10 Ways to Make Birthdays More Fun
Several readers told us they let their kids pick the dinner menu, ignore chores, and generally rule the roost on their birthday, but the Faerbers of Pleasant Grove, Utah, take it a step further. Their three kids make a custom crown from card stock that prominently displays their new age, then wear it wherever they go that day, basking in the greetings they get along the way. The Frickes of Lansdale, Pennsylvania, have their own twist: they give their two daughters a budget and let them plan their perfect day. "They dream and plot this out for months in advance, and we get very specific lists!" says mom Kym. Nine-year-old Jacquelyn chose to wake on her last birthday to a room packed with balloons, a fresh flower bouquet, and a chocolate croissant from her favorite bakery.
The Ostvigs of Long Lake, Minnesota, like to stretch their celebrations by giving each family member center stage for a week. The festivities kick off with a homemade "happy birthday" poster and the telling of the birth story. Each day after that, the family of six gathers for one special treat, such as a game night, a movie, or a dinner out. Says mom Donna, "This tradition has helped us to slow down and take some time to celebrate that special member of our family."
Amy Hales's mom always poked one shelled peanut into the birthday cake before frosting it. Whoever found the nut won an ice-cream outing with Dad. The tradition was popular with siblings since anyone could win, and Amy, of Queen Creek, Arizona, is looking forward to starting the tradition with her own two young kids. (If allergies are an issue in your family, use a piece of chocolate or soft candy instead.)
The Randles of Sacramento, California love to get up early on a family member's birthday, light candles on the cake, and rouse the honoree with the traditional song. Then they all pile onto the bed, grab forks, and dig in. The three kids so cherish this special treat that parents Kellie and Jeff make sure to never miss it, even if the family is camping or traveling on someone's big day. "It's simply one of our favorite family traditions," says Kellie.
A month before each of her kids' birthdays, Michelle Reed of Avondale, Arizona, sends a craft-paper banner to family and close friends around the country, asking them to sign it, add a note or drawing, then mail it to the next person on the list (she includes preaddressed, postage-paid envelopes). She hangs it on the eve of the birthday after the kids are in bed. Across the country in Liverpool, New York, both Windhausen kids have their very own birthday tablecloth that party guests are invited to sign and decorate every year with markers and stamps. "Everybody, young and old, seems to like it," says mom Tracy. "It's really fun to read."
Inspired by a photo project she saw on TV, Laurie Sovich of Aurora, Ohio, created a video scrapbook for each of her four children. Every birthday, she brings out that child's tape and, with the camera rolling, asks about his or her goals, friends, and party plans, and the highlights of the last 12 months. The back-to-back interviews provide an entertaining record of how her brood has changed through the years. "My kids love this," says Laurie. "We watch them over and over. On their birthdays, they all say, 'Can we show my tape now?!'"
For her boys' birthdays last year, Donna Wade of North Reading, Massachusetts, penned a special message on a bright plastic tablecloth, cut it into strips, and hung it in their bedroom doorway (she used a tension rod). The boys now count on starting their birthdays with the custom greetings -- and the fun of walking through the streamers. And, says Donna, "The neighborhood kids all want them too!"
The Kumors of Abington, Pennsylvania, don't give their kids presents. Instead, each birthday child gets to choose a special activity that he or she would like to do with the family that year. Past requests have included a day of paintball, ice-skating, and a "sleepover" with crafts, games, and movies. Says mom Trish, "We have a wonderful time just being a family together, and the memories will far outlast any physical gift the children may have received."
Instead of covering presents in store-bought wrapping paper, the Nicholsons of Charlotte, North Carolina, use white art paper or brown paper cut from grocery bags, personalized for the recipient with stickers, drawings, photos, and notes. Creating the paper helps the givers focus on "what that person means to them," notes mom Michelle, "not just the gift but why they're giving it." And best of all, "The birthday child knows how much they mean to the rest of us before they even open any gifts."
The McCollums of Dublin, Ohio, all pitch in to create a big poster for the birthday boy listing the special things he did that year. Miles, age 11, and Sam, 9, feel proud remembering how they learned to snowboard or cook, what they achieved on their sports teams, and where they went on vacation. "I try to think of everything possible to put on the poster so it's totally full," says mom Betsy. "They like to keep it up so when people stop by they say, 'Wow! You did all this?'"