Birthday Traditions from Parents

by Rani Arbo
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Whether it's an elaborate scavenger hunt or a unique tribute to the birthday kid, a fun tradition can help make a child's birthday unforgettable. We asked parents to tell us what they do to mark the day. Perhaps their ideas will inspire your family.


After our birthday child is in bed, my husband and I blow up balloons and make mini posters wishing her a happy birthday. When she wakes up the next morning, she is greeted with a big bunch of balloons hanging on her door, and she finds more balloons and posters on her way to the kitchen. As the kids have gotten older (they are ages 12, nine, five, and two), they help get posters and balloons ready for the younger ones. One year, even I woke up to balloons. My two older girls waited patiently in bed for me to go to sleep so they could surprise me. "It's tradition, Mom," they said. --Toni M., Missouri


On the night before our girls' birthday (three-year-old twins), the Birthday Fairy comes to our house and leaves each of them a gift or two. The gifts are left at their spot at the dining room table. --Chris S., Indiana


On our birthday morning, my mom would prepare pancakes and serve them complete with a rousing rendition of "Happy Birthday to You" and a lit birthday candle for us to blow out. Now that I am a mom, I've carried on the same tradition with my own children (ages five, three, and eight months). --Stephanie W., Iowa


In our family, the birthday kid (or mom or dad) gets woken up with the Beatles' "Birthday" song played at high volume. We all dance, yell, and jump around. Then the birthday celebrant gets to choose what we will all have for breakfast. Usually, it's chocolate-chip pancakes! --Jenny V., California


We wish the kids happy birthday at the exact time they were born. For the child born at 2:05 a.m., we wake them up and have a wonderful laugh before everybody goes back to sleep. --Rebecca W., Oklahoma


The birthday person in our family is king or queen for the day, complete with a crown if they are willing to wear it. They choose all meals, can go to a restaurant for one meal, and decide what kind of cake we will have. They are released from all household chores for the day and even control the television remote control. They can also choose a family activity, such as going to the park or playing games. --Dianne W., Virginia


We have five children ages ten and under. On the evening before the birthday, we gather in our pajamas with hot cocoa and cinnamon toast. As each person tells the birthday kid something they like about them, I write it down on pretty paper in gold ink. I place it in an envelope, and each of us seals it with a lipstick kiss. The "love letter" is put into that child's keepsake box with a vow not to be opened until they are 18. --Pamela S., Florida


The month before our daughter's fourth birthday, she painted her very own Birthday Cake Plate at a ceramics shop. Each year, she looks forward to using it at her birthday party. This year, a month before her brother's fourth birthday, she reminded me to take him to the shop so he could create his own Birthday Cake Plate. --Lauri C., Virginia


When our older daughter was turning three, we decided that our gift to her would be to go someplace special as a family for the day. We have continued this tradition with both girls (ages ten and seven), and they love it! They enjoy deciding where we should go, and we enjoy spending time with them. --Tami J., California


Rather than bring in candy or cupcakes to their classroom, our children give a gift, such as a book or supplies. We wrap it, and they open it in front of the other students. This makes them feel special, and they are giving something of lasting value to the class. --Cindy A., California


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