Amy’s Free Ideas

Seasons > Birthdays > Ways to celebrate birthdays

Children need to feel loved and accepted in order to have a good self image. Birthdays are one of the best ways to send this message--reason enough to celebrate with gusto!

What do you do if your child is jealous that she is not the one getting presents? it doesn’t take very long--a 3 or 4 year old may not understand that they will get their own turn. However, learning to wait for fun things is important. It’s a hard lesson for a 4 year old, but oh, so much easier than at 20 or 30!! So don’t shy away from celebrating one child because the other one is having a hissy fit. First, label her feelings, and accept them, so the child learns the vocabulary and understands what she is feeling, and so that she feels heard. Then explain to her how she will have her own birthday party in however many days/months. If it will help, make a count down chart to mark off each day until the birthday, and also make a wish list for birthday presents and activities she wants. Then get her involved in helping to plan fun things for the birthday child. Learning to do nice things for other people is a vital lesson to learn as well. Some people give a small gift to the jealous child. If you do this, keep it small--don’t make it the same value as the birthday child’s present.

Birthday cakes

Young children enjoy cakes made in different shapes. Since they have few life experiences, they are delighted with even the most feeble efforts. Get inspired by looking at cakes on the Family Fun and Women’s Day websites. Even if you don’t bake, you can buy ready made cakes and decorate them in all kinds of fun ways. For example, 2 round cakes with a hole cut out of the middle can become the number 8 (for children turning 8 years old), or a race track for toy cars, or add a pound cake, and you have a guitar, or the number 10. Make a different one each year, be sure to take pictures, and it can be one of the ways to make each birthday memorable.

view more birthday cakes by a real mom

Link to Family Fun website for fun ideas for birthday cakes and food, decorations, and games.

cakes photo gallery:

cupcakes photo gallery:

Favorite foods

You know your children better than anyone, so you know which foods will delight them most. It is still a good idea to ask them what they would like to eat, since their favorites can change over the years. Be sure to ask them what they want for breakfast and lunch, too, not just dinner. Letting them choose the menu is one way to make them feel special. My kids had so many favorites, that I usually fixed their favorites for the whole week leading up to their birthdays. One dish became a birthday tradition for our family--all 3 of our kids requested it for every birthday dinner for the last 10 years!

Check out Family Fun website for fun ideas for birthday food, decorations, and games.

food made fun to look at:

dinners kids love

Birthday parties

Inviting friends over for a party, or for a sleep over, is a lot of work. But if you do, you are laying a foundation for years to come by making your home a place where your children’s friends like to hang out. It’s definitely worth all the effort. If you succeed, there are so many advantages: you get to know your children’s friends, you learn the kinds of things they talk about and how they interact, they are at home (as opposed to hanging out at a mall or at a home with different values), so you know what they are doing, you have control over what they do (what T.V. shows they watch or websites they visit) you can help them work things out when there is interpersonal conflict, you can give advice to kids who might not have a good relationship with their parents. The list could go on and on. For ideas for particular themes and party ideas, check out Family Fun:

Link to Family Fun website that has lots of fun ideas for themes, food, games, decorations, etc.


These don’t have to cost a lot of money, but they sure add fun to a birthday celebration. My kids always expected a cup full of confetti to fall on them sometime on their birthdays, but they never knew which door, or what time of day, or even what the confetti might be--sometimes it was Andea’s Mints. (Fill a paper cup with bits of cut up colored paper, and rest it on the top of a door that is left slightly ajar. When they push the door open, it falls on them.) Another surprise: I bought their favorite candy or junk food, and each day for a week leading up to their birthdays, surprised them with a mini present--it might show up in their school backpack, or lunch box, or under their pillow. It doesn’t have to be food--it could be fun school supplies, craft supplies, or coupons for various favors. Sometimes we “kidnapped” the kids--held them at (water) gun point, blindfolded them, then took them to a fun place (once I took my daughter for a picnic supper at the beach, and planted flags in the sand for her to follow.) Some years we gave them their presents like a treasure hunt with clues to find each one. For my daughter’s 16th, birthday, I bought 16 helium balloons and put them around the house to keep surprising her, then gave her presents in multiples of 16. When they went off to college, in addition to sending a birthday present, I had birthday cake, a bouquet of flowers and a helium balloon delivered to their dorm rooms so they could celebrate with their friends. Some colleges will  provide a birthday cake for a reasonable fee.

