that will become an important part of your child's celebrations.


Make a Birthday Memory for Your Child

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When your child's birthday rolls around, it's time to focus on capturing the memories you make. Beyond the everyday joys of your child's life, a birthday celebration is a milestone. It's a chance to revel in a special moment.

Make a special birthday moment for your child by creating an annual tradition that commemorates that year. Match your ideas to your child's personality and interests. Let these fun birthday ideas inspire you.

  • Invent a birthday specialty. Cake isn't the only way to commemorate a birthday. Start a tradition of a muffin or pancakes (complete with birthday candles) to start the day, serve ice cream sundaes, or offer other silly birthday-only substitutes for a usual food choice.
  • Play a role. Dress as a French waiter with a formal tie and white apron and take your birthday child's breakfast or dinner order. Dress as a birthday fairy to grant your child's birthday dreams. Grab your cowboy boots, bandanna, and stick horse to play deputy to your child's sheriff for the day. Dream up a birthday role that the two of you can share. Make the once-a-year event a tradition your child anticipates with excitement. You can repeat the same scenario or make it a new surprise each year.
  • Paint birthday dishes. With paint-your-own dishware, you can design custom plates, bowls, and cups to be used only on your child's birthday. Surprise your child with a plate featuring a hand-painted birthday design and his or her name and birthday. You can purchase plate-decorating kits or visit a paint-your-own-pottery store.
  • Fashion birthday clothes. Decorate a simple T-shirt with stamped-on letters and your child's handprint in paint. Design a new T-shirt each year, and watch the handprint grow. Or ask your child to help create each new T-shirt.
  • Recruit paparazzi. Hand out disposable cameras to all the birthday party guests, and retrieve the cameras at the end of the party. You'll get wonderful angles and surprising compositions that you'd never have been able to achieve otherwise. Gather the best shots in an album, scrapbook, or online album. If you post them online, request comments and stories to go with the images, and save the stories, too. Add a new set each year.
  • Designate a birthday throne. Buy an inexpensive children's chair. Every year on your child's birthday, decorate it with notes, drawings, and stickers from family and friends. Editor's Tip: When your child finally outgrows the birthday throne, keep the tradition alive. Continue to embellish it with birthday wishes, and use the chair as part of the birthday decor. Depending on its size and style, the chair might work as a cake pedestal, a photo album holder, a gift tower, or simply as a party accent.

Whatever birthday tradition you share with your child, make sure to document the experiences. You'll want to linger over the pictures and tell the stories for years to come. On the next page, check out these birthday tradition ideas that also serve as birthday keepsakes.

Create a Birthday Keepsake

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Keep the birthday memories and the daily fun of your child's year close at hand. Simple keepsakes can help.

These ideas bring you and your child together to share the stories and relive the best moments of each birthday celebration. Create the birthday keepsakes together, or surprise your child each year with the current version of one of these birthday traditions.

  • Begin a birthday collection. For your child's birthday, start a collection that grows as he or she does. Choose a category that focuses on the child's age and that can be expanded with each birthday. Inexpensive ideas with meaning are as appropriate as extravagant choices. If it's special to you, sharing it makes it special to your child. Consider dated ornaments or collectibles, a charm bracelet with charms to match your child's age or current interest, current-year coins, snow globes, sports memorabilia, or handmade treasures. Make sure to include the date with each addition to the collection, and add to the group on each birthday. 
  • Fill a birthday box. Create a time capsule for each birthday. Decorate a plain box with a lid with your child's name and birth date. Make the box big enough to hold lots of treasures, or make a small new box each year; ask your child to help decorate it if you like. Embellish the box with birthday wishes and icons in bright colors. Pick a special time during the birthday party to add a current photo and one new thing to the birthday box. It could be a small toy, a letter, a video, or whatever item depicts that year's milestone.
  • Color a birthday tablecloth. Ask guests to use fabric markers to write birthday wishes to your child on his or her birthday. Start in the middle of a large cloth and work your way out. Or start with a small round or square cloth for birthday wishes. Each year, add a strip of cloth around the perimeter to make room for that year's wishes. Vary the colors to match your child's favorites, or use simple white and colored markers. Label each strip with the year. Soon the hunt for wishes from previous years will become part of the tradition.
  • Design a birthday collage. Gather photos and mementos of the year's events to create a memory collage of your child's year. Note the milestones with images or icons and dates. Use programs and tickets from events, pictures from magazines or catalogs, photographs, stickers, scrapbooking embellishments, and other knickknacks to depict your child's year in images. Embellish with markers, glitter pens, charms, and small accessories. Frame it and hang it in a place of honor. Save the previous year's collage in a special portfolio.

Get inspired! Your child's birthday party is a memory worth saving and savoring. You'll love sharing the birthday experiences with your child and retelling the stories inspired by these birthday traditions and keepsakes.

Get all our birthday ideas.

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