Getting siblings involved

If you want your children to learn the joy of giving, they need to give presents to their siblings and parents for birthdays and Christmas. This needs to be at some kind of expense to themselves--either money, or time spent making the gift. If you give them money to buy gifts, they lose all chances to learn this vital lesson. It takes years of experience of giving gifts to become good at it, and no one knows when it is going to click--when they discover how fun it is to please other people. You can help them in this learning process by giving them hints, or steering them toward gifts that you think will please the recipient,  because it is seeing how happy their efforts have made someone that really gets them hooked. If you think that children will learn to be generous, thoughtful people by example only, think again--it also requires teaching and most of all, lots of experience.

“This is your life” video or power point

Children love looking at videos of themselves, so this is fun time to dig out some of the videos and look at them together. This is less effective than photo albums to point out their accomplishments since it is harder to talk while you are watching. And it takes a lot more time to edit in order to get that message across, than to simply pull out a photo album to look at together. But for certain birthdays, it may be worth making the video or power point--for example, for their 10th and 20th birthdays, or if they are having a particularly discouraging year, or if their self image has taken a nose dive, it could be an invaluable tool for helping them to realize how much they have learned and improved over the years. You could even make a birthday video for each child, with someone interviewing the child each birthday.

Birthday Dates

When I was growing up, my siblings and I were given the choice of either going on a date with our parents, or having a birthday party with our friends. We always chose a date with our parents. If you give your children the same options, you might be surprised with what they choose!

Photo albums

This is related to, but not necessarily the same as the above. Kids love to look at photos of themselves, so birthdays are a good time to get out the photo albums and look at them together. It is a natural way to point out their accomplishments, as mentioned above, and it is also a good time to tell family history, and to review all the fun times you had together. Kids tend to forget quickly, so this review ensures that they remember. Birthdays can also be a deadline to catch up on updating the photo albums so they will be ready in time to look at on your child’s birthday.

Showcase the birthday child’s accomplishments

A birthday is a great time to celebrate your children’s accomplishments, and thus help them to gain confidence by being reminded of all the skills they have mastered in the past year. Trophies and awards can used as the table decorations. Medals and badges can be framed, or simply hung on a piece of foam core (styrofoam sheet that has poster board glued to both sides--it is often sold in dollar stores and hundred yen stores in Japan.) If they haven’t won any awards, make a list of all the new skills he has gained over the past year. You could even take photos or videos of them doing those skills as a record of that year’s accomplishments. The photos or videos could be looked at each year as a benchmark. For example, if your child is taking piano lessons, you could video her playing her favorite piece, then each year record that year’s favorite work.

Birthday crisis (Growing up)

It’s pretty easy to delight a child for his or her birthday, but when they begin to transition out of childhood into adulthood, around ages 12-14, it can get tricky! They have lost interest in toys, but haven’t started wanting grown up toys, or they do want grown up toys, but the items they want cost too much for parents to be willing to buy them. This can be a disappointing birthday for children, but if we take extra care on how we choose a special gift for them, they can still feel special and celebrated and keep the birthday magic going. Keep reading to hear how God enabled me to make each of my three children feel special at that critical juncture.

My oldest daughter confronted this when she was turning twelve, and couldn’t come up with a list of presents that she wanted. She still wanted the fun of unwrapping a present and discovering something wonderful, but she was worried: if she didn’t know what she wanted, how could anyone else know?. She is very sentimental, so I gave her one of my necklaces that she had admired. This surprised and really pleased her, and helped her feel grown up.

We had just moved, and my second daughter was having a hard time adjusting. Her room was bare so we went window shopping to see what kinds of things appealed to her. Then I surprised her by redecorating her room when she was at school all day. When she came home, she found a room filled with things she had admired in the store. She was delighted, and it made her feel loved.

My son was 16 when he couldn’t come up with a birthday list of things he wanted. To make things worse, both sisters were in college, so it was going to be his first birthday without siblings AND presents. I was thinking and praying about what I could give him that would really make him happy and excited, but I couldn’t come up with anything even boring. All of a sudden I remembered that six months earlier he had mentioned he wanted to buy a set of drums from his friend’s older brother, but had never done anything about it. I called the brother and was able to buy the very drum set that my son had wanted.  We set it up in his room while he was at school. When he came home and went to his room, he paced back and forth and kept exclaiming “WOW!” over and over again. God enabled me to really make my son feel loved.

3 Wishes

Tell the birthday child that you are no gene, but you want to grant him 3 wishes (within your power) for his birthday. If you want to, you can buy or make a lamp like Aladdin’s lamp (this tiny brass one was sold at a 100 yen store as an incense burner.) If your child is not familiar with this story, you may want to read it to him before you present the lamp. If your child has trouble coming up with any wishes, you can provide some ideas...go to the zoo, go to an ice cream parlor, make a kite together and fly it, etc. After 3 wishes have been granted, retrieve the lamp so you have it for the next birthday.

Seasons > Birthdays > Ways to celebrate birthdays

age 5-